You’d probably have an easier time listing the celebrities who haven’t worn Vera Wang on their wedding day since the designer is so ubiquitous at bold weddings. While she may have started her career in true posh style with a bridal boutique in New York City’s The Carlyle hotel in 1990, today Wang oversees a lifestyle brand that includes ready-to-wear, accessories, fragrances and housewares. She’s even branched out with a fast fashion line for Kohl’s and a line for David’s Bridal.
If you ask us, however, one of the most surprising facts about the designer with her wrinkle-free complexion and lush mane is that she’s about to turn 66. Here’s a look at 10 other things you may not have known about one of the most respected women in fashion.
- It’s fitting that Wang has the strong work ethic required to succeed in fashion since she grew up rigorously training as a competitive figure skater (she tried but failed to make the 1968 U.S. Olympic team). As an adult, she spent 15 years working as a senior fashion editor at Vogue and then as a design director for Ralph Lauren. She designed her own wedding dress before opening her first bridal boutique. “The ongoing, unmitigating truth is I would have done anything to be in fashion,” Wang said. “I would have swept floors, which I did at Vogue, swept up hair from a model’s haircut, pack up clothes, stay on a Friday night after the store closed to get it ready for the next day, which I did at Ralph (Lauren). Still, I always felt privileged to have this job. How lucky am I to have gotten here?”
- In the quarter century she has spent working in the bridal industry, Wang has tried “short, long, deconstructed, constructed, bustiers, working in fabrics, working in color.” Who else, she says, would do an entire collection dipped in tea? “I did that one year. My design team dipped every single dress in tea in a bathtub. I did that just because I wanted to work out of the vocabulary of white. Those have been quite challenging parts[…] I think the greatest women, the ones I most respect in design—Miuccia Prada, Jil Sander, and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons—are all women extremely confident about their vision. These are women who never stop evolving and developing and sticking to their vision.”
- Wang was born into an affluent family in New York City. Her parents were immigrants from Shanghai. Her father was an entrepreneur who made his fortune in the pharmaceutical industry, while her mother worked as a translator at the United Nations. Wang credits her mother with introducing her to fashion. “My mother and I went to a couture show when [Yves Saint Laurent] was on Rue Spontini,” she told BoF. “That was his first couture house. It was a little atelier — 33 Rue Spontini, I still remember the address. So I really have been educated in fashion. I grew up with it, exposed to the greatest.”
- The designer’s best career advice is to do something you really love. “It doesn’t matter what it is: being a mom, teaching, whatever you love. If you love it, it’ll get you through the hard times, and if you don’t, it’s not authentic or real anyway. When you love something, every day goes by in 10 minutes.”
- Wang may be known for evening and bridal, but she has a T-shirt obsession. In fact, she has an entire room filled with nothing other than T-shirts. “The tops are all carefully organized by designer and are almost exclusively in what Wang terms ‘Armani colors: You know, gray, black, navy,'” according to an interview the designer did with Harper’s Bazaar.
- She may have been born into a family of privilege, but the designer most certainly didn’t buy her way into the fashion industry. She diligently worked her way up to the top of the fashion chain. “It’s a calling. Like being a musician. I mean, the hours of practice, the loneliness, the dedication. It was a very obsessive job for me. My father didn’t get it. I’m in the middle of the Place de la Concorde, and I had a military jacket on with pins, tape, and clamps. I looked like a terrorist or something, and my father said, ‘Can’t you just comb your hair and put a dress on and come to dinner with me?’ I said no. And he said, ‘I don’t know why you want to do this,’ and I said, ‘I do.'”
- She may be the creative and business head of a billion-dollar company, but Wang isn’t immune to the effects of failures. When asked how she deals with disappointment, she explained that she tells herself, “Okay, I’m feeling really sorry for myself and life’s impossible and I cannot go another step. I dwell on it to the point that I get it out of my system, and then I’m able to move on.”
- Wang considers Anna Wintour a close friend. In fact, Wintour once dated the designer’s brother.
- Even after all these years, Wang takes criticism personally, especially when it comes to the red carpet. In an interview with WWD, Wang said that “the worst is when someone is criticized. You take that very personally on behalf of the star[…] [The red carpet] is a gamble of the highest order. It’s Vegas and then some.”
- When it comes to her office’s dress code, “Employees are expected to dress professionally, per their department’s needs.” Those needs do not include jeans.