Fashion icon, self-made woman and legendary designer, Vera Wang seldom misses the mark. And, on the eve of her 72nd birthday, Wang has a lifetime of red carpet looks, high-profile wedding gowns and couture wear to prove it. From her beginnings as a figure skater to her award-winning designs on Olympic athletes and Hollywood celebrities, Vera Wang continues to be a revolutionizing force in the fashion industry.
On June 27, 1949 on the Upper East Side of New York City, Vera Wang was born to immigrant parents that, she later reflected, were the source of much of her tireless work ethic. Wang recalled in this 2019 interview:
My parents were immigrants, and they never allowed me to be spoiled. You worked. You worked. You worked. That’s an immigrant mentality. And when I’m in China now, I feel Chinese. I’m proud of everything positive about my heritage, which is the desire to work and better oneself.
At the age of eight, Wang began competition in figure skating, a passion that would teach her discipline and stay with her throughout her life. After attending the Chaplin School and earning a degree in art history from Sarah Lawrence University, Wang fell just short of Olympic dreams as a figure skater upon placing 5th in the junior pairs competition at the 1968 U.S. National Championships. Undeterred, Wang went on to hone in her skills as a designer, and was quickly hired at Vogue. At the time, Wang was the youngest editor at the magazine. Within a year, she was promoted to senior fashion editor. Wang remained at Vogue for the next 17 years.
At age 39, Wang was presented with a problem: the newly engaged designer could not find a single bridal gown that suited her style and design needs. With encouragement and financial support from her father, Wang decided to solve her own problem. Departing from Vogue and a 2-year stint with designer Ralph Lauren, Wang started her own independent, upscale bridal boutique in New York. Catering primarily to celebrities and socialites, the Vera Wang Bridal House began with offerings of the most elite designers, such as Christian Dior and Arnold Scaasi. Soon, though, her own designs began to fill the racks. As the newly independent fashion mogul realized her style was popular in its own rite, her business took off. In addition to bridal gowns, her boutique offered her own cocktail dresses, blazers, and other custom-made pieces. Wang has since designed wedding wear for stars such as Ariana Grande, Chelsea Clinton, Karenna Gore, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Victoria Beckham, Avril Lavigne, Hilary Duff, Khloe Kardashian, and Kim Kardashian (to name a few).
Over the years, her business has expanded to include lingerie, jewelry, home products and even desserts. In 2006, Wang teamed with Kohl's to produce an affordable line of ready-to-wear clothing called Simply Vera. She has also reached licensing agreements with Zales, David's Bridal and Men's Wearhouse. As Wang turns 72, you might be wondering: is there anything she can't do?
Learn more about the legendary designer here.