Vera Ellen Wang
June 27, 1949
New York City, U.S.
Sarah Lawrence College
(m. 1989; sep. 2012)
Vera Ellen Wang was born and raised in New York City, and is of Chinese descent. Her parents were born in China and came to the United States in the mid-1940s. Her mother, Florence Wu (Wu Chifang), worked as a translator for the United Nations, while her father, Cheng Ching Wang (Wang Chengqing), a graduate of Yanjing University and MIT, owned a medicine company. Her maternal grandfather is Fengtian clique warlord Wu Junsheng, who was killed by the Empire of Japan in the Huanggutun incident in 1928. Wang has one younger brother, Kenneth.
Wang attended Friends Seminary, graduated from Chapin School in 1967, attended the University of Paris, and earned a degree in art history from Sarah Lawrence College. Wang began figure skating at the age of eight. While in high school, she trained with pairs partner James Stuart, and competed at the 1968 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. She was featured in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd in the January 9, 1968, issue. When she failed to make the U.S. Olympics team, she entered the fashion industry. Wang continues to enjoy skating, saying, "Skating is multidimensional".
Wang was hired to be an editor at Vogue immediately upon graduation from Sarah Lawrence College, making her the youngest editor at that magazine. She stayed at Vogue for 17 years, leaving in 1987 to join Ralph Lauren, for whom she worked for 2 years. At 40 she resigned and became an independent bridal wear designer.
Wang has made wedding gowns for public figures such as Ariana Grande,Chelsea Clinton, Karenna Gore, Ivanka Trump, Campbell Brown, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Victoria Beckham, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Avril Lavigne, Hilary Duff, Khloe Kardashian, and Kim Kardashian. Wang's evening wear has also been worn by Michelle Obama.
She has designed costumes for figure skaters, including Nancy Kerrigan, Michelle Kwan, Evan Lysacek, and Nathan Chen. Kerrigan wore a Wang piece for the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics, Kwan for the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics, Lysacek for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and Chen for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Wang was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2009 for her contribution to the sport as a costume designer. She designed the uniforms worn by the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders.
On October 23, 2001, her book, Vera Wang on Weddings, was released. In June 2005, she won the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Womenswear Designer of the Year. On May 27, 2006, Wang was awarded the André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Forbes placed her the 34th in the list America's Richest Self-Made Women 2018, her revenues rising to $630 million in that year.
On September 10, 2019, after a sabbatical of 2 years during which she had presented her collections only via films, Vera Wang returned to the New York Fashion Week runway for her Spring/Summer 2020 fashion show, which celebrated the 30th anniversary of her brand. The show got very positive reviews, Godfrey Deeny describing it as a "notable collection by one of the few New York designers with a truly distinctive fashion DNA", while Bridget Foley presented Vera's creations as "Beautiful, seriously designed clothes, presented with gutsy panache". However, the show was marred by several major footwear malfunctions, especially during the finale when four models fell down, including Fei Fei Sun, who fell twice in a row, leading chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman to state that "In 2019, no woman should be tortured by what she wears".
In 1990, she opened her own design salon in the Carlyle Hotel in New York City that features her trademark bridal gowns. She has since opened bridal boutiques in New York, London, Tokyo, and Sydney and has also expanded her brand through her fragrance, jewelry, eyewear, shoes, and homeware collections.
"White by Vera Wang" launched on February 11, 2011, at David's Bridal. Prices of the bridal gowns range from $600 to $1,400. In 2002, Wang began to enter the home fashion industry and launched The Vera Wang China and Crystal Collection, followed by the 2007 release of her diffusion line called Simply Vera, which are sold exclusively by Kohl's.
In spring 2012, Wang teamed up with Men's Wearhouse to offer two tuxedo styles available in both the retail and rental areas of their inventory. In June 2012, she expanded in Australia with the opening of "Vera Wang Bride Sydney" and her first Asian flagship store "Vera Wang Bridal Korea", helmed by President Jung Mi-ri, in upmarket neighborhood Cheongdam-dong in Gangnam-gu, Seoul.
In an interview with a CBS reporter, Wang said, "(It's) painful, and not only that, I have no choice. So I think when you start there's a certain innocence because of that freedom, and as you evolve you begin to see the parameters of what you can and can't do. So I make decisions that are very tiny that will affect an hour of work, I make decisions that will impact the lives of the people that work for me. It's in fashion as well, micro work, a centimeter of proportion and then it's macro to see what a vision is on the red carpet."
In June 1989, Wang married investor Arthur P. Becker in an interfaith Baptist and Jewish ceremony. They have two daughters, both of whom were adopted. In July 2012, the couple announced their separation.
- Gossip Girl (2012) as herself.
- Keeping Up with the Kardashians (2011) as herself.
- Chelsea Lately (2011) as herself.
- The Celebrity Apprentice (2008) as herself.
- Ugly Betty (2007) as herself.
In popular culture
Several movies and television shows have featured Wang's works.
In a third season episode of the TV series The West Wing, entitled 'The Black Vera Wang', an evening gown by Wang is pivotal to a storyline involving threats made against the White House Press Secretary, C. J. Cregg. In the other TV series The Newsroom also written by Aaron Sorkin, Mac also talked about wearing dresses made by Vera Wang for her wedding ceremony.
In the TV series Gossip Girl, Blair Waldorf wore a Vera Wang wedding dress. Wang appeared in a cameo in season 5 episode 11.
In the film Sex and the City, Vera Wang was among the bridal gowns Carrie Bradshaw wore in her Vogue photo shoot. In the film Bride Wars, Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson wore custom-made Vera Wang gowns.
Also in Revenge, Victoria Grayson, played by Madeleine Stowe, wears a steel gray Vera Wang mermaid gown in her second wedding with Conrad Grayson (Henry Czerny). The dress was actually shown in black at Wang's Fall 2012 show.
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