Vera Wang is one of the most recognizable names in American fashion design today, especially by those in the know. But of course, this hasn’t always been so. Vera Wang has taken her own good time in getting to the top of a $300 million fashion and design company, and not necessarily by her own choosing. The story of Vera Wang is one of privilege, burning desire, hard work, and finally success. She is now the face of and the mind behind her impressive company that boasts $300 million in sales annually and growing.
Fashion; An Introduction for Vera
Vera Wang is the daughter of Chinese American parents, her father a wealthy industrialist who helped open Asian markets to US pharmaceuticals and a reportedly slender, beautiful, and fashionable mother who worked as a diplomat. The family’s wealth allowed Vera’s mother to steep herself and her children in the sophisticated fashion of Europe that she was enamored of. Her father was also a purportedly good dresser with an eye for beauty. Thus Vera Wang was introduced early in her life to high fashion through the most intimate of all relationships – her parents, and it stuck. Although she took a winding road through the deep dark forest of the fashion industry, her inspiration and perseverance paid off.
Training for Fashion
Growing up a competitive figure skater as a teen, Vera surely learned the lessons and the value of hard work. The grueling training schedule of an Olympic hopeful plus the academic rigors imposed by her prototypical affluent Chinese-American upbringing gave Vera Wang a deep understanding of discipline and true apprehension of the sting of struggle and failure. These are intuitive understandings of life that one must have to make it in the cutthroat business world of fashion and design. By the time Vera Wang was 19 she had these qualities in spades. However the timing was not right for her.
After attending Sarah Lawrence Vera’s father wanted her to become a lawyer, but she was driven to fashion. She first was a rover for Conde Nast and a sittings assistant for Baron de Gunzburg, quickly finding herself the Accessories Editor of Vogue at the age of 23. She would spend 16 years at vogue, slowly working her way up, but never quite to the top. Throughout this period she quietly wished to start her own design and fashion house. She kept hoping for the startup capital for a business from her wealthy father but he was intractable in his resistance.
She got her first big break when she was pursued by Ralph Lauren and stolen from the clutches of Geoffrey Beene by the prospect of earning far more than she ever had. She took the job with Ralph where she designed accessories, lingerie and sportswear. Still she wanted to start her own business; little did she realize it was so close at hand yet so far from her ambitions.
Soon after starting her work with Ralph Lauren Vera became engaged to and married Arthur Becker a computer executive with whom she has two daughters. It was this decision that would alter the course of her business and fashion life forever.
Finally, in 1990, Vera struck out on her own. It was the planning for and marriage to Becker that led her father to finally support her fashion ambitions. Shortly after their marriage Vera’s father offered to finance a fashion business – in bridal. A brilliant move if ever there was one. As a fashion choice Vera may have been disappointed but as a business move she was blessed.
Vera moved into bridal couture when there were no brand names in bridal gowns and she became the first. She first opened a bridal salon at the estimable Carlyle Hotel on Madison Ave in New York where she still sells bridal gowns for $10,000 – $30,000. In 1995 she opened Maids on Madison across the street to complement her bride business and things began to take off.
Becoming a 9 Figure Fashion Designer
Over the past 10 years Vera Wang has kept herself quite busy by quietly developing a substantial revenue stream. By recent estimations her design house does nearly $300 million per year in business, mostly through licensing deals producing a wide range of products bearing the Vera Wang label. These products include everything from crystal and china to eyeglasses, stationery, jewelry, and lingerie.
The latest news to hit the stands is that the Vera Wang company is in talks with value-oriented chains to produce a line of affordable designer label clothing in the vein of the Isaac Mizrahi line at Target. Reports indicate that the most likely partner is Kohl’s, but both groups are remaining tight lipped about the possibility.
It seems very likely that no matter which company she partners with a deal is in the offing. The strategy of partnerships and licensing deals has been extremely effective thus far in building a large company for Vera and one would expect this strategy to continue. If nothing else, developing a line of designer clothes for a value chain should substantially increase her sales.
Designing What She Wants
With all this revenue being generated through various licensing deals Vera now has the time and the money to develop her own line of ready-to-wear. She started her current line two years ago and it took off like wild fire. Her clothes now appear regularly on magazine covers and the sense of design she brought to bridal now appears in her ready-to-wear collection. It is elegant and flattering and modern all at once without being overly pretentious or relying on convention.
This is the kind of fashion Vera has always wanted to design and she is proving herself to be quite talented (as if that were in question). In these RTW designs she maintains an elegant and luxurious simplicity that allows the woman to shine as well as the fashion. Making the leap out of all white is the dream that Vera has been holding onto for the past 16 years and now she has finally made it. With the addition of a Vera Wang salon at Bergdorf Goodman in the spring of ’05 she was placed prominently on the ready-to-wear radar.