Mandatory Credit: Photo by Thomas Iannaccone/Penske Med/REX/Shutterstock (6057741a)
Designer Vera Wang at her studio.
Vera Wang, New York
If you know anything about the wedding industry, you’ve probably heard the name Vera Wang. She is an iconic designer and legend in the bridal world, but she does so much more than make beautiful wedding dresses. She not only leads her company’s creative department but also runs the entire business as well. Talk about a woman wearing many hats!
So how did Wang become a well-known and sought-after wedding dress designer? She may have started her business later in life, but that’s only part of her story. Here’s a look at how Vera Wang became a top name in the wedding industry.
How it All Began
Wang was born June 27, 1949, in New York City where she still lives to this day. Her parents were wealthy immigrants from China. Her father was an entrepreneur in the pharmaceutical industry, but her mother, a translator at the U.N., was the one who introduced her to the fashion world.
Wang and her mother attended Yves Saint Laurent’s couture show and that was her first taste of the wonderful world of fashion. She gives her mother all the credit for her initial exposure and fashion education.
At a young age, Wang was very interested in figure skating and spent years in intensive competition. She tried out for the 1968 U.S. Olympic team but didn’t make the cut. That’s when she turned to fashion. After her junior year of college, Wang spent her summer working at the Yves Saint Laurent boutique on Madison Avenue.
While she was working, she happened to meet Frances Patiky Stein—one of Vogue’s fashion directors at the time. She told Wang to call her after college and two years later she landed an interview with Vogue.
In 1971, Wang started as a temporary assistant at Vogue and quickly climbed the company ladder. She became one of the magazine’s youngest ever fashion editors. It wasn’t until 16 years later when she was turned down for the editor-in-chief position that she left Vogue for Ralph Lauren to become their design director.
When it was Wang’s turn to walk down the aisle in 1989, she noticed something was lacking in the styles she had to choose from. She realized there wasn’t anything in the retail shops or couture space that satisfied a modern, sophisticated woman.
She was tired of the cap-sleeves and sequined lace bodices that looked like the top of a wedding cake, so she went bold and designed her own dress! Wang sketched her wedding dress design and hired a dressmaker to craft the elaborate gown for $10,000.
Just a year later at age 40, Wang opened up her flagship store, Bridal House Ltd., on Madison Avenue. She says her father really encouraged her to open her doors. He saw the lack of modern wedding gowns as an opportunity and figured the bridal industry compared to the fashion industry had lower risks: low inventory, fewer fabrics at the time, and a steady stream of women always wanting to get married.
Wang has admitted in interviews that she wasn’t entirely sure she should be going out on her own and although she had experience working with two major companies she was unsure if she could start, run and sustain her own business—especially dress design, which she knew nothing about.
Initially, Wang’s boutique featured a number of popular designers, not her own. She purchased from designers all over the world including Christian Dior, Guy Laroche, Carolina Herrera, and Arnold Scaasi. She then put one of her own dresses out to see if it would sell, then two, then three and eventually she transformed into a well-known wedding dress designer.
When Wang decided to start her own line of bridalwear she wanted to bring her fashion background into the wedding space. She pushed the boundaries and created a line that was a little more edgy and sophisticated.
Just two weeks later, she also began her couture evening-wear line which was just the start of her fashion expansion beyond the wedding industry. This gave her a chance to create cocktail dresses, blazers, and other items that weren’t considered “bridal” at the time.
Fast forward to today—Vera Wang’s fashion and lifestyle empire has an overall retail value of more than $1 billion. Her stores sell wedding dresses, veils, sashes, headpieces, and shoes—all under the Vera Wang name. She has locations all over the U.S. plus nearly a dozen countries, not including her other fashion lines.
All Vera Wang gowns inside her shop are special-order and made based on the brides’ pattern size closest to her measurements and any design changes. Two of her bridal segments, Vera Wang Collection and Luxe Collection, offer new designs twice a year. Her Vera Wang bridal Collection starts at $2,900 and her Luxe Collection starts at $6,900.
Wang’s gowns are often described as daring, dramatic, full of attitude, regal, modern, with whimsical elements. She’s also a big fan of color! One of her more recent collections blended a black and white palette and many of her bridal gowns come in shades of red. Her latest White by Vera Wang collection at David’s Bridal features soft grays and ombre blush gowns.
So, what goes into one of Wang’s wedding gown creations? When designing a gown, Wang has said to use movies or pieces of art as inspiration and usually takes about five weeks to build a major collection from inspiration to visualization.
She also loves building pieces that are practical, looks great on the bride, and gives her the ability to dance. Wang says this is a call back to her years of skating and dancing as a child—she likes to think about how a woman’s body will look and move while she’s moving in it.
As mentioned before, Wang knew early on that she wanted to expand beyond just wedding dresses as a designer. Wang has three other collections that live under her bridal banner: Black by Vera Wang (her tuxedo line with Men’s Wearhouse), Vera Wang Love (her jewelry line with Zales) and Vera Wang Wish (her jewelry line with Jared’s).
In 2000, Wang introduced her ready-to-wear collection, inspired by the urban daywear she wears herself. She says it’s a way to express her own aesthetic and be more experimental.
Wang also has a number of licensing agreements that range from footwear, eyewear, fragrances, tableware and crystal, bedding and her first book, Vera Wang on Weddings. Her most significant partnership is with department store Kohl’s which features Wang’s lifestyle brand Simply Vera.
Our Fave Vera Wang Looks
One of the best things about the Vera Wang collections is that her designs are perfect for a variety of brides (and budgets)! From the budget-conscious bride looking for her dress at David’s Bridal to a celebrity looking for one (or even three) show-stopping gowns.
If you’re looking for some inspiration and are shopping for a Vera Wang gown here are some of our favorite styles, plus celebrities that are also huge fans of Wang!
Wang brought the whimsy to her Spring 2020 bridal collection. We can’t get over this A-line asymmetric French tulle gown. The macramé lace skirt was a delicate addition and the silk satin flower at the shoulder adds a touch of elegance. Of course, this lavender all-lace mermaid gown is also simply stunning! The smoke silk organza flower at the top softened up the truly romantic look.
From Wang’s Fall 2020 bridal collection, we are in LOVE with these ivory Italian tulle gowns. The scattered cabochon crystals are amazing, and the giant black horsehair headpiece adds to the stunning overall look.
Looking for more traditional wedding inspiration? Here are some of our favorite dresses from Wang’s Iconic bridal line. This tulip Chantilly lace mermaid gown is giving us serious Ariel vibes. We love the clean cut of the gown paired with the mum garden hemline and circular flange train. So amazing!
Another beautiful look but a totally different dress—this strapless ball gown with floating lace and organza appliques is beautiful. The model looks like a mix of the fairy godmother and Cinderella herself with the voluminous horsehair overskirt.
Don’t forget about David’s Bridal! For brides that want to save some money but can’t live without the Vera Wang label, the White by Vera Wang collection at David’s Bridal is a must-see. Brides can purchase one of Wang’s amazing gowns for under $1,000!
We can’t decide on our favorite here: the sexy satin slip dress, the halter tulle gown with the peasant skirt or the punched floral dress. We also love that David’s Bridal brides can order select Vera Wang styles in a plus size or in another color including ivory, blush, red, black, or sterling!
Wang has been a celebrity wedding dress designer for a long time and it’s no wonder her gowns keep appearing in these A-list weddings! Some of our fave dresses include Alicia Keys’ ivory gown for her wedding to Swizz Beatz (the jeweled headband was an extra touch of royalty), Kaley Cuoco’s strapless pink tulle gown for her New Year’s Eve wedding to Ryan Sweeting, and Mariah Carey’s over-the-top satin ball gown which cost her a whopping $25,000!
And you can’t forget the Kardashians. Khloe spent just nine (yes, nine) days planning her wedding to Lamar Odom and walked down the aisle in a body-hugging mermaid dress. But it’s her sister Kim who takes the cake with her THREE Vera Wang designs. She wore a frothy ball gown for the ceremony then slipped into two gowns for the reception—a sexy ruffled mermaid gown and a silk sheath gown.
How stunning are these TV and movie brides?! Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson both looked amazing in their prospective Vera Wang dresses in the 2009 comedy Bride Wars. Hudson wore a sweetheart tulle ball gown with a lavender sash and Hathaway was glowing in an ivory fit-and-flare.
You can’t talk about amazing TV brides without mentioning the beautiful Sarah Jessica Parker in the Vogue photoshoot scene in the Sex & The City movie. (I mean that FULL skirt, the veil, and the white gloves—OMG!) Leighton Meester also dazzled the audience in her gorgeous Vera Wang gown in the 100th episode of Gossip Girl. She may not have had a fairy tale ending with that particular groom, but she looked like a princess.
We can’t talk about the amazing talent of Vera Wang without including some of the looks from her latest fashion line. We love how bold and chic the models look in the Fall 2020 collection. I can’t decide what I love more—the oversized black wool coat or the fierce chiffon top!
All in all, we love Vera’s style, her playful creativity in her designs and all of her bridal and lifestyle brands. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future!
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