Vera Ellen Wang (Chinese: 王薇薇; pinyin: Wáng Wēiwēi; born June 27, 1949) is an American fashion designer based in New York City.
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
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 The 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”.
In 1968, Wang was presented as a debutante to high society at the International Debutante Ball at the Waldorf Astoria New York.
Vera Wang Spring-Summer 2014 runway show at New York Fashion Week
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 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, Nathan Chen. Kerrigan wore Wang 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.
Wang’s evening wear has been worn by stars at many red carpet events, including Viola Davis at the 2012 Academy Awards, and Sofia Vergara at the 65th Emmy Awards.
She was honored with the Council of Fashion Designers of America Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
In 2006, Wang reached a deal with Kohl’s, a chain of department stores, to produce a less expensive line of ready-to-wear clothing exclusively for them called Simply Vera.
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 no less than four models fell down, including the showstopper, top model 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 1989, she married Arthur Becker in an interfaith Baptist and Jewish ceremony. They resided in Manhattan with their two adopted daughters: Cecilia (born 1990), who currently lives in New York City, and Josephine (born 1993), who attended The Chapin School and currently attends Harvard University. Becker was the CEO of the information technology services company NaviSite until August 2010. In July 2012, Vera Wang Co. announced that the couple had separated. The separation was amicable.
Vera Wang loves sports and exercise. She spends her day dealing with all the different lines of product she handles, from poring over china patterns to small leather goods at Kohl’s. She usually doesn’t take phone calls during the day.