2013.021.012 Oral History with Vera Wang
Vera Wang received fashion insight from her mother at a young age. Her time as a young professional figure skater was attributed to her fashion interest. Wang worked at Vogue and met influential individuals and then moved on to Ralph Lauren where she got “on the ground training” as a designer. She then was convinced to start a wedding fashion company by her father. Wang feels that her Chinese heritage has had a general influence on her work in many ways. One way is her use of red in a wedding dress, which was on display.


VERA WANG: I was born in New York City, and my real fashion training came from my mother. She was a true fashion icon, long before that word was even coined. And the incredible thing about my mother was the personal journey for her was all about her and her private life. Um, absolutely everything she did, everything she thought, everything she read, um, really breathed fashion into me.

VERA WANG: From a very young age, I was a figure skater. Which perhaps is the most expressive sport that exists. Um, it's all about line, it's all about grace, it's all about movement.

VERA WANG: I'd had a very, very long, happy, productive, career at Vogue magazine as a sittings editor. And during that time, I got to work with some of the greatest talents, um, that ever existed. Not only in fashion per se, but in the magazine business. Um incredible makeup artists, incredible hairdressers, incredible models, and of course let's not forget the incredible photographers. Patrique D'macioniet, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Arthur Elgort, these were all artists, and when you live and work and thrive among this level of talent, it is perhaps a greatest education you can ever receive in fashion.

VERA WANG: Um, as I approached a certain stage of my career at the magazine, I went on from there to be one of the design directors for Ralph Lauren. And that's where I really was given the opportunity to create accessories, but also to consult on his collection.

VERA WANG: So once again I was in a position there was extraordinary and very few people ever had the opportunity to experience, and that's incredible staffs, incredible execution, and as a design director there, um, I was absolutely-- thrilled. Every day was like being in a candy store.

VERA WANG: The fact I grew up in America as a Chinese American is yet another complexity, however a wonderful asset at the same time, because I was able to bring that sense of freedom and that sense of perhaps joy, and um that worked very well for me with the discipline, and the love, and the structure, and the support, of a Chinese family.VERA WANG: I think the piece that I chose, um, for the exhibition, is totally relevant, and reflective of the work that I've done specifically in bridal. Um, bridal is a very special area for me of creativity and it enables me to be more theatrical, it enables me to work in different proportions, different scales, with a different sense of drama. Translating the vocabulary, or redefining the vocabulary, of bridal, in new and different ways is something that I've been doing for over two decades.

VERA WANG: I think the wonderful thing about fashion today is the democracy of it all, um there are many paths to becoming a fashion designer today, there are many journeys, people approach it from a celebrity point of view, where they're so influential in their fame that they're able to parlay that into fashion. Um, there are the real-- intellectual designers who are constantly pushing themselves and their way of thinking to another level. Without as much regard for commerce. There are designers who really um just very innocently um feel young and creative, and would like to express themselves through the medium of fashion. Um, I think thing that's astonishing is that there isn't any one path today. I ascribe perhaps to the-- earlier generation, someone that has really lived and styled and breathed fashion for nearly 40 years and my love of fashion and my love of design go back so many decades as well as my education and so um it is that constant passion and that constant search for how to be better. How to do things better.

VERA WANG: The current-- maturation or acceptance of Chinese American designers um you know not only in fashion but obviously in fashion, is so heartwarming for me, um, as someone who started in fashion so long ago, um I always felt extremely fortunate to be maybe among the first. And I like to think that perhaps some of the things I've done in my career have really helped others to feel encouraged, to feel free, to feel strong, to feel enabled, to be able to pursue a career, as designers themselves. It's always about the journey and about pushing myself, and as far as I'm concerned I can always do better. And that is my personal process and my personal journey.

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