A Passion for Fashion: Wang Gets Down to Business

Wang’s work schedule as a design director for Ralph Lauren was far less hectic than it had been at Vogue, allowing her more time and freedom to engage in other pursuits. One of those pursuits just happened to be falling in love.

Wang had met businessman Arthur Becker at a tennis match back in 1980. The pair started dating and eventually, Becker was ready for marriage. Wang, however, wanted to focus on her career, believing marriage would distract her from achieving her goals. With that, the couple split up but remained friends. It was not until seven years later that the two began dating again, and this time, Wang was ready for a commitment. It was in planning her wedding that Wang would stumble upon the very idea that would later come to put her on the fashion industry’s map.

Like any excited bride-to-be, Wang went on a hunt for the perfect wedding dress. But what was supposed to be a fun experience quickly became a painful three-month process. “I wanted something more elegant and subdued, but there wasn't anything,” she says.

Wang’s inability and frustration in finding her dream wedding dress led her to an important conclusion. “I realized the desire to fill that niche,” she says. Although she gave up on finding her own gown - instead paying a dressmaker $10,000 to create a custom-made one for her - Wang knew she had found the inspiration for a new business venture.

However, while Wang’s professional life might have just been on the verge of taking off, she was suffering personally. Wang and her new husband were having difficulty having a baby, forcing Wang to endure weeks of fertility treatments. The treatments were so demanding on her schedule that Wang even decided to quit her position at Ralph Lauren.

In 1990, Wang regained her focus on starting up her own business venture. This time, her father was on board, and even agreed to give her the $4 million financial backing that she needed to set up shop. With that, Wang opened up a bridal gown shop in the upscale Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue in New York City, selling dresses that were simple yet elegant and made of rich fabrics.

The Vera Wang label soon became known for its detail, colors, fabrics, and simplicity. Brides began pouring into her store, but the fashion press was not as receptive, questioning her talent and her family’s financial support.

Still, over the years, Wang’s reputation in the industry has solidified, so much so that she was quickly able to branch out beyond wedding gowns. In 2001, Wang released her first book, Wang on Weddings, which was followed by her signature fragrance, a bridesmaid dress collection, and a collection of china and stemware. Wang’s name has since also been lent to a collection of jewelry, eyewear, shoes, linens, and more.

Today, Wang remains at the helm of the multi-million dollar company she created, and continues to set her goals on new sights.

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