VERA WANG’S 20 FASHION LESSONS

It’s true. VERA WANG makes beautiful clothes. She also designs the most exquisite bridal wear.

But then I’m definitely not a traditionalist.

There inevitably comes a time in most relationships where the gentleman in question wants to take it to the next level. For me, that was generally when the rubber hit the road.

But I’m a pragmatist. I never got the hell out of Dodge until the good times were over. There are some things that you simply can’t live without.

I was never one of these girls that dreamed of a magnificent wedding with all the bells and whistles. I didn’t even know if I could conceivably ever make a commitment that big.

Some wildcats can’t mate in captivity.

But when you find the perfect man, all of that restless anxiety and apprehension goes right out the window.

I’m open to the idea of weddings. (As opposed to painting the town a vibrant purple and eloping.) But it doesn’t necessarily make me vibrate like a tuning fork.

You know what gets me hotter than the Sahara? I like a gorgeous ring that makes a statement.

Honeymoons are lovely too. Blissful. Relaxing. Tranquil.

Yeah. Honeymoon. That’s the ticket…

To make a name for yourself in fashion, especially a household name, there’s a lot to learn about timing, trends, egos.

VERA WANG has mastered many of those lessons in the 20 years she’s led her own namesake company.

Ms. Wang made a list for The Associated Press of 20 nuggets of wisdom she’s gained in her career, not only as her own boss but reaching back to her time in competitive ice skating (she was a contender for the 1968 Olympic team), as a VOGUE editor and as a designer at RALPH LAUREN.

1. It’s not just about what you design, it is who you dress.

VERA tackled the red carpet long before she launched her runway collection. She was, however, all ready making bridal gowns and competition skating costumes, so it wasn’t a huge leap.

“I jumped into celebrity dressing when it was pretty new. There had been a moment of Scaasi with Barbra Streisand and Bob Mackie with Cher, but not in more recent times. So I jumped in with Valentino and Armani and there was an article in Women’s Wear about how I was dressing Sharon Stone.”

SHARON’S 1998 OSCAR night combo of VERA’S purple skirt with her husband’s white button down shirt was publicity the designer never could have bought.

VERA still has a strong awards show presence, but she said it’s tougher now.

“Now it’s the fashion Olympics to get people to wear your stuff…The Oscars are killer.”

2. Timing is everything.

Even though her preference was for sportswear, the opportunity in fashion in the late 80s – early 90s was eveningwear and bridal because those were big, expensive showstopping pieces in the spirit of Christian Lacroix. Now, in this era of Theory and Topshop, she’d probably do the reverse and start with contemporary every day clothes.

3. Luck helps too: It’s better to be lucky than smart.

Sometimes the big break comes from something out of your control. VERA points to Jason Wu, designer of MICHELLE OBAMA’S inaugural gown and many more outfits since then. He’s a young talent worthy of all the hype and praise, but there are other still undiscovered designers who are as well.

Smart comes into play when you recognize the lucky break you’ve been handed and make the most of it.

4. Nothing is new in fashion; it’s about how you reintepret it.

There are only so many ways a garment can be sewn to be functional and flattering. The challenge for the designers is to twist it and make it their own.

5. It’s not about the money. It’s about the money – always.

“We creative people don’t like worrying about it, but to be in business today, you have to face the reality of the climate. I’ve redefined my business model constantly.”

Ms. Wang’s current partnerships include more affordable lines at Kohl’s and David’s Bridal. Business deals that make sense – and maintain integrity – allow her to let the creative juices continue for her primary collection, which is costly.

6. Relevance is relevant.

Right now, in 2010, women want clothes that move seamlessly within their lifestyle – and budget. If you can’t mix a collection piece with something from a mass retailer, it’ll rarely see the light of day.

“Women don’t run around in ballgowns, I’m sorry to say.”

7. Everyone deserves true fashion at any price.

No matter how much something costs – high or low – it’s an investment on the part of the shopper and she should be getting something that looks good. Style should be democratic.

8. Fragrance is about the most personal thing a person can wear.

“Fragrance makes a statement about who you are.”

You want to be a girlie girl? There’s a perfume for that. Rebel rocker? There’s a fragrance for that, too. City sophisticate? Check.

“Girls can attain fragrance and incorporate it into their daily lives and not spend a fortune.”

(And the messaging incorporated into fragrance ads really helps define your brand to a larger audience.)

9. A pair of shoes or boots can create attitude in a second.

You aren’t wearing the same persona in ballet flats as heels…and utilitarian Uggs create a different aura all together.

10. Fashion is expressive.

Building on the shoe attitude theory, use accessories to change your outfit depending on your mood, but keep the core pieces classic. Change proportions. Wear fine jewelry with T shirts or a chunky necklace with a gown. But then keep those pieces and wear them a new way next year.

“Twenty years ago, fashion was all about rules: You wore a pump to a luncheon and a certain Hermes bag. Now it’s about what works for you – be preppy, downtown or Goth, or be all of those on a given day.”

11. In design, all people have is their own barometer to guide them.

Yes, there are larger cultural trends that designers need to be aware of, but VERA said if she isn’t feeling a particular colour or silhouette – no matter how popular – it won’t work in her collection. If she doesn’t believe in something, how can she convince others to?

12. “I have spent my entire career styling, dressing and designing only for women. Never underestimate the client.”

VERA claims that she doesn’t give a thought to what men will think of women wearing her clothes. If the woman feels gorgeous and sexy, then she is gorgeous and sexy. Winning her over is all that matters.

13. Ready to wear: always out of my comfort zone.

The runway is VERA’S opportunity to show off her aesthetic and who she is. (Think artful and dramatic.)

“Designing this is a torturous process. It’s never easy for me, but that’s been good. I always push myself out of my comfort zone. I don’t see a reason to do it if I don’t.”

14. Bridal: conservative or flamboyant.

The bridal collection has to have much broader appeal and be targeted toward the client’s tastes. Most brides aren’t as influenced by fashion trends as they are the vision of the wedding dress they’ve always dreamed of. She considers herself more of a costume designer in the spirit of EDITH HEAD than a tastemaker when it comes to bridal.

15. It takes courage to put yourself out there.

Reviews can be hard to read, because the reviewers are ignoring the bravery it takes on a designer’s part to churn out collection after collection – on a strict schedule – to an often fickle audience.

A filmmaker, for example, often can reshoot something or extend a deadline when something isn’t working. A designer doesn’t have that luxury.

16. Dressing athletes is a crazy winning – and losing – sport.

Skating was such an important part of her own life that she gets very emotionally wound up with the skaters she has dressed, including Nancy Kerrigan, Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek. She wants the clothing to contribute to a performance instead of hamper it, which could happen if things aren’t cut perfectly.

17. You’re not always successful.

“I had to learn to dust myself off and try again. That’s my real story. I went to Vogue and I was not getting the big jobs and then I went to Ralph Lauren. I didn’t feel like there was much more I could do at the time there – and I think that’s given me the opportunity to struggle. You have to struggle to appreciate the successes in your life. It’s not real otherwise.”

18. You are only as good as your team.

No one can do it all, VERA said. Herself included. Fashion is not unlike a team sport, where there are a handful of people who get the glory, but it took many to get them where they are.

19. Keep fighting. Don’t sit on your laurels.

If you hang back, even just one season or one awards show, someone else is waiting to take your place.

20. Everyone’s journey/route is different.

VERA said that she tries hard not to compare herself to other designers, businesswomen or wives.

Everyone makes choices based on their own situation and no one else will ever fully understand those decisions. They can only second guess them.

“I’ve tried to create a life for me that is complete. The truth is, everyone’s route is different. It doesn’t mean one is better than the other. They’re just different.”

4 Responses to “VERA WANG’S 20 FASHION LESSONS”

  1. 8. Fragrance is about the most personal thing a person can wear.

    “Fragrance makes a statement about who you are.”

    You want to be a girlie girl? There’s a perfume for that. Rebel rocker? There’s a fragrance for that, too. City sophisticate? Check.

    wow. now here comes the novice…

    if whomever thinks a fragrance is gonna make a statement or rather the statement they’d like to make when i’m around, they’re so wrong. my sense of smell simply isn’t that good.

    and really i don’t care…

    i think my sense of smell is at best good.

    on the other whatever, i think that despite being 83 years old my hearing/being able to pick layers of sound is really good. it’s like i can aurally see through a lot of stuff most people can’t. or rather don’t give a damn about.

    i want a fragrance that says i care how things sound. impossible i know. i want a fragrance that says a few things. i don’t think it would be something as taggable as rebel rocker or whatever.

    i’m the unseen/unknown audience that’s not marketable enough to be known/have anything pushed at them/or for anyone to give a damn about. and why should they since i don’t really care about fragrances??? but maybe if it were a fragrance that screamed *me*.

    i doubt i’d even know about it since it’s always about rebel rockers/goths/preppy/downtown and the usual tags. and how would i want to do something that could only sell three bottles anyway…

    any fragrance that screams could we please stop talking animals/super hero movies/why can’t those hip alternative bands put some noisy guitar on a cd or is that not cool enough for the hip kids/yes, i’m a loser/sexless wimp/not good at anything/so bored with whatever’s out there.

    supposedly there’s something good out there.but i’ve lost my faith/hope. (but some things have to fail so everything can be cool for evryone else. right ???)
    and i’m confused by almost everything.

    but i don’t really need a fragrance for that. guess i could just walk around and radiate it.

    now sell that…

  2. 15. It takes courage to put yourself out there.

    Reviews can be hard to read, because the reviewers are ignoring the bravery it takes on a designer’s part to churn out collection after collection – on a strict schedule – to an often fickle audience.

    A filmmaker, for example, often can reshoot something or extend a deadline when something isn’t working. A designer doesn’t have that luxury.

    really????

    why doesn’t a designer have that luxury??? they can’t do the equivalent of reshooting for an item or two???

  3. i think the only fashion whatever i’m comfortable with/understand is computer lounging clothes.

    gosh, i’m horrible today/right ??? 😉

  4. My darling boy…

    I don’t think you’re horrible at all. Far be it from extragantly blonde me to complain about my friends’ rants. As long as this little corner of paradise exists, anyone that I consider cool is free to come here and say whatever the hell they please.

    Especially you, my lil southern sweetheart. You were here at the beginning and you make the ol plantation exactly what it is.

    So there…

    First of all, I don’t think you’re a fashion novice any more. I’ve told you this before. I think you’ve learned a lot from me. Whether you consider it worthwhile or beneficial is another story, though.

    I think the point that VERA makes about designers having little time to change things is a valid one. You generally have two big collections per year (Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter) and you have to hit the ground running to get them going. There isn’t a lot of leeway there.

    In film, you often have a certain amount of time to prep. You have a shooting schedule, then post production. That can be rushed. But I think there generally is more of an opportunity to improvise or move the goalposts around. Especially later on.

    Not to mention that film is a hell of a lot more fluid. You have a director and an editor. Sometimes more than one. Producing garments is prohibitively expensive and you really have to get it right the first time. There is a level of perfection that you’re striving for immediately.

    Ha ha. And what in the holy hell is this nonsense about being 83 years old??? You’re so silly…

    I think that your ideas are so brilliant and innovative. I would never have thought of this stuff.

    A fragrance that relates to how things sound? Computer lounging clothes? Those are really unique concepts.

    You should develop them. Get patents. You could make a lot of money and be on the covers of magazines. Appear on CNN. Then you’d have chicks hanging off you like you wouldn’t believe.

    Don’t lose your faith, glimby. Things will change.

    Life’s gonna be golden for you. Just you wait and see…

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