At 74, Vera Wang Continues to Innovate
"There's an unending supply of things I haven't done yet, and that's what keeps me going."
by : Melissa Fejtek- Nov 3rd, 2023
Vera Wang wears a thousand different hats, and she wants to keep it that way.
Though she’s most commonly recognized for her iconic wedding gowns (brides she’s dressed include Victoria Beckham, Hailey Bieber, Issa Rae, Gwen Stefani and Khloe and Kim Kardashian), the designer’s journey actually began with figure skating. She participated in the 1968 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and although she didn’t make the Olympic team, she pivoted to fashion and quickly found her groove. Wang secured a position at Vogue upon graduating Sarah Lawrence College, becoming the youngest editor at that time and staying in the position for over 15 years.
Not to be tied to one career, Wang went on to collaborate with Ralph Lauren as the brand’s accessories designer before diving head-first into bridal wear two years later. At 40, she established her own bridal boutique and was wildly successful, eventually expanding her brand to include home goods, menswear, fragrances, eyewear an even her own vodka label.
It goes without saying that she has made a mark in every industry she’s touched. That’s why this year, Wang was the star guest at the twelfth edition of the Audi Innovation Series by Audi Canada, an initiative that celebrates creativity, design and innovation in all fields. She joins previous star guests Ethan Hawke, Sarah Polley, Jennifer Hudson and Spike Lee as one of the many notable figures that have made a significant impact in their fields.
In celebration of the Audi Innovation Series, we had five minutes to chat with Wang. Here, she shares the designer inspiring her the most right now, the best advice she’s ever received and the one (very relatable) thing that’s always in her bag.
You’ve been recognized an innovator throughout your career. What keeps you inspired?
“I have a lot of curiosity, and I think that’s one of the most important factors influencing me to constantly move on and move forward. For me, it’s just a very natural part of the fashion cycle because fashion is about what’s happening [now]. I think what’s fashionable [has changed] from the old definition. For me, curiosity and the fact that I like to explore other ways of expressing myself [are key]. There’s an unending supply of things I haven’t done yet, and that’s what keeps me going. It doesn’t mean there aren’t moments where I’m fully blocked, but overall, I feel very lucky at this stage of my career to be able to continue to create. It’s a privilege.”
Who’s an artist or designer that inspires you right now?
“Oh my god, difficult question because there are so many. I think that Miuccia Prada is very influential to me right now. Speaking of innovation, she was able to take a very high level of intellect and sophistication, and she’s been able to pivot her whole line and her whole business to a much broader audience, and it’s really resonating with people. I think it’s gone very high fashion, and now she’s just been able to reinvigorate her company with all these different looks and logos and things that she never did before. I find that very brave, very courageous, and also very intelligent. I think it’s a great moment for the company and it’s sort of a rebirth to me.”
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What has been your favourite period in your career?
“I liked all of them. I really loved being a sittings editor at Vogue. I love working with different photographers, different models, different hair, different makeup, creating all these different looks in all these different places. I loved it so much I stayed there for almost 20 years. I also loved working for Ralph Lauren. In a company of that size and that success [level], so many things are accessible to you as a design director, which isn’t necessarily true in a smaller company. You’re able to create things much more quickly than you could in a smaller company. So whatever ideas you have, they can be implemented much faster and better. So I really enjoyed my years at Ralph Lauren as well.”
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“I’ve got a lot of advice from people, and I think the most recent is from Ralph Lauren. And he said to me, ‘You can’t stop working; it’ll be the end of you.’ I think he said it because he’s working so hard. It’s wonderful to hear that from my mentor because obviously, no one needs to announce who Ralph Lauren is and his contribution to the world, not just in fashion but in lifestyle and bringing America to the world. I tend to always listen to him because he’s got wisdom, and I like to learn.”
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What’s the one thing that’s always in your bag?
“My phone, I don’t usually carry a bag, but when I do carry a bag, it’s got my phone. That’s the one thing I could be sure I have.”
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