Vera Wang: bring the romance to businesswear

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If you know Vera Wang only as a world-famous wedding dress designer, here’s a friendly reminder: she’s been making the Ready-To-Wear collection – fashion term for ‘the clothing you buy in fancy department stores’ – for more than a decade and it keeps getting better.

Vera Wang didn’t start her fashion career as a savior-to-brides. She was a senior fashion editor of Vogue magazine for fifteen years, having started as the then youngest editor in 1971. Then she worked for Ralph Lauren as a design director for two years.

Vera Wang’s own wedding

Facing her own wedding in 1989, Wang found a passion for bridal wear. She was a grown-up woman who knew her sophisticated Vogue-trained style, and she couldn’t find a wedding dress that didn’t look like a bleached-out Disney princess costume.

Vera Wang opened her first bridal boutique in Carlyle Hotel in New York in 1990, and it has expanded to the global lifestyle brand with a retail value of over $1 billion.

Even if you’re not interested in wedding dresses, fashion, or weddings, the chance is you’ve heard of Vera Wang. At least if you’re a fan of Sex & the City or Gossip Girl. If Chelsea Clinton, Ivanka Trump, and Michelle Obama bumped into each otherawkwardly at a dinner party, they could each share a special moment in a Vera Wang dress and call it a night.

Vera Wang presented her first Ready-To-Wear show in Spring 2000, and it was a bit lame. Most pieces looked like evening dresses without spangles or lounge wear with sparkles, and few women were ready to wear those to work.

Since then, this Womenswear Designer of the Year 2005 steadily developed her balance and even launched Simply Vera, her mass market brand in partnership with the department store Kohl’s in 2007.

In the Ready-To-Wear line, she tries to balance masculine tailoring and feminine sensuality, romance and punk, and everyday life and fantasy. Vera Wang once said to “love the mix between schoolteacher and showgirl.” It doesn’t sound easy. At least, however, it is natural for Vera Wang herself. Vera Wang, the designer famous for the most delicate cream-colored chiffon dress, wears only black in real life.

Another reason to have high hopes for her is that Vera Wang understands the fundamental balance between modern aesthetics and traditional elegance. She basically designs the dress for the empowered career women who grew up watching the Disney-renaissance-era princess movies. Deep down, who wouldn’t want Vera Wang to dress her every day?

Speaking of the balance, standing on the wedding aisle or the red carpet is not easy peasy, either. The expectation for the role, the ridiculous amount of pressure on your appearance, and all the stress induced by constant judgment. Vera Wang once described her role for the brides as ‘half technician and half therapist.’ When the brides want Vera Wang on their side, it’s not just the dreamy dresses they want. Vera Wang, the woman herself, understands the battle every bride goes through.

In her Fall 2016 show (below), Vera Wang said the collection’s starting point was a fencing jacket. The jacket over a white shirt does look like an armor.

Many working women – including yours truly – know what it feels like to put on armor before the battle; when you wrap yourself in the suit, put on the toned-down red lipstick, wear the high heels – not too high, like bamboo stilts, but high enough to boost your ego – and walk out the door to conquer the world (or the conference room).

Intelligence Report: Vera Wang makes the most beautiful armor.

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Youjin Lee

Youjin Lee is editor-in-chief of April Magazine, freelance writer, and South Korean private attorney. She divides her time between Asia and Europe, dreaming of writing a cozy murder mystery someday.

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