When you think of wedding gowns, one designer’s name pretty much always comes to mind: Vera Wang. Her name has become synonymous with the wedding industry, but Wang initially had a very different career path in mind.
Her Olympic Dreams
Born to Chinese immigrants who had fled the Communist revolution in 1947, Wang originally dreamt of going to the Olympics. She started figure skating at age eight, and even competed at the 1968 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Wang was also featured in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd portion that same year.
However, she did not make the Olympic team that year, and Wang decided to try something new. Wang studied at the University of Paris—also referred to as the Sorbonne—and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a degree in art history.
Wang Was The Youngest Ever ‘Vogue’ Editor
Immediately after graduation, the then-21-year-old Wang was hired to be an editor for Vogue, becoming the youngest editor the fashion magazine had ever hired. Wang was always interested in pursuing a career in fashion, but decided not to apply to fashion schools in New York after realizing her father could not afford to pay for any further education.
She stayed at the magazine for 17 years before leaving for Ralph Lauren, where she worked as a design director for accessories for two years. In 1989, she wed her longtime boyfriend, Arthur Becker. While looking for a wedding dress, Wang became frustrated with the selections and decided to design her own.
Starting Her Own Bridal Business At Age 40
Wang’s experience with designing her own wedding dress led to her realize her passion for designing wedding gowns, and at age 40, she opened her own bridal boutique on Madison Avenue in New York City. The Vera Wang Bridal House initially offered couture wedding gowns from designers like Carolina Herrera and Christian Dior. Wang continued to hone her skill as a designer, and in 1994, she started her own Vera Wang label.
Wang has designed wedding dresses for famous faces like Victoria Beckham, Chelsea Clinton, Ariana Grande, Mariah Carey, Ivanka Trump, and Kim and Khloe Kardashian. The designer also has a line of evening wear, and her designs have been worn by Michelle Obama, Scarlett Johansson, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Wang is one of the biggest names in fashion, especially when it comes to wedding dresses. Her unique path to the top of the industry goes to show that it’s never too late to pursue your passion!