Vera Wang: Raised by a Tiger Mom but Doing It Her Way…
Vera Wang was interviewed in Harper’s Bazaar recently and she revealed her Asian American childhood as never before. I had read about her in the past and knew that her mom hung out with Yves Saint Laurant and that she was a champion figure skater. I sorta knew that her father was a manufacturing mogul. And that An Wang, MIT entrepreneur of Wang Computers, is also a relative. But I didn’t realize that her mother was one of the original Tiger Moms.
One day I’d love to interview her for this blog (one can dream!) but for now, I have pulled some interesting quotes from the article about her childhood and how she became a designer. In a sense, is she not the definition of Asian creative success including being raised by a Tiger Mom? Still she managed to find her own way while not losing sight of who she is: down-to-earth, hardworking, disciplined and above all, a creative genius. I think she’s a great role model. How about you?
‘She is no stranger to impressive surroundings. She grew up the privileged daughter of a Chinese-born business tycoon and an elegant, worldly mother who regularly shopped the couture shows in Paris. “My mother was extremely controlled, sort of flawless. And I always tend to be a bit more hippie,” she says. “She was a Tiger Mother. … But she really tried to encourage me to be who I was.” Wang tries to be more hands-off with her own daughters, Josephine, 17, and Cecilia, 20. “I don’t live through my kids. But I do know what will happen in life, and I just want them well prepared.” Neither shows signs of wanting to follow in their mother’s footsteps, which is fine with her. “I’m sure they remember me as always exhausted.”
Wang has been rising at dawn and working around the clock since age eight, when she famously took up figure skating. While at college at Sarah Lawrence, her parents thought she would be a champion skater. “I was trying to manage school and training for the Olympics and ended up not doing well at either. That was a big lesson in my life,” she sighs. “My mother expected both.”
After graduating, Wang dedicated herself entirely to working her way up the fashion food chain. “It’s a calling. Like being a musician. I mean, the hours of practice, the loneliness, the dedication. It was a very obsessive job for me,” she explains. “My father didn’t get it,” she continues, remembering a time she had to turn down dinner with him even though he had flown into Paris just to see her while she was shooting with Arthur Elgort. “I’m in the middle of the Place de la Concorde, and I had a military jacket on with pins, tape, and clamps. I looked like a terrorist or something, and my father said, ‘Can’t you just comb your hair and put a dress on and come to dinner with me?’ I said no. And he said, ‘I don’t know why you want to do this,’ and I said, ‘I do.’”
In fact, it was her own wedding that launched her bridal brand. In 1989, Wang was working as a design director at Ralph Lauren. Frustrated with racks of the requisite meringues and sugary confections at shops everywhere, she wanted a modern antidote. So she hired a dressmaker to achieve her own design–a simple gown of white sequins. The next year, with funding from her father, she launched her eponymous label to fill the niche for brides seeking similarly chic looks. “I saw it as a foundation for a business I could make a difference in and as something that could lead to other businesses,” she says.
Wang never got a “vote of approval or a ‘hurrah for you’ or any of that” from her beloved father, who died in 2006 on the morning of her Spring 2007 show. It might be why she never allows herself to rest on her laurels. “If I were to say at any point that I feel really con?dent or really in control, that would be a mistake. Because I don’t,” she says. “I always see where I didn’t do things the right way. I only see the heavy lifting. That’s a bit of my wisdom, if you want to call it that. … I think what it really is, is that I have an artistic soul. And I didn’t know how to live without indulging that.”‘