Long before she became known globally for a much-loved, hugely successful portfolio of perfumes, Vera Wang earned a reputation as the ‘ultimate’ bridalwear designer.
This native New Yorker had come personally to understand all the frustrations of shopping for wedding dresses – as she once told The Perfume Society‘s Co-Founder Jo Fairley, in an interview for Wedding Day magazine.
‘I was forty years old, and I’d walk into all these bridal salons in New York City that were geared to women maximum aged twenty-six, and I felt totally out of place,’ explained Vera, who was previously the youngest-ever Vogue fashion editor at the age of 23 (working with photographers like Irving Penn and Richard Avedon), before leaving to work as a designer for Ralph Lauren. She subsequently took up a third – and most distinguished – career, designing some of the most beautiful wedding dresses ever created.
‘Having worked in fashion, there was nothing I could relate to in the bridal world,’ she told Jo, during their interview, when Vera Wang spread her wings – to Harrods – from the US. ‘Not a simple bias-cut slip, or even a beautiful crêpe trouser suit. Everything was literally a meringue – and it wasn’t enough to have bows; the bows had to have lace on them, and more bows, and flowers, and sequins, with something very similar to go on the head. And there was no way that a fashion-savvy woman of forty, in her right mind, was going to wear something like that.’
Vera Wang had spotted a gap – well, more of a Grand Canyon – in the market. Her father agreed to back her. And the rest, frankly, became wedding-dress history. Even before she opened her Manhattan boutique, showcasing beautifully-constructed, exquisitely elegant designs, Vera had brides pounding on the glass doors begging to buy the samples straight off the rack.
In the blink of an eye, some of the world’s most famous (or engaged-to-the-famous) women were beating a path to her salon for dresses in which to take their vows: from Sharon Stone, who wore a simple Vera Wang caramel chiffon skirt and a silk sleeveless turtle-neck for her wedding to newsman Phil Bronstein, to Pete Sampras’s blonde bride Bridgette (halterneck white crêpe), via Victoria Beckham, whose duchesse satin show-stopper was constructed over a couture corset that cinched her waist to a breathtaking 16 inches, and which was splashed across page after glossy Hello page.
Vera’s extraordinary talent for design, and her couture skills, have also translated to the red carpet realm, with special occasion gowns for society women and actresses. And today, Vera Wang has expanded into a lifestyle brand, with accessories, eye glasses, sportswear and exquisite items for the home, embracing absolutely everything a chic newlywed might need. In 2005, the Council of Fashion Designers of America honoured Vera’s dedication to her craft, and her innovation, by naming her ‘Womenswear Designer of the Year’.
But another aspect of weddings to which Vera Wang soon encouraged women to turn their attention was fragrance – first launching a signature scent of her own, as wedding-perfect as fragrance gets. Vera Wang for Women (above left) is elegant and covetable as any Vera Wang dress: an intimate bouquet of white flowers (think tuberose, gardenia, stephanotis and lily of the valley) which is part-seductress, part-ingenue, and totally wearable. (Whether you’re getting married or not, of course.) It became an instant bestseller – and has since been joined by other incredibly successful scents, tapping into women’s innate and enduring desire for femininity and glamour.
The whimsical Vera Wang Princess, for instance – ‘for the fashion forward “It” girl in her teens and twenties’ – is a fruity floral that’s sheer as chiffon, sparkling with apples and water lily, alongside golden apricot and mandarin meringue, with a bouquet of white flowers at its heart – and touches of dark chocolate, vanilla, amber and forbidden woods, swirling at its base.
And the stunningly-bottled Vera Wang Lovestruck (left), Vera explains, ‘is about the emotion and rush you feel when you are falling in love and going for it… those heart-pounding moments of spontaneity.’ It was inspired by a modern-day twist on Romeo & Juliet, designed to capture the sense of a woman who’s struck by love and captivated by passion. Modern, feminine and romantic, it offers pink guava, mandarin and a delicate tuberose note, underpinned by sensual woods.
The signature of each and every new fragrances echoes the signature of Vera Wang‘s designs. Always feminine. Always alluring. And always with the understanding that while we may not walk down the aisle every day of our lives, we still always want to feel special…