Anna Doesn’t Sit With Losers & Other Quotables From Vera’s 92Y Talk

Even on a rainy Tuesday night, we’re more than willing to make the trek up to 92nd street to take in another installment of the 92Y‘s “Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis” series. So far, we’ve heard Tom Ford tell us about meeting the love of his life, Michael Kors have everyone in stitches over childhood anecdotes, and Diane von Furstenberg spout inspirational aphorisms. Last night it was Vera Wang‘s turn to bring the spotlight onto her own success story.

The 63-year-old designer regaled us with tales of being born in New York City to Chinese immigrant parents, balancing a grueling figure skating schedule with her high school classwork (“I was always more of the creative one”), and her days as a fashion assistant to legendary editor Polly Mellen at Vogue. One such incident was when Mellen kicked her out of their van on the way to a photoshoot for forgetting a hat and Wang, resourceful girl that she was, went to the Glamour van to beg Patrick Demarchelier for money to hitch a ride back to Manhattan. She then moved on to launching her line, starting a family, expanding into licenses, and, of course, the wedding business. But word to the wise: don’t try to bring up Kim Kardashian‘s ill-fated wedding to Kris Humphries, for which Wang designed three separate gowns. Mallis dropped the “K” bomb while on the topic of celebrity clientele, to which the designer responded only with a groan and a “Fern, I’m going to kill you!”

On most other subjects (save perhaps finances and vicious tabloid rumors), Wang was more than forthcoming. Here are some of her choicest quotes from the evening:

  1. How old do you feel, Vera?

    “Somewhere between 30 and 90. Depends on the day. Today? 85.”

  2. On her close friend and old classmate from the all-girlĀ Chapin school, Emily Rafferty, who now runs the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
  3. “We always say we were the two dumbest girls in the class.”

  4. On figure skating, a sport at which she once almost competed at an Olympic level:
  5. “I love to skate, I like the feeling of the freedom…there’s the element of knowing your own body, there’s the element of speed, there’s the element of music and costume, but the most wonderful thing is the wind in your face when you skate.”

  6. She confessed that she used to “live” in the Vogue closet, but that didn’t mean she never got out to Studio 54:

    “I couldn’t get a husband, but I could get into a nightclub!”

  7. Until, of course, she met her husband, financier Arthur Becker (with whom she has recently separated):
  8. “We were like the original When Harry Met Sally!”

  9. Except with few more wedding dresses. Even though Vera had yet to launch her own bridal line at the time, she admitted she designed seven dresses for herself:
  10. “I got a little overexcited!”

  11. When she did go into business for herself, she said, the growth was slow and cautious. On the 2005 CFDA Awards, at which she won “Womenswear Designer of the Year”:
  12. “I sat there and my daughters did not come. I didn’t want them to cry if I lost like they did when Michelle Kwan lost at the Olympics. But I was sitting next to Anna Wintour and she said, “Get your daughters here…I don’t sit with losers.” She didn’t know I was going to win, no, but she had a very good feeling it was my moment. And it was a moment. That was my moment. She actually sent for my children to come, it was the nicest thing.”

  13. What wasn’t the nicest thing was the time she showed up to the White House wearing two different colored shoes, one brown and one black, because she was in such a rush out the door:
  14. “Everyone noticed! Oscar [de la Renta] was laughing his head off and Michael [Kors] said, ‘Only you, Vera’.”

  15. Although she says she doesn’t always think of expansion as a good thing, there are a few fields Wang would be willing to move into, one being athletic clothing, and the other, well:
  16. “I do love doughnuts!”

  17. But in all seriousness, Wang is looking East for her business:
  18. “The big push for us will be all of Asia. I don’t mean to sound like Genghis Khan here, but you know…I’m going to be spending a lot of time in Asia over the next few years.”

Photo via Joyce Culver for 92Y

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