Minty Must Know: Vera Wang

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Wang was born in New York City to wealthy immigrants from Shanghai, China. Her father was an entrepreneur who made his fortune in the pharmaceutical industry. “I think, in a way, watching him grow his company influenced me subliminally,” says Wang. Her mother, who worked as a translator at the United Nations, introduced her to fashion. “My mother and I went to a couture show when [Yves Saint Laurent] was on Rue Spontini,” she recalls. “That was his first couture house. It was a little atelier — 33 Rue Spontini, I still remember the address. So I really have been educated in fashion. I grew up with it, exposed to the greatest.”

At an early age, Wang began figure skating and, after years of intensive competition, tried, but failed to make, the 1968 US Olympic team. “When you fall down — which you have to [do] if you want to learn to be a skater — you pick yourself right up and start again. You don’t let anything deter you,” she notes. “Oddly enough, it’s strangely like fashion — you have a limited amount of time in which to get a point of view across.”

With her skating days behind her, Wang turned to fashion. “I thought maybe I could go to design school and my father said ‘Nope, go get a job.’” The summer after her junior year of college, she worked at the Yves Saint Laurent boutique on New York’s Madison Avenue. “It was just fate that I met — well, waited on — Frances Patiky Stein, who was one of the two fashion directors of [American] Vogue at the time. She said, ‘Call me when you’re finished with college.’ For some reason I believed her, and for some reason I did it. I called her two years later and she totally remembered me and got me an interview!”

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