Vera Wang built a multimillion-dollar company around fairy tale wedding gowns
Wang and her husband, Arthur Becker, recently announced their separation
Speculation has swirled that Wang's marital split might affect her dress empire
A design expert says customers aren't looking to mimic the gown designer's personal life
Last week, powerhouse wedding gown designer Vera Wang announced that she and her husband of 23 years, Arthur Becker, were separating.
“Vera Wang and Arthur Becker have mutually and amicably agreed to separate. They remain devoted parents to their two daughters,” Mario Grauso, the president of the Vera Wang Group, said in a statement to CNN.
The couple married in 1989 when Wang was a design director at Ralph Lauren and Becker was a stockbroker at Bear Stearns & Co. Before her tenure at Ralph Lauren, Wang worked at Vogue magazine for more than 15 years.
Wang, 63, launched her label in 1990, a year after her own wedding, with a prestigious Madison Avenue address on New York City’s Upper East Side. She opened Bridal House Ltd., as it was called at the time, because she noticed something was missing from bridal gowns during her own wedding planning: art.
Tamara Albu, an associate professor of fashion design at Parsons The New School of Design, said Wang revolutionized the way people looked at the wedding gown; she upped the sophistication and made the gown an expression of a state of mind, not just a marker of a special occasion.
“She understands women who embrace fashion. In her case, she markets the wedding gown as a personification of love and beauty, not herself,” she said.
However, Wang’s recent announcement has caused speculation as to whether her fairy-tale aesthetic will be affected by her own not-so-happily-ever-after ending.
Wang’s empire has grown into a multitiered, multimillion-dollar effort, a marriage of ready-to-wear and sportswear, as well as bedding, eyewear, fragrance, stationery, luggage, footwear, tableware and flower collections.
Ivanka Trump, Chelsea Clinton and Victoria Beckham are just a few of the influential people who have said “I do” donning Vera Wang.
Nowadays, designers sell a lifestyle, and with it, their clothes and accessories. Diane von Furstenberg is renowned for her iconic wrap dress and signature prints for the ever-sassy career woman – embodying the DVF label. Donatella Versace is synonymous with over-the-top prints and unabashed sexiness, fitting for her brand’s Miami jet-set look.
For Wang, it was romanticism.
“Vera Wang is a magnificent designer who has created a unique aspirational world that alludes to sensuality and youthful sophistication. Exquisite details, intricate draping and a nonchalant sense of style characterize the Vera Wang aesthetic,” Albu said.
Does the end of Wang’s marriage mean her enchanted empire is in danger? Albu says not necessarily.
Wang’s Fall 2012 bridal collection departed from the typical matrimonial hues of white and ivory and included several black wedding dresses, while her spring 2013 bridal collection was emblazoned with scarlet-hued gowns.
Both are creative decisions Albu says could have been foretelling of Wang’s own marital woes.
“I think there is something there. This didn’t occur overnight and (is), in a way, a symbolic gesture. Creative people do take their inspiration from everywhere, including their own personal life,” Albu said.
However, fashion experts like Albu also say Wang’s customers are looking for their own fantasy – not trying to mimic the designer’s.
“Without doubt, every bride has her own fantasy about her own wedding. Does this fantasy include the personal life of her dress designer? I don’t think so,” Albu said.
“It is about a dream and an image and not a projection of someone that is instrumental in setting the stage,” she said.
Molly R. Leis, who owns the retail marketing firm MRL Communications, agrees Wang’s personal life won’t drive away sales because she never made it a part of the story.
“The Vera Wang brand does not sell her personal love story nor her marriage, but the soul of a New Yorker dedicated to offering women a luxury lifestyle brand,” said Leis, who is also a former director of marketing for Saks Fifth Avenue New York.
“Vera sells a lifestyle beyond the wedding. The dream she sells is that of an ambitious, driven, determined woman destined for success. She is often photographed and interviewed alone without mention or sight of her husband,” she said.
Reports have indicated that Becker, a successful businessman, played a significant role in expanding the Vera Wang brand, and neither party has commented on how their marital split might affect the company’s operations. But for customers devoted to Wang’s designs, it doesn’t change the bottom line.
Alli Sosna of Washington, D.C., will walk down the aisle on June 8, 2013, in a Wang gown. The 27-year-old says she didn’t, and still doesn’t, consider the designer’s personal life in her decision.
“I saw myself comfortable in my own skin, in a well-fitted elegant dress on a very important day in my life,” Sosna said.
“The design spoke to me, not the artist’s marital status, but what she stands for. If anything, her dresses are probably going to get better since she will be back on the market and falling in love again.”
And if there’s anything popular culture loves more than a fairy tale, it’s a second chance at love.
Are your fashion buying decisions influenced by a designer’s personal life? Would you buy a Vera Wang gown post-split? Share your opinion in the comments section below.
Maria LaMagna contributed to this report.