Women is...: Designer to the Stars Vera Wang

Designer to the Stars Vera Wang

born: New York City, June 27, 1949.

education: BA in liberal arts, Sarah Lawrence College. Wang has no formal design training. Her dad wouldn't let her go to art school. He wanted her to concentrate on more "practical subjects."

beginnings: Has become a significant force in the fashion industry in just six years. Opened her first boutique on Madison Avenue in Manhattan in 1990 after working as an editor at Vogue for 17 years and as design director of Ralph Lauren for two years. Branched into a less expensive line of ready-to-wear bridal and evening dresses in 1992 and 1993, respectively. Became a household name in 1994 when she designed stylish costumes for figure skater Nancy Kerrigan to wear in the Winter Olympics.
Kerrigan as a marketing tool: "Offering a dress to Nancy started as a way to make a statement in the skating world, being a skater myself," she says. Wang had Olympic dreams too. They were extinguished in 1968 when she didn't win at the National Figure Skating Championships. "I wanted to make an artistic contribution to the sport. I never thought I would get the exposure I did. I don't know if designing costumes for Nancy has been good in terms of actual sales, but it has been tremendous for name recognition."

more celeb clients: Actors Alicia Silverstone, Mare Winningham, Penelope Ann Miller; singers Mariah Carey and Chynna Phillips; models Donna Peele and Vendela.

the timetable: From one hour to six months. It takes more time when a client vacillates during the fitting about the style of her gown.

trademark: Use of "illusion" netting to give the appearance of bare skin while the skin is totally covered. Favored by Sharon Stone, among other stars.

business strategy: "I wanted to build a fashion company starting with one market. I chose bridal wear. It was important to me to become an expert in this one market. And then expand into others."
the next step: "I'm planning several things: one, women's sportswear and active wear; two, a bridal book and video; three, a shoe and handbag line."

inspirations: Geoffrey Beene, Giorgio Armani.

household: Husband Arthur Becker, and daughters, Cecilia and Josephine.

on her juggling act: "It is virtually impossible to care for family and run a business, but I do my best."

if she weren't designing: "I would be making movies or writing novels."

tech savviness: "None. I sketch my designs with pad and paper."