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With a brand spankin’ new office for Wedded Wonderland HQ, we can’t help but be inspired by the Queen of Couture, Vera Wang’s private office. How does she describe it? Her “haven-slash-disco-slash-mental hospital”.
How long have you been out of the garment district?
I have been in this space coming up on three years. I moved here, to Madison Square Park, initially for light, air and a view. I’d been in the garment center for so long, and it was starting to feel very oppressive: the intensity of the streets, the amount of people, the amount of factories still, even now; the amount of showrooms, design studios, all so jammed into a three-to-four block area. I calculated once that just running from 39th Street, where I was, to Eighth Avenue probably had taken … um, a fifth of my life over 20 years. When I calculated that, I thought maybe it’d be better to go to a less intense neighbourhood. Then I found out they shoot movies here, so really, you can’t win any way you look at it.
How much work did you have to around the space to make it your own?
We took the lease completely brute, meaning we put every single thing in. We used to have six floors in our old building, so everybody spent their time going up and down the elevator. Here we have it all on two, so it is infinitely more efficient for us, and also I feel that everybody in the company is more accessible to each other.
How do you differentiate your office from the rest of the office?
This is my refuge — outside is my design studio/think tank/laboratory. I wanted a space where I could retire from the intensity of that room. I really wanted something that had a very Asian — not only contemporary — but Asian kind of feel. And in all fairness, in my heart of hearts I am — funny for me to say this — but in my own strange way I’m very minimalist. And this space reflects that. It makes me calm down and think more clearly, and it’s very, very soothing. I always come in here, although our real entrance is downstairs. Usually I’m on the phone until I get here, whether about business or my daughters or other parts of my life. Coming through this environment prepares me for the transition into the design space.
Two things about this office: no desk, no computer.
No desk on purpose. I sit at a table in the design studio. When I’m in here, I really like to be focused. I come here to make very difficult phone calls or engage in very complex negotiations, and I don’t need a desk to do that. I also do not work on a computer. I read on a computer a lot. And I carry my mini iPad everywhere.
Who comes in here?
No one. I only see it as space for me. When I’m here I feel calm, I feel safe, I feel relaxed, and I think I feel like there’s a private part to me that I really do treasure. The exception is sometimes I meet executives from my licensees in here. It’s ironic to see businessmen in suits sitting on a very low sofa but they get used to it.
Is there a reason there’s nothing on the walls?
Nothing to distract me, everything to calm me. I have art in my apartment — I’m not a major collector but have some Richard Serra, John Chamberlain — and I have personal photos in my bedroom at home. But I don’t have any in the workplace. I want to be free when I’m working, and I need that kind of emptiness in a weird way.
So that’s in here; just outside are all the fabrics, the mood boards, the sample rooms. How does a collection start for you?
I’ll say at any given moment to my design assistants, “Well, maybe it’s Marie Antoinette if she lived today,” because there’s one piece of fabric this time that resonated for me, a brocade. And then I’ll say: “You know, it does look kind of Chinese, but I don’t want to go there. I’d like to see it as something that Marie Antoinette would have worn but executed in a whole different way.” And then, “Well, maybe that’s too dressy because how would I wear brocade if I were wearing it?” And then: “Who is this woman? She was so young, she wanted to be free. She wanted to experiment with how she looked.” It starts like that.
Of the materials you work with, how much of them actually end up in a shop versus how many do you say, “Oh, that was a mistake, forget it, I shouldn’t have done that”?
I’ve had whole collections that were mistakes. I have thrown away a quarter of a million in fabric for the resort collection, just thrown it in a pile in the corner. Then my staff runs to gather it and says maybe we’ll use it in another season. That really happens. Really.
And what happens at the end of a season, what do you do with all the, the things that are on the boards, all the fabrics, everything, where does it go?
It all goes away, and we start all over again. We don’t archive. There are times — “Oh, I remember that great dress with the incredible embroidery in Barneys’ window, where is it?” — and it’s nowhere to be found. Sad, but true.
This article originally appeared in the New York Times