Characterisitics of Business Leadership: Vera Wang

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CHARACTERISTICS OF BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: VERA WANG

Describe the business leader’s primary business or businesses, highlighting how the leader got started and analyze the leader’s three (3) major business challenges in establishing and/or running the company.

Vera Wang began her career in the fashion industry in 1971, working her way up the corporate ladder to Senior Editor for Vogue. In 1987, she began working for Ralph Lauren, dealing primarily with accessories.

In 1987, out of frustration with the lack of options to suit her sophisticated taste, she designed her own wedding gown, commissioning a seamstress to assemble it. This inspired her to launch Vera Wang Bridal House Ltd., in the Carlisle Hotel on Madison Avenue, New York City. Her primary target was upper class clientel, initially offering bridal gowns by designers such as Guy Laroche, Arnold Scaasi, Christian Dior and Carolina Herrena. Her background spawned her birth as a real player into the fashion world: the discipline she learned from competitive ice skating; the trips to Paris for fashion shows with her mother, as a child; her high-priced education; the mentors she acquired during her career at Vogue and with Ralph Lauren, who broadened her knowledge of fashion. Her background and understanding for the need to fill a niche, in the fashion industry, fuels her passion for designing elegant apparel.

Challenge No. 1: Her father removed the burden of start-up costs by giving her $4 million to begin her venture. $1 million was invested to redecorate the two story soon-to-be boutique, while she and her right hand man, Chet Hazzard, sold bridal gowns from a hotel suite, in 1990. CHARACTERISTICS OF BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: VERA WANG

In a relatively short amount of time, Vera Wang was custom designing bridal gowns for a market of wealthy clients.

Challenge No. 2: Upon the opening of her bridal boutique, Vogue ran a six page spread about Mrs. Wang. This reduced the burden of initial marketing/advertising for her new company, as it attracted a wealth of eager brides-to-be. Thanks to Vogue’s article, she’d made a name for herself, before she’d really done much to plant herself in the fashion design industry.

Her philosophy in business was to create a lifestyle of luxury and sophistication for women. By 2000, Vera Wang was worth an estimated $80 million, after adding to her product lines. Evening gowns, both modern and elegant, were worn by celebrities to special events, providing her with a massive amount of advertising, as her gowns were flashed all over national television and news articles. Bridesmaids dresses were introduced. She’d signed licensing agreements for shoes (Rossimoda), furs (Newmont Group) and fragrance (Unilever), all before the year 2000. $10 million in sales in 1995 to a value of an estimated $80 million in 2000, is clearly an indicator that Vera Wang understood the need for growth with demand. She’d opened her second fullsize boutique in 1998. Her first fashion show was held in New York in 1998, as well. Another boost to global brand identity was her 1994 handbeaded ensemble, worn by figure skater, Nancy Kerrigan, at the 1994 Olympics. There was no shortage of public recognition, whereas marketing and advertising proves to be very costly for business owners, particularly at start-up. CHARACTERISTICS OF BUSINESS LEADERSHIP: VERA WANG

By 1994, she’d expanded by selling bridal and formal wear at upscale department stores, such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Made-to-order couture designs, lingerie, jewelry, eyewear, footwear, sportswear and home products were added to broaden the product line, over the course of several years. By 2002, Vera Wang had two factories, one in Florida and one in Ohio. By that time, she also owned dozens of boutiques. Her desire to reach all classes of clientel led her to release her wedding guide: Vera Wang on Weddings, in 2001. She realized that not everyone could afford a Vera Wang gown. This was...
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