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Vera Wang Opens Up to Fern Mallis About Stalking Tom Ford, Her Most Emotional Runway Show, and Making Branded Donuts

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Photo: Joyce Culver for 92Y

Let it never be said that Vera Wang doesn’t know how to work a crowd.

The designer may have had a plane waiting for her at Teterboro Airport following last night’s installment of “Fashion Icons” with Fern Mallis at the 92Y–she had top secret Oscar fittings in Los Angeles, of course–but she kept us all captivated during her talk with tales of her parents’ upbringing in China, her career in figure skating, and how fashion became her life.

Wang had the audience rolling with laughter about every topic: Partying at Studio 54 while working for Vogue (“I couldn’t find a husband, but I could find a club!”), designing her own wedding gown, which kicked off her business (“My husband told me he wanted me to look like a bride, not a fashion freak.”), and not expecting to win the CFDA womenswear award in 2005 (“Anna [Wintour] just told me, ‘I don’t sit with losers.’”).

The most touching moment of the night was when Wang shared the story of her 2007 spring collection. Her father had been sick for some time, and in the late hours in the night before she was to show, her father’s caretaker called and told her that her father was passing. Wang and her family rushed out to the Hamptons to be with her father in his final hours. Despite feeling “devastated,” the doctor insisted that Wang return to New York and show her collection.

“I never walk the runway,” she said of that difficult morning, where she took the final walk in tears, “but I walked the runway that one time, for him.”

Joyce Culver for 92Y

As open as Wang was, she wouldn’t take the bait when Mallis brought up her recent separation from her husband, Arthur Becker, stating simply that he was still involved with the company and that she “couldn’t see” him not being a part of her life. Two potentially telling things: She continuously referred to Becker as “my husband,” and did give one concession regarding his involvement with the brand, telling Mallis, “My husband is very annoyed by the business.”

And lest we forget Wang is a true mogul (there’s ready-to-wear, bridal, bedding, flatwear, flowers, a line for Kohl’s… the list could go on) with true mogul money to burn. She divulged that she’s begun to acquire some impressive real estate outside her homebase of New York. The designer recently bought a home in LA, worth an estimated $10 million, which she uses for “four or five days at a time, maybe a few times a year–not enough.” Now she has her sights set on London.

“I feel more excited about London,” she explained. “I’m following Tom Ford. I followed him to LA, to London–I’m stalking Tom Ford.”

But Wang doesn’t plan on moving her shows to London a la Mr. Ford. As she told Mallis, she’s got too much on her plate here to ever really consider moving elsewhere. Still, her business is in expansion mode; like the rest of the design world, she’s got her eye on the Asian market.

“Our really big push is into Asia,” she said, before adding jokingly, “I don’t mean to sound like Ghengis Khan here. I’m not on a horse with a sword.”

So, between home goods, ready-to-wear, bridal, and diffusion lines, is there anything else for the designer to get her name on?

“I do love donuts,” she said simply.

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