With her new luxuriously minimalist home, VERA WANG, a lifelong New Yorker, heads for the hills
era Wang is ready to discuss her latest purchase: a sleek four-bedroom house in Beverly Hills. Well, almost. Before she begins, she’d like to clarify two particular points. Number one, she is not moving to Los Angeles, and two, “I am not the sort of woman who would wear high heels with a bathing suit. Let’s get that straight right now.” (More later on the remarkably fit 62-year-old designer’s bathing-suit shot.) But the reason behind her new real estate is simply to have a place to unplug from the non-stop Manhattan whirl, not to abandon it entirely. “It’s a Zen escape,” she explains.“new York for me is about work. If L.A. were to become a West Coast version of that, I’d shoot myself. The climate, the lifestyle— it all really fits as the yin to my New York yang.”
This is hardly Wang’s first fling with the West Coast. The designer had wanted a house in L.A. for 10 years. Last August, her long search came to a happy end. “I looked and looked, but when I found this one, I felt so immediately comfortable being i n i t,” she says. Her vision of perfection is a light-drenched aerie with floor-to-ceiling glass walls that overlooks the Los Angeles Basin and the Pacific Ocean, a sweeping view that she deems “insane”. The midcentury-modern abode in Trousdale Estates was built in 1967, and is cl assi c Richard Neutra- esque Hollywood. To wit, Burt Reynolds is one of its previous occupants, a fact that amuses Wang greatly.
The man responsible for getting her into the property is L.A. home designer Steve Hermann, who shares her lean and mean aesthetic, and recently completed a three- year renovation of the house. “I just got him, and I just got it,” she says. “I loved his ability to do modern in a l i ght way that’s also extremely sophisticated.” Most of all, she loves that glorious view. “That’s what won it for me,” says Wang. “I need a place to visually escape.”
She may be new to the 90210 zip code, but she isn’t one of those blackclad New Yorkers who reflexively recoil from all things Golden State. She’s a fan of both Malibu and Venice Beach and has dressed her fair share of Hollywood brides. Two years ago, she opened a store on Melrose Avenue, and as a designer to whom actresses flock for that perfect redcarpet look, she’s spent many an awards season hunkered down in a t emporary HQ with r acks of gorgeous gowns. But this past year, while in town for the Oscars—you can thank Wang for Sandra Bullock’s triumphant lipstick-red strapless gown—she finally had enough of hotel living. “It’s difficult to relax in a hotel lobby, not knowing who you’re going to bump into,” says Wang. “And no matter how great
a suite is, after a while you start to go a little psycho.”
Another perk of having a house in L.A., according to Wang, is never having to fight over the best lounge chair at a hotel pool. On that subject, just how did she find herself posing for this story in a swimsuit? “I wanted to wear a corset from Alexander Wang, whom I like a great deal,” Wang explains. “I was thinking it would be over a legging or a boyish short, but the next thing I knew, I was there in a swimsuit.” She continues with a laugh, “The funny thing is that I’m the girl whom no one sees at the beach. Ask anyone who’s travelled with me. Normally, I’m in so many layers, I look like Lawrence of Arabia!” Asked if she’s impressed with the results, as someone even half her age should be, she sighs. “No, honey, I’m a little horrified. But I still love that bustier.”
Even away from the pool, Wang has never shied away from risks. The Fall 2012 bridal show did not have a single white dress in it. “I love a black wedding dress,” she chirps. It’s the bridal business that gave her her start in 1990, and made her name a brand recognised worldwide. Now she sits atop a nearly-billion-dollar-a-year empire spanning bridal, ready-to-wear, fragrances, and home. It runs the gamut from couture-quality wedding dresses to lower-priced lines for David’s Bridal and Kohl’s. But perhaps her most interesting balancing act is selling an international version of glamour while r e t a i ni ng her fiercely independent personal style.
“Glam is not my middle name,” Wang deadpans of her personal style. She prefers different adjectives: “Artsy, subversive, minimalist, street.” She’s amused to hear her tastes described as “couture Goth teenager” and says that since she has become the authority on sophistication, she’s moving in a direction more in line with her own preferences. “I make things of my own that aren’t that glam,” she says, “but I’m not known for that, which has always been a bit of a frustration for me.” Though her ready-to-wear clothes have long included a hint of edge, her latest Spring collection pushed it even further with a deconstructed, sporty aesthetic.
As for her own closet, Wang makes no secret of her affection for fellow designer Rick Owens, who i s incidentally a former Angeleno now based in Paris; clearly there’s a precedent for a darker version of Socal cool. “I think of him as an artist who embraces his own vision and has the courage to follow through,” she says. Her favourite Owens pieces are his signature slouchy T-shirts, which she sleeps in and owns in a typically moody palette of blacks and greys. For day, she mixes those with her own designs and the occasional Azzedine Alaïa showstopper. “I know Stephanie Seymour is his biggest muse,” says Wang of Alaïa, “but I might be his biggest customer.”
Still, the dress code in L. A. is notoriously more lax than in New York, which is something Wang, a selfdescribed sweatpants aficionado, could get into. She also looks forward to entertaining, specifically with intimate dinners under the stars. However, Wang isn’t sure if she envisions herself taking to other Californian customs, like hitting the trails in the scenic canyons. Her professed favourite West Coast activities—swimming, sunning, cruising around in her Mercedes G-wagen, and, of course, shopping— are somewhat less active. “I could hike down my hill, but it would take every ounce of stamina I have,” she says, smiling. “And hiking back up would probably kill me.”
“I’m the girl whom no one sees at the beach. Ask anyone who’s travelled with me. Normally, I’m in so many layers,
I look like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA!”
White on: Wang’s bright and beautiful kitchen. Dress and belt, Azzedine Alaïa. Bracelet, Van Cleef & Arpels. Pumps, Giuseppe Zanotti Design.
Movie night in the
screening room. Gown, Vera Wang. Bracelets and ring, Van Cleef & Arpels.
Shoes, Christian Louboutin.
The entryway of her new
California abode. Skirt,
` 44,310 (approx), and vest,
Rick Owens. Bracelet, Van Cleef & Arpels. Rolex
watch, Hermès bag, and Ann Demeulemeester boots, Wang’s own. See Where to Buy for details. Hair: Anh Co Tran; makeup: Deon Jones; interior styling: