Vera Wang is one of the most famous names in fashion, and with good reason: After working as a fashion editor at Vogue and designing at Ralph Lauren, Wang took the bridal fashion scene by storm with her original, irreverent designs that challenged traditional notions of what a wedding dress could look like. Since then, she's designed lingerie, jewelry, lifestyle goods, and has dressed celebrities like Ariana Grande, Halle Berry, and Charlize Theron—just to name a few. Her designs have received accolades far and wide since the '90s, but as of this May, she's added a new honor to her name that so many little girls dream of: She has a Barbie doll modeled after her.
The doll is part of the Barbie Tribute Collection, which "celebrates visionaries whose incredible contributions have helped shape and impact our culture." Wang is the second honoree included in the collection, following entertainment icon Lucille Ball, and Wang's doll is an important symbol of representation not only for women in fashion, but for the AAPI community. Barbie Signature's lead designer Carlyle Nuera, an Asian-American creative himself, hopes Wang's doll inspires AAPI youth who wish to pursue the arts, or who simply "need to convince their nervous parents that this is actually a viable career path!"
The doll is a gorgeous addition to any doll or fashion enthusiast's collection, featuring Wang's signature waist-length black hair and donning a monochromatic black one-piece based on a design from Wang's 2017 ready-to-wear collection. We spoke to Vera Wang about her newly minted Barbie, AAPI representation, and what's next in her illustrious career.
Marie Claire: I know you've designed looks for Barbie before, but tell us more about your relationship with Barbie as a brand.
Vera Wang: Barbie is a universal icon: beloved, respected, and relevant. Thanks to the Mattel Co., Barbie has herself grown into a lifestyle brand that reflects so many of the cultural changes the world has experienced. I have had a long history with Barbie―dressing her for weddings, red carpet moments, and special events. And throughout the years, she has continued to evolve in both her style choices and fashion likes. In fact, not so dissimilar to the Vera Wang brand!
Designing a Barbie in my own image, however, has been the most astonishing experience. As someone who is known for dressing women on some of their most significant occasions, it was an entirely different process to confront not only my own sense of personal style. My Vera Wang Barbie truly reflects how I, myself, dress―the play on textures, proportions, and the mix between edgy tomboy and a modern sleek femininity.
MC: With having a doll modeled after you, how did it feel to be on the other side of the design table?
VW: The team at Barbie really guided me throughout the design parameters of Barbie without sacrificing any of the design codes so inherent to our brand identity. Having now completed the creative process makes me all the more appreciative of the final result.
MC: Tell us more about the 2017 ensemble that inspired your Barbie outfit.
VW: My 2017 ready-to-wear collection was all about reading between the lines―seeing more than meets the eye. While I adore a dress, this particular look from my 2017 runway ready-to-wear collection totally mirrors my unique love of separates and putting clothes together.
Black, highly tailored elements are not typical of most spring runways, but I adore the modernity and sophistication of black. The craftsmanship and attention to detail reflects my design philosophy. Vera Wang Barbie definitely represents a strong, modern and edgy woman.
MC: What message do you hope to communicate to young girls through your Barbie partnership?
VW: I want this partnership with Barbie to encourage all women to pursue their own reality. And passion is what truly gets you through the tough parts and makes the successes all the more rewarding. My partnership with Barbie is a testament to my devotion to design—and my hope is for everyone to discover their own personal style.
MC: Moving forward, what steps would you like to see fashion take in terms of increased AAPI representation?
VW: The significance of diversity in the fashion industry has evolved. I think it’s so important, now more than ever, to address the complex multi-faceted issues of diversity head on and continue to promote an open forum for discussion and progress. I’m so grateful for my own background, which encouraged a unique cultural perspective, profound work ethic, and tireless curiosity.
I hope we can give all people permission to fully embrace their own uniqueness and let it guide their passions. When it comes to the AAPI community specifically, I’m so proud to see so many of us speaking up, as well as other communities supporting us. As a society, we were raised to be docile and respect the status quo, so this is a particularly unique opportunity in time for us to feel entitled to a seat at the table.
MC: You've long been hailed as a rule-breaker and trendsetter in the fashion world, having incorporated unique silhouettes, different colored bridalwear, and fiscal accessibility into your collections. What's inspiring you now as you think of what's next?
VW: I think next for me means continuing to think, explore, and learn. Pivoting our brand into alcohol and beauty is part of our next chapter, and embracing the future of fashion in a technologically driven world.
Gabrielle Ulubay is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire and writes about all things fashion and beauty. She's also written about politics, gender, and sex for publications like Bustle, HuffPost Personal, and The New York Times. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.
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