“Luxurious, romantic, stylish and comfortable.” That’s how Vera Wang described not her latest runway collection, but her branded mattresses with Serta in a 2006 television commercial. To some, that ad may have come as a surprise. After all, what was Wang, celebrated designer of bridal and more recently ready-to-wear, doing shilling beds?

As it turns out, Wang is having the last laugh. Her deal with Serta is the company’s fourth-largest license and rapidly growing. Sales are already up by 20 percent this year. “People tend to diminish the project,” said Vera Wang president Mario Grauso, “but it’s turned into a huge business. There’s massive distribution.”

In fact, Wang’s licenses form the backbone of her business. “They far surpass what we’re doing in volume for ready-to-wear and bridal,” Grauso added. “In today’s marketplace, to just have a [fashion] collection would be almost impossible. [The licensees] make us profitable.” The designer’s portfolio ranges from the usual suspects (fragrance, eyewear) to the unusual (FTD floral arrangements and Barbie dolls, in addition to the mattresses). Her agreement with Kohl’s, which includes costume jewelry, apparel, bath and bedding, is the largest.

Wang’s strength in bridal gave her an added advantage. Here, introducing her name to china, stationery and beds proved a savvy move, especially considering the booming registry business, which is projected to be $12.4 billion, according to TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com. And only Wang could credibly pull off a honeymoon suite, which she has at Honolulu’s Halekulani Hotel.

In the next year, moreover, the designer plans to introduce home fragrance (Nest Fragrances), luggage (Hartmann) and high-end bedding (Revman International).

“I’m building upon the trust the customer has with us and engaging them in other dialogues,” Wang said, while noting that her dream licensee would be in activewear. “I love sports. I would do skating, golf, tennis — any kind of activewear. Even when I’m not active, that’s how I dress anyway.”

Here, a look at Wang’s world.

— Venessa Lau

 

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