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NEW YORK — Cheng Ching “C.C.” Wang, the sole backer of the Vera Wang Co. who was chairman from its inception in 1990 until 1998, died last Thursday at Southampton Hospital. He was 87.
The cause of death was complications related to prostate cancer, said his daughter, Vera Wang.
The designer had rushed out to Southampton to see her father Thursday at 1 a.m., several hours before he died that morning, and then returned to the city for her fashion show that afternoon, tearfully taking her bow at the end of the show. She dedicated her show to him.
Although C.C. Wang tried hard to deter his daughter from a career in fashion, it was he who recognized her devotion to the industry, and suggested she start a bridal company rather than a risky ready-to-wear firm.
As Vera Wang told the WWD CEO Summit last year, her idea to start her bridal business came to her at age 40 when she was looking for the perfect dress for her own wedding. She candidly admitted, “There weren’t a whole lot of viable financial suitors anxious to help with a start-up … not even one, actually, and bridal was the only apparel-related business my family was willing to fund.”
Born in Peking, China, in 1918, C.C. Wang was the younger son of Wang Han Su and Wang Wen Shuen, a military general and later war minister under Generalissimo Chiang Kai Chek. He was graduated from Yenching University with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and worked in the National Oil Refinery in Chungking, China. He later served in the Chinese Nationalist Army from 1941 to 1943 as a lieutenant colonel. He married his wife, Florence Wu, in 1942. The following year, he flew over the Himalayas to Calcutta and sailed in an unarmed and unescorted British ship to the U.S.
Wang obtained his masters degree in chemical engineering from the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, and after a stint at Dupont and Firestone, he returned to China. In 1947, he founded Summit Industrial Co., and in 1948, U.S. Summit Corp. with three of his M.I.T. classmates. Together, they built an international pharmaceutical distribution business, trading company and oil business in the Far East.
In addition to his passion for business, adventure and exploration, Wang enjoyed shopping, his homes and golf. He owned a private golf course in Westchester County for over 35 years, and maintained residencies in Manhattan; Pound Ridge, N.Y.; Palm Beach; Singapore, and Shanghai.
According to his daughter, one his greatest joys was shopping for clothes and watches. Although he never predicted that he’d own a fashion business, he encouraged his wife’s fascination with fashion and nurtured his daughter’s love of style. He would accompany them on buying trips to Paris, where he was a mainstay at Rive Gauche, Hermès and Chanel from the late Sixties through the Eighties. His wife died in 2004.
In addition to his daughter, Vera, Wang is survived by his son, Kenneth; son-in-law, Arthur Becker; daughter-in-law, Doreen Wang; a sister, Wang Pe-chen, a member of the Chinese parliament of the Republic of China for 43 years; three grandsons, Kevin, Darren and Harry Wang, and two granddaughters, Cecilia and Josephine Becker.