I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just that I forgot to wear my Warby Parker glasses, but that Vera Wang looked much more youthful and energetic than her 63 years.

I wanted to get a better look after I attended her speaking at the 92Y “Fashion Icons” talks with Fern Mallis, but she jetted to her second home in L.A. in preparation for the Oscars before I even got to the reception afterwards. I suppose this image of her wearing her own designs, Balenciaga shorts, possibly Danskin leggings and some killer Louboutin boots shows you how easily you could forget that the woman has been working hard in this business for 40 years–as my friend Carla had to remind me when I complained about how much further I should be in my career.

Vera casually name dropped her friends in this business from Calvin (as in Klein),  Michael (as in Kors) and Donna (as in Karan), and even newer generations of influencers comprised of her clientele like the Clinton family and Alicia Keys.

It took some time before she made friends like these, but did not quite have the typical rags to riches story. She came from a prominent family in China, with a famous general as a grandfather, that managed to succeed upon immigration with degrees at M.I.T.  and Harvard. She proclaimed that she’s the “dummy” of the family after her brother scored a perfect score on the S.A.T.s and she had a failed career as a figure skater due to injury. Though Vera Wang is no dummy.

While studying for a masters degree in “mainly Italian and art history,” she worked at YSL’s store dressing windows and helping customers, one of which was the editor of Vogue at the time, who saw something in her and offered her a job for after she graduated.

She jumped on the opportunity and at age 23 began her career in fashion at Vogue (prior to designing at Ralph Lauren, opening her own boutique and launching her famous line). When she showed up with a crazy white YSL dress, heels and red nails on her first day on the job–because that’s what she imagined a fashion assistant would wear at Vogue–the editor demanded she went home and changed, including taking the red nail color off. Sure enough, Vera got her start hauling wardrobe, unpacking, packing and other less than glamorous tasks.

Her humble beginnings in fashion were a familiar story to mine, though I didn’t get plucked from a salesgirl position to work at Vogue. If 40 years in this business looks like that, then I won’t be complaining.