Skater Evan Lysacek wowed the judges with his Olympic Gold Medal performance in Vancouver in 2010. Here he tells the story behind his collaboration with Vera on his costumes and the “fashion lessons” he learned along the way.
How did you and Vera first meet?
I met Vera for the first time when we worked on a charity together, Figure Skating in Harlem. Vera is one of their big supporters, because she grew up as an elite skater. There’s a gala event at Wollman Rink every spring. At that point, I really knew nothing about fashion—wasn’t into it at all—but I knew Vera as a skater and that she had done costumes for Michelle Kwan and Nancy Kerrigan. I wanted to know, how did she figured out life after skating? I was at her Figure Skating Hall of Fame induction and had started to be interested in fashion and intrigued by it. I had a sponsorship from Ralph Lauren at the time, who she actually had worked for a year, so there was a connection. Her personal style and my personal style are similar. So I asked her if she’d be interested in working with me and told her I’d be honored to have her design for me.
When did you decide to start working together?
After the 2009 World Championships when I won, I asked her right away, and she said yes. It was amazing to work with her because she was such an inspiration on a personal and professional level. I’m in awe of her as a person, a mother, a designer. The work that she did was unlike anything that’s worn in skating and so groundbreaking in sports in general. The response has been phenomenal!
How are the costumes Vera Wang designed for you different from the ones you’ve worn in the past?
I think for me, I never was really too involved in the process because I didn’t see skating costumes as fashion. She bridged the gap. She said, why don’t we bring your personal style and taste and my personal style and taste together, and instead of classical pieces, why not bring the costumes into the 21st century, and make them modern and fashionable? “Modern” and “edgy” were never words used to describe what I was wearing in skating, but now that’s how people refer to them. She really changed my packaging.
What are the most important aesthetic qualities in a costume for you?
Working with Vera has given me a finer appreciation for detail. In her clothing line and the costumes she did for me, there’s an attention to detail that’s not the the norm. I would get comments about the sheen of a feather, or the way something was draped around me—all things I would never think of because I would think people would never see it from ice. But people do appreciate attention to detail.
The snake costume you wore when you won the gold was so simple, yet high impact. How did you decide on the costume you wore when you won the gold this year at the Olympics?
When Vera and I started the season, we said we were going to do something different with each competition. We started with the short program: it was feather gloves and the black mummified look. I don’t want to use this word, but it was “bondage.” For the free skate, we did something very regal and it was as much as Vera could do classic, but we got such a great reaction from the short program that we tried to update that look for the final. What it taught us is that we should try to be true to what we want. We both liked the idea of the snake because in Chinese culture there’s a myth–or maybe it’s true–that snakes bring prosperity. It was also synonymous with Vera Wang, who had produced those snakes in jewelry in years past, so people would recognize it as her. And we’re both very superstitious, so that made a lot of sense. Each little gem is individually pronged on, and there’s double stitching, diagonal seams all the way around, and felt padding. There are so many details that go into make something so simple and modern look as close to perfect as it can.
How would you describe your personal style when you’re not in the skating rink?
Usually, pretty simple. I like black. I like dark colors. I think they’re flattering on everybody. I don’t necessarily feel the need to be dressed up all the time, but wearing something with confidence is important.
I like mixing designer with less expensive pieces, like a T-shirt from flea market with a pair of Lanvin pants. It’s about not taking yourself too seriously. Vera will wear a piece of jewelry or a shoe that’s amazing, but then she’ll wear it with a tank top and it looks great.
If Vera made menswear, I’m sure you’d be the first person to wear it…but until she does, who are your go-to designers?
I love Ralph, obviously. A polo shirt for guys is one of the easiest things to wear. It’s appropriate in any situation. I love Black Label. I also really like YSL and I like Lanvin and Rick Owens. Honestly, I like going to the flea market and finding unique button-ups, maybe not vintage, but worn in. And I do buy myself a 6-pack of white v-neck tees. L.A. is more laid back so you don’t have to do a lot to seem dressed up.
Do you have a favorite vintage store in L.A.?
There’s one that I go to because it’s close to where I live, Melrose Trading Post on Melrose and Fairfax. They have everything from jewelry to furniture to turntables. It’s very eclectic. Mixing that kind of stuff [in your wardrobe] is cool. There’s something to be said for a crisp new button-down shirt, but if you’re just hanging around the house or going for a walk, an old worn-in shirt is great.
Have you ever been to a fashion show?
I’ve never been to Fashion Week. I really had to sacrifice for training. But I’m hoping in September to get out to Fashion Week and learn and get a better feel for fashion. And, I’ll be in New York for Fashion’s Night Out, hosting an event with Vera.