This week we chat with jewelry and fashion designer, Mary Ping,
founder of MARYPING and Slow and Steady Wins the Race, and get her advice on
how to start a successful fashion label in NYC at the age of 23.
CREATURES FEATURES: Can you please tell us about yourself? Where are you from, where did you go to school, and where are you now?
Mary Ping: I was born in New York and attended Vassar College. I moved back to New York a year after graduating and living abroad, finding an apartment exactly one block from where my parents would see movies, the old Beekman Theater, which is in the opening sequence of Annie Hall.
CF: Did you always think you were going to be involved in fashion as a designer?
MP: Absolutely, I knew since the age of 4 and was completely obsessed with designing and then figuring out how to make those things.
CF: Your line Slow and Steady Wins the Race was started by you anonymously in 2002; what was the thought process behind that decision?
MP: It was a culmination of everything I was thinking about and investigating within how the fashion system worked. I actually took it from a Pedro the Lion song, but it works. An important criteria is that the name and spirit be representative of the design philosophy.
CF: How has the design world in NYC changed since then, and how has it affected your creative process?
MP: Around that time, we navigated primarily through word of mouth and person to person discovery. I remember checking my email once a day and still had a Nokia brick phone - which probably still works. Everything was more tactile and visceral.
CF: You launched your line at the young age of 23, looking back what advice would you give to yourself then?
MP: Take business classes! I've always been very pragmatic and resourceful. If I could time travel, then one piece of advice I would give myself is to find someone who was an Excel and Quickbooks savant.
CF: I love that you learned about fabrics and how to sew from your grandmother! Can you tell us more about that?
MP: I attribute so much to my grandmother, including seeing value and understanding quality. She was really one of a kind. She exuded a Katharine Hepburn sense of style.
CF: Are those influences from your grandmother still present in your current work?
MP: Everyday and every moment.
CF: You recently started making jewelry in collaboration with the french jewelry line, Pièce à Conviction. What would you say are the biggest differences for you as an artist when you’re making clothing versus when you’re making jewelry?
MP: That collaboration was on my mind for sometime and then I finally gathered up the nerve to ask Ghislain, even though I had been a longtime customer. There really is no difference, the same considerations apply : material, scale and proportion, comfort.
CF: What is your studio practice like?
MP: The studio exists for execution and operation only. We prototype and test things out. True creative decisions happen outside of the studio.
CF: Where do you turn for inspiration when you are starting a new collection?
MP: I have to start with a blank slate, then the easiest way to describe it is if I were to make a film, the shape of things, the framing of things together, even the sound of things.
CF: Who do you design for?
MP: This question has always been a bit of a lost cause for me. Or maybe I am too idealistic. I pour a lot of energy into the object itself and then let it speak for itself.
CF: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
MP: My sleeping habits should be a case study for the Mayo Clinic.
CF: Dressing up or dressing down?
MP: Cool casual.
CF: Beer or wine?
MP: If I had to choose, wine, only because I have a gluten allergy.
And check out her jewelry available in our NYC store.
MARYPING ready to wear photos by Zoë Ghertner.and Judy Linn.