Ep. 45: Mary Ping

Fashion designer Mary Ping was influenced at a young age by a stylish grandmother who taught her to sew. Always knowing she’d one day run her own label, she studied art at Vassar and worked in east London’s scene before founding her conceptual line, Slow and Steady Wins the Race, a living archive of wardrobe classics, reexamined. Not one to participate on the hamster wheel of trends, she prefers injecting social commentary and sartorial wit into her work. Plus, her photographic memory weirds people out. Listen:

Portrait by Joyce Ravid

Portrait by Joyce Ravid

What is your earliest memory?

My actual earliest memory, no joke, is watching my mom as she fed me formula and I remember the warm lighting and the emerald green chair. I’m sure this is stuck in the back of the filing cabinet because I recall her setting the bottle down and me staring at it and not being able to communicate that I was not finished!!

Mary and her grandmother

Mary and her grandmother

How do you feel about democratic design?

I embrace it 1000%. Paola Antonelli’s quote “Elegance in objects is everybody’s right and it shouldn’t cost more than ugliness” is printed and pasted on my studio wall.

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

From my art advisor in college, Harry Roseman, “Ask yourself questions that are smarter than you are and then find the answers to them.”

How do you record your ideas?

That is definitely a secret.

What’s your current favorite tool or material to work with?

Interesting and classic corduroy has been catching my eye lately.  

What book is on your nightstand? 

This is a heavy one. My uncle Andrew Sheng was one of the first to write about the 2008 crash and his book: From Asian to global financial crisis: an Asian regulator's view of unfettered finance in the 1990s and 2000s, Cambridge University Press is on my nightstand. I’m hoping it will absorb through osmosis.

Why is authenticity in design important?

Authenticity has the power to convince and make people believe, that is why it is so important. It is inherent and indescribable and you realize you begin to carry it with you.

Favorite restaurant in your city?

Shopsin’s in the Essex Market—it is like family.

What might we find on your desk right now?

A cracked wax prototype for a minaudiere clutch. Stay tuned.

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Who do you look up to and why?

I am beyond grateful for being able to count many mentors in my life. In particular there are the people who are in their 90’s and 100’s at this point, who are lucid and they are living time capsules.

What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?

There are many which we dig and dive deep into. If I had to choose one, then it will be Metamorphosis which is on display right now at The Museum of Modern Art. The experience of working with artisans in a 13th century village outside of Rome is something I really wish I could do everyday and a constant reminder of why I do what I do in the first place.

What are the last five songs you listened to?

Attitude - Bad Brains
Big Wheel - Cass McCombs
Cosmic Charlie - Aoxmoxoa
When the Levee Breaks - Led Zeppelin
Can’t Help Falling in Love - Dead Moon


Special thanks to Tai Navares for editing this episode.
Music in this episode courtesy of El Ten Eleven—hear more on Bandcamp.
Shoutout to Jenny Rask for designing the Clever logo.