2013.021.006 Oral History with Mary Ping
Mary Ping is the mastermind behind the Front Row exhibit. Born in Queens, NY and raised in Westchester County, she began her fashion education and graduated with a bachelor in fine arts as well as traveling overseas for a more in depth fashion education. Her love for fashion began when she was a little girl, making clothes for her dolls, then making clothes for herself as well as her family and friends, until she finally began moving onto the significance of making fashion statements whilst also staying true to her Chinese roots and culture surrounding women and fashion at the time. She then begins to realize her individuality within her fashion and her pieces, and uses a combination of different skills and perceptions of art to create her identity.


MARY PING: I was born in New York, Queens to start off with and then we moved up to Westchester um the suburbs but I'm rarely as they say a born and bread New Yorker. I didn't study fashion I went to Vassar as an art major.

MARY PING: The best way to describe it is that my mom kind of left me alone with while she was pregnant with my sister, she left me alone with these vogue magazines in the living room and is sounds a little cliché but I spend a lot of time looking though those vogue magazines. And that really became my early fashion education.

MARY PING: I think no matter what even during college any break that I had I spend working for a designer or interning for a designer. I owe a real of life education of Anna Sui and to the metropolitan museum costume institute because that really sort of introduced me to the real life of everything about fashion design.

MARY PING: I owe a large part of my, I guess my career background to my grandmother. She was on my mom's side, she was Shanghainese and she lived with us for a part of my early childhood and she really taught me about taste, and about quality.

MARY PING: The marble print silk blouse and the marble print silk pants those are fairly recent those are from fall 2012. I would say it relates a lot to my grandmother. She had a very unique sense of style for someone in the 1930s in Shanghai that you know she had a lot of western influences but she had a lot of masculine influences. The story behind it is that it's a photograph that I took from Kathy Zabarski um on the upper side. I love the idea of marble, every sort of like connotation associated with marble is so foundational and I liked being able to translate that into something that is materials wise the antithesis of it and then the idea that you can wear it on a garment I think is very striking.

MARY PING: These days you have media, and even just the evolution of TV media to internet media, the speed that information can get relayed from runway to your home. I think the internet has definitely made a lot of the younger generation quicker, savvier. You know there is this internet term internet fashion and Tumblr fashion and I think it's because of the constant cycling of images.

MARY PING: I think it really democratized fashion and what's key is that it hasn't diluted any of it either. I think even just them gaining the momentum of interest in fashion has created new rules.

MARY PING: When I started working on this show it, I got to sit down and just for completely selfish reasons revisit a lot of designers that I recognized growing up. Even before I even entered any notion of studying fashion, or being involved in fashion, I knew about Anna Sui and I knew about Vivienne Tam. I mean my prom dress was Vivienne Tam. Naturally Vera Wang and then even just moving forward witnessing the sort of frequency of Chinese designers entering the New York fashion landscape and not really realizing that I was going to be one of them. Speaking with all of the other designers involved I'm realizing more how timely this show is a more so what I really like is that it's really just the beginning and it's the beginning of an evolution of a new American style.

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