Check out their interview with me during Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair Nov 2016.
New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD Television) is a global Chinese language TV station, covering over 200 million viewers in Asia, North America, Europe, and Middle East through cable, wireless, satellite, and Internet TV. They are based in New York City.
Check out their interview with me during Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair Nov 2016.
They were two very stressful days of building my booth... Thanks to my dear friends Danny and Debra -- We were the leanest team at the show, yet, we made the miracle!!!
You will see my booth sign "pingwu" at 20 sec length of the video.
One of a Kind Show is filled with visitors on the opening morning at Chicago's Merchandise Mart on Dec 3. Jian ping / for China Daily
Two Chinese women, one focused on knitting accessories and the other women's clothes are busily running booths at the 15th annual One of a Kind Show at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.
The popular four-day show attracts approximately 65,000 visitors each year. More than 600 artists from the US and Canada will display wares at the show this year.
"This is my fourth year to be at the show," said Michelle Tan, a designer who was born in Hong Kong and grew up mostly in Chicago.
Tan said that unlike trade shows, One of a Kind is open to the public.
Tan said you "get direct feedback. It's great."
Tan studied at the city’s International Academy of Design and Technology and eventually turned her passion for fashion design into a profession. She has created a brand under her name and her clothing is handmade in Chicago.
She beamed when talking about a pink dress that she designed was worn by actress Gabourey Sidibe in the midseason finale of the television series Empire on Dec 2.
Ping Wu, one of seven featured artists to speak at the show, was enthusiastic about the accessories she designed. Wu said she pursued a childhood interest in knitting after becoming a physical therapist in the US.
"I put my work on hold and spent a year at the Istituto Marangoni in Milan to study fashion design," she said.
Her booth features a variety of scarves and hats, along with some hand-knit sweaters.
"My accessories are highly functional and practical," Wu said.
She demonstrated to customers various ways to wear one of her scarves, from putting it over her hair and letting it sit on her shoulders to wrapping it around her neck and using it as a pair of long gloves.
"This is really cute, really different," said Helen Bacza, a customer trying on one of Wu's scarves.
"I bought that white hat from you last year," said Suzi Paradiso, another visitor to Wu's booth, as she pointed to a knit hat on the wall.
Paradiso said she had attended the show the last five years and found many items "very unique".
Wu said she was delighted by the success she had at the show last year.
"I like this show," she continued. "Chicago customers really appreciate the design and handmade products."
One of a Kind features handcrafted fine arts, fashion and accessories, along with home décor products, gourmet food and children’s goods. The show opened on Thursday and will run through Dec. 6.
Philadelphia Magazine: The Scene, Nov 13th, 2015
Ping Wu receiving the Ornament Award for Excellence in Art to Wear from Ornament Associate Editor Patrick Benesh-Liu. 2015 Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. Congratulations Ping!
Life is beautiful. Someone arranged all these misfortune and fortune around us for a meaningful purpose. Unable to get into mass commercial shows, in return, I had inventory and rare time to prepare and plan better for this show, the type of show marked your level as an artist. Subsequently, not only I had my first record breaking sold out event, generated a long list of follow up orders via my website afterwards, but also, I won the professional Ornament Magazine National Prize in the wearable art category?!... It reminds me some old Chinese wisdom I learned as a child:
Etymology From: 塞翁失馬，焉知非福 (When the old man from the frontier lost his horse, how could one have known that it would not be fortuitous?)
139 BCE: Liu An, zh:s:淮南子/人間訓 (Huainanzi)
It can be difficult to foresee the twists and turns which compel misfortune to beget fortune, and vice versa. There once was a old man, skilled in divination, who lived close to the frontier (with his son). One of his horses accidentally strayed into the lands of the Xiongnu, so everyone consoled him. (But) the old man said, "Why should I hastily (conclude) that this is not fortunate?" After several months, the horse came back from the land of the Xiongnu, accompanied by another stallion, so everyone congratulated him. (But) the father said, "Why should I hastily (conclude) that this can not be unfortunate?". One day (the son) fell off the stallion, and broke his leg, so everyone consoled (the father). (But) the father said, "Why should I hastily (conclude) that this is not fortunate?" One year later, the Xiongnu invaded the frontier, and all able-bodied men took up arms and went to war. Of the men from the frontier (who volunteered), nine out of ten men perished (from the fighting). It was only because of (the son's) broken leg, that the father and son were spared (this tragedy). Therefore misfortune begets fortune, and fortune begets misfortune. This goes on without end, and its depths can not be measured. (Wiktionary translation)
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In this ongoing series of posts, we ask Craft Show artists to reflect on their favorite memories from shows past. Ping Wu, pictured here, is a wearable fiber artist whose work appeared in the 2014 Craft Show and will appear again in 2015.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show is the most prestigious contemporary fine craft event in the country. You know how good an artist is just by knowing how many years she has been selected to this show. So, each year when I walk in to the show site, I am full of gratitude. It’s truly like walking into a museum, except you can physically touch and even own a piece you’d normally admire in a magazine. You also get to talk with the artists behind those beautiful objects. They are masters in their fields, yet I’m touched by their kindness and willingness to help others.
The truth is, living and working as handmade craft artists is hard in this fast-paced modern society. We live on unstable income and most of us reside in remote areas where the cost of living is more affordable. It takes days to prepare for the production of the show, with a lot of investment. During those days, we have very little rest. Yet at this show we are treated with such care and respect by the committee members. They make sure we're well fed and tend to us like mothers. The show is so good; we are so busy that we often don't have a chance to thank everyone for making it all possible for us, but there should be an award for those wonderful people behind the scenes.
One of my favorite Craft Show moments was last year when the image of me wearing one of my Bubble Hats inside of my booth was put up as a front web page on the Show’s Facebook site. It’s still my best show picture—even without any makeup. Needless to say, I love this show, and I will do everything I can to present my best work to come back year after year.
Carmel Bay Company, the 40-year-old landmark home store known for its "contemporary approach to eclectic living," has introduced hand-knitted fashion accessories by Ping Wu. Ping who?
Unless you're an ardent follower of the reality show "Project Runway," you may have missed the young designer's 15 minutes of fame and misfortune on Season 7 of the Lifetime series. But even before the show Wu had already created a stir across this country and others with her work.
Wu's scarves reflect her signature "Runway" designs, which were artistic, architectural, even sculptural and a little avant-garde. More complex than most, her designs also were difficult to execute, said teammates, so she made them herself. Her diction was precise if colored by her native language, yet her voice was sometimes shaken by tears from an experience she considers edited for dramatic effect yet actually far more difficult than it revealed.
Wu was eliminated fairly early in the 2010 airing of the design competition after being paired with a rather profane partner during a team challenge. As fans blogged their surprise and dismay, none was more disappointed than Wu, who had grown accustomed to the equation that diligence plus creative work equals success.
Raised in Chengdu, China, by three generations of prominent physicians, Wu was primed to go into medicine. Knowing that would please her parents, she never imagined herself moving to America, becoming a fashion designer or participating in Project Runway. But she also couldn't see herself becoming a doctor.
Wilting in the shadows of her family's success, Wu left China at age 17 to discover what she could accomplish on her own. She came to the United States first to study English, and fell in love with the American academic environment. So she spent an entire night preparing a three-page campaign to convince her mother she should continue to study abroad.
"First I attended the University of Pittsburgh," she said, "where my mom had been on the faculty, so it was one university she knew. I earned a degree in biology and another in psychology. I actually finished four majors in five years, all with high honors, including one in physical rehabilitation at SUNY Buffalo, and then another in fashion design. I chose among the top schools in the world within the fashion capitals, and enrolled in the Istituto Marangoni in Milan, Italy. I was the only student in the program with no background in fashion whatsoever."
Wu's parents worried that she had begun her design career too late. She was 29. She, too, felt a sense of urgency to work quickly, feeling if she didn't realize her dream, her life would be a waste. Used to being the youngest, Wu graduated the oldest in her class. And yet everyone else seemed so much more experienced, accomplished. She had her work cut out for her.
"The first question I was asked in school," she said, "was, 'Who is your favorite designer and why?' I didn't have one. I was one of only 15 students in the world chosen for this program; I was competing at that level, and I was new to design. I did not bring a single pencil with me because I was going there to learn, not to show them what I could already do."
After completing her program, Wu trained with Milanese designer Luisa Beccaria and later with BLESS, a Paris-based fashion house. In March 2007, she was invited to participate in the Qi Pai Cup Costume Creation Contest with seven top Chinese women's wear designers during Beijing's International Fashion Week. This earned her an invitation to Paris's Premiere Classe trade show later that year.
Ultimately, she launched her own fashion line, "Ping Wu," in Chicago, and set up showrooms in both Chicago and Chengdu, China. She also established herself as a physical therapist.
When Wu received an email from the producers of Project Runway, inviting her to apply for the fall 2009 taping of season seven, she wondered how they found her but was not curious enough to pursue it.
"I ignored the invitation to apply for Project Runway for a couple of weeks," she said, "until I noticed the deadline was in just three days. Somehow that gave me the motivation to try for it. I finished my application at 7:30 the night before it was due, had someone take photos of me on the street outside FedEx, and sent it in.
"What surprised me more than their invitation to apply was that they chose me; it is such a popular show, with thousands of people applying. I was a foreigner in the middle of Chicago. I tried out for Project Runway as something to fill up my schedule. With physical therapy, I would find myself with a two-week gap in my work. Being idle is so unacceptable in China."
After leaving Project Runway, Wu moved to New York to practice physical therapy and develop her design career.
"I had a lot of fun on the show," she said. "I never gave myself the pressure that I was going to win. I wanted to challenge myself. I was really myself and enjoyed it until the end, when I was eliminated. Then I was crying for the next month. I did not reach my goal to push my limits. It really was the first time ever in my life I did not reach my goal. So I set new ones."
Toward the end of last year, Wu was given a short-term assignment to practice physical therapy in Monterey. She brought her designs with her and set up a booth at the California Gift Show in Los Angeles. There she made a West Coast debut of her basic and "transformer" collections; accessories that can be worn in a multitude of configurations to serve a different purpose or create another look. She also met Barney Scollan of Carmel Bay Company.
"I was intrigued," said Scollan, "by the versatility of Ping's scarves and accessories; I had never seen a product like that. I was impressed by quality of her work and her designs, colors, and the natural fibers she uses that fit in very well with our store. Her accessories can be worn very casually or very formally; they can be elegant or just fun."
Wu's accessories are hand knit from organically grown wool or cotton. Working with one continuous thread, she avoids seams and creates simple designs that result in luxurious products.
"My signature," she said, "is transformability; one simple silhouette can be transformed into several looks and functions. I design for the future. How much room do we have to store our accessories? A simple solution is to design all different functions into one piece. One piece can become a pair of gloves, a shoulder shrug, a hat, a scarf, a muffler. And it's not going to go out of style because it doesn't follow any trends. I like to knit them myself, but also I taught a big team all over the world who will knit for the bigger orders. For customers who want items made in America, I knit them."
Although recently hired as a physical therapist for Stanford, Wu found it difficult to travel back and forth between the two coasts and to Europe. She decided she can return to physical therapy one day, but fashion will not wait. So for now, she has dedicated herself to design.
I first met Ping at a contributors' meeting for this magazine. We got to talking, and she told me that she was setting up a fashion-design line here in her hometown after years and years abroad but that she was eager to get involved in the international community in Chengdu. We stayed in touch; she periodically returned to Chengdu to visit family and penned several memoir-style pieces for the magazine. One day late last year I got an e-mail from her that said she would be on American reality show Project Runway, in which 16 fashion designers with varying degrees of experience compete against each other. The show, spearheaded by enterprising supermodel Heidi Klum, is in its seventh season. This was a Big Deal: Ping, boisterous, all limbs, who speaks English with an unexplainable hint of a French accent and who once wondered, as she failed to get online, how her computer knew her name. Ping, from the sleepy Chinese city of Chengdu, would be on primetime.
Born into a family of Chengdu's elite, Western-educated doctors (her grandfather was the first Chinese president of Huaxi University), Ping the child always knew she would go abroad one day. She fantasized about her future in film. But after a serious bout with hepatitis A delivered a blow of reality, she quit the fake world of movies and followed her family into a healthcare profession—physical therapy ("it has the shortest history and thus best potential to combine Western and Eastern approaches," she says). She earned her degree in the U.S. and started working by the age of 21. Looking to fill her evenings after work, she signed up for community courses in ceramics, discovered her artistic flair and passion for working with materials, and enrolled in an eight-month fashion-design course in Milan and subsequent internship in Paris. In 2008, Ping Wu Design Studio was launched. The line's hand-knit accessories are made in Chengdu and sell in boutiques in Japan, France, and the U.S. She relocated to New York late last year. "I'm quite optimistic for my Tiger Year," she told me in early January.
Later that month, the new season of Project Runway started airing. Ping finished among the top three designers in the first round with what appeared to be a no-sew garment: Large pieces of fabric draped on and around the model's body. Drama between the designers occupied most of the show's airtime. Ping, the Asian lady with the Accent. Ping, the excitable scatterbrain. Ping, the creative genius? Entertainment bloggers went nuts: That design was horrible! Ping is a nutcase! Are the judges crazy? The next week, things took a turn for the worse: Ping's potato-sack garment left the model's rear end clearly visible as she walked down the runway ("I did check the split in the back of the skirt when she was standing. I couldn't see her buttocks. If she had walked, I would for sure notice the problem," she said in her defense). But the (sewing) needle and the damage done: By the third show, Ping was eliminated. In real life, she typed her name into Google and read nasty things written by people who had never talked to her. Then she strengthened her bases for the flood of invitations to shows and orders for her designs. Tiger Year indeed.
Finding Her Way
My mom insisted that if I want to study abroad, then she would send my father to be with me, and I hated that idea. I hated to have a pre-set life path under my family influence. I always very much want to see what I can do in an environment where nobody knows my family. I want to earn the respect with my own ability.
Back in the early '90s, a lot of [Chinese] people just wanted to go to abroad, they didn't wanna come back, but it was never in my mind. I chose physical therapy at the time as there was no such field in China—now China started to have this field, and they desperately need people in this. I planned to establish the first physical-therapy clinic in China, and when I realized I wasn't the first one, I was quite upset. But now I fell in love with fashion design, so I guess I have to delay my physical therapy dream.
I choose each field because it serves something to my soul. I love physical therapy. I love the interaction with people and helping people, and I really love my patients. I'm much more a therapist than a designer, I guess. I perfectly see the connection because I know the human body, I'm an expert in human movement. And also I always imagine how the body would feel once you put the clothes on.
I started making my own clothes, and of course I didn't invest in any sewing machines, and I did not understand the pattern-making books, so I just made my own way, and it was a coincidence that I was invited by some serious ladies to their show-and-tell dinner party. I brought the pieces I made, and all these serious ladies—professionals—loved what I made. So I was thinking if I can make things without even studying, and so many people like it, then I bet I can make even better things if I really studied seriously.
When I went to study fashion design I was almost 29—quite embarrassing actually—I did not realize how terrible it was until I was there. Age was a huge factor in the fashion world, especially in Europe. And I [had always been] the youngest in my class, so it was a very new experience to feel discriminated against for your age and also for your gender. Most of the program itself is extremely intense—it's like if you shrink a four-year program into eight months. I was the only student who really knew nothing—absolutely zero—about fashion. When the teacher asked us who is our favorite designer, I was like, "I don't know." During the new-student orientation everybody's wearing Gucci, Prada, Chanel, from teacher to students, all wearing black. It's crazy to me.
Being Chinese in Fashion and Fashion in China
I'm always Chinese, regardless. I've been abroad for 16 years, and I've never changed my nationality; I still kept my Chinese passport. When I was in Milan, my teacher saw my collection and said, 'Ping, you are a very different Chinese student. Your design—if I look at the work, I won't be able to tell it's designed by a Chinese. It's very Oriental influenced, but it's very Western.' And I think that's me.
I think China has—especially young designers—more and more designers finding their own voice. They are not just copying Western designs. And sometimes I think it doesn't have to be a enemy situations. When I was in Chicago, I know there are some designers absolutely against anything manufactured in China. And I think that is really being ignorant.
People have a lot of buying power in Chengdu. And the clothing actually are quite expensive. I think it's the culture, that clothes somehow are quite important for Chengdu girls. But from a fashion point of view, I feel it's less inspiring. People dress pretty much the same way. In the States a lot of people are wearing very casually. And they don't care about what other people may say about their way of looking. But here they really dress for the look. However, the way they put together things are very much expected.
Ping Wu Design Studio
I can do all kinds of designs—I think I can really design very good shoes because of my therapy background. My specialty is outpatient orthopedics. I actually also did jewelry design first—I didn't continue because you need a lot of money to invest in good materials, good machine. And I think I can also design very good medical equipment, such as walkers, very fashionable and very simple, elegant walkers. I would love to design for medical staff, nurses and doctors and therapists, hospital uniforms. But for my own business, I would like it to be successful in a small niche first. That's why I chose hand-knit fashion accessories: hats, scarves, gloves, shoes, masks, ear mufflers.
When I was 5 years old, my classmate, a 6-year-old child, taught me how to knit. And then when I went home that day, my mom told me how to knit purl. So these two stitches I learned when I was 5 years old, and I never touched needles and yarns for more than 20 years.
Technique for me is just a tool. But my concern is not about technical stuff, because if I want to create certain shapes, I can always hire an expert in pattern-making. What I think most important for designer is the mind—is the creative mind—because this is something no one else could replace you.
People who want to buy my products are very creative people—they want to play with, interact, create their customized, unique look. So even if two customers, three customers, five customers bought the same hat, same scarf, they can wear multiple different ways. When they met each other on the street, they won't look the same.
I think design should be based on function, and if you can find a beautiful and easy way to deliver that function, then that is a smart design. My first piece was a scarf that could also be used as a hat, and also a mask. And also a pair of gloves. I will never design any piece that I myself will not want to wear. Design should come from inside out. I think a lot of pieces are more focused on the look, and I think that is quite superficial. Functionality is the only timeless trend.
Ping on the Runway
Ever since I returned to the States in 2006, my colleagues were telling me, "Ping, you should get on Project Runway," and I never paid attention 'cause I thought that was pretty far from what I do, fashion accessories. Making garments wasn't my immediate concern. I had a relatively easy schedule at the time, so I was basically looking for things to fulfill my schedule, and then I received an e-mail with a big title "The Deadline is coming close." I just automatically jump into anything that says "Deadline" so I read their requirement, just out of curiosity; I never thought I would apply. I looked at all their questions and application, and I thought I can answer all of them easily. I finished and submit my application the night before the deadline, and of course I never thought I would get selected—never. It's a nationwide search, thousands of people apply, and I was the only one from the Midwest. All the other 15 designers are from the coasts, and a lot of Asian designers also apply—Japanese, Korean, Chinese—but I guess I was lucky.
I never thought I could make clothes in one day, or two days—never thought that. I really shocked myself. Another thing is I was the designer on the show with the least experience in actual making garments. I have not touched industrial sewing machine for years. But I'm a very fast learner. I really made the design freshly on the spot, from really nothing, and learned sewing machine on the spot. I designed that first look without a single cut because I didn't have enough fabric—it's problem-solving. You want to make complicated pieces look effortless. I think a real good design, a smart design is the one that makes people go, "Wow, why didn't I think of that?"
Money and Sex
I personally feel Vogue is such a reputable magazine and this and that, but I feel like it's a marketing tool for luxury brands. The whole fashion industry is based on this, the image. If you don't have a very powerful marketing tool then why would people spend thousands of dollars on your products? If you really think about fashion, it's all about two things: money and sex. You buy expensive products to show off your status. So even though I'm in the fashion-design world, I still question this business as a whole.
This article by Jane Voodikon was originally published in CHENGDOO citylife Magazine, issue 31 ("success and failure"). Photos by Ping Wu.