UNIFORMED BEHAVIOR: Slow and Steady Wins the Race’s Mary Ping is moving at a swift clip with special projects. Reached Thursday in Paris, where she was discussing plans to design costumes for the Centre Pompidou this summer, she recently put the finishing touches on uniforms for La Mercerie, the French café that bows Friday at the Roman and Williams Guild in New York.
En route to London Saturday to meet with executives from a brand she declined to name, Ping will meet with a New York-based hotel that plans to revamp five locations with a Twenties decor once she returns to the U.S. There are also talks scheduled with two other restaurants, the designer said.
“I do think there is something in the air for hotel and hospitality right now. Culturally, it’s probably driven by more and more people wanting to have experiences. The emphasis for details related to that is definitely more heightened,” Ping said.
For La Mercerie, Ping made simple button shirts with contrast topstitching and high-waisted, wide-leg pants. Her friend Akari Endo-Gaut, who works under Roman and Williams Guild’s Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch as fashion stylist and style director, brought Ping into the fold for the project. She also suited up chef Marie Aude-Rose for her work in the kitchen. Standefer and Alesch own the French restaurant which is operated by the James Beard winner Stephen Starr of the Stephen Starr Restaurant Group.
Dedicated to a less-is-more ethos, Ping first designed uniforms for the oyster bar Grand Banks before it added five more locations, including one in Red Hook and another at the Ace Hotel in New Orleans. Ping created aprons and a very specific style guide for staffers in the newer locations, with more looks to be developed down-the-road. She also connected Grand Banks with Moscot, an eyewear company she had collaborated with a few years ago.
“I would say 70 percent of designing really comes from problem solving. You just kind of are navigating a timeline, a budget, certain parameters. I just immediately ask very practical questions, ‘Are we talking men and women will have the same look?’ ‘What are the codes basically?’” said Ping, adding that durability and comfort are always paramount. “People forget that when they do put on a uniform it’s not just workwear. There is some sort of enclothed cognition, which they are trying to coin a term for. It kind of mentally transforms their performance of the person doing the job. Research shows that when they are conscious of wearing something that speaks to what their role is, they perform better.”
In designing uniforms, Ping likes knowing the exact quantity and that all of the stock “will have a wearer.” “That is a huge contrast to this relentless pace of fashion where four times a year you’re producing a collection and are relying on so many people who it will have 70 percent or 80 percent sell-through,” Ping said. “Even as a consumer, I don’t consume that much. I go in and see everything on sale. We know we’re not wasting anything. We know someone will wear this and will wear it through. It’s not going to be sitting on a rack somewhere, and then get discounted, discounted and discounted.”