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Runway's Ping Wu: Clothes-minded
by Jerry Nunn

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Project Runway returns this month for season seven with 16 new designers. Windy City Times chased down Chicago resident Ping Wu all the way to China for an interview to get the scoop on how she makes it work.

Windy City Times: Hello. Is China warm where you are? There is snow everywhere in Illinois!

Ping Wu: Hi!! It's very cold here in Chengdu. I have to wear at least two layers of pants. ( Thank god I have thin legs. )

WCT: You are from China but now reside in Chicago, correct?

PING WU: Yes, I'm from China, lived in Chicago since 2004 and just went to New York City in November ( still in transition ) . I still fly back to Chicago from time to time to work as a physical therapist in the Gold Coast. I really love my work environment in Chicago: the place, the patients and, of course, my colleagues!!

WCT: What brought you to Chicago in the first place?

PING WU: The people!! It's a very international and beautiful city, and people here are laid back and super friendly.

WCT: Did you go to school for fashion?

PING WU: Yes I did, at my "old age." [ Laughs ]

WCT: What made you want to be a part of Project Runway?

PING WU: I was looking for something to fill up my schedule at the time ( as if I never needed a rest ) . I saw their application materials; I matched their requirements, and I [ thought I could ] answer all of their questions easily. Plus, I was really curious to see what would happen—of course, I never thought I could actually be selected!

WCT: Was the audition process crazy?

PING WU: Crazy? Or I shall say too easy and too fast. I felt like a raw dough rolling down through the machine. Once the application is out, it's one procedure after another. You kept getting calls back. Before you realized what happened, you're already done, standing right under the spotlight: "The cookie is made!"

WCT: What do you think of Tim Gunn?

PING WU: We worship him, almost, and every one wants a piece of him! God, if he could be turned into a book, it must be a best seller, or turn into a crystal ball or a mirror for fashion advice... I hope he won't see this interview. [ Laughs ]

WCT: It seems like your designs are very functional for cold weather in Chicago. Are you always inspired by your surroundings?

PING WU: Absolutely!! They're not only functional but multi-functional! I like to buy things that are practical and easy to travel with to make the money worthwhile. I think many people are the same. How could you forget something that's useful? If it's good-looking, we want it even more. People will always love you if you can make their life easier.

WCT: It looks like you do a lot of knitting. Is that true?

PING WU: [ Laughs ] Yes, it's true; [ it ] makes me look like a grandma. The truth is it's the easiest and cheapest way to create your own textile and unique products! It's also a nice old tradition worth to be saved. Now at least in China I know, less and less young people at my age know or want to knit. They think it's cheaper and easier to buy machine knitted products. Hopefully, I've done enough good exercise of hands and brain to save me from Alzheimer's when I grow old!

WCT: Are you single and what are your favorite things about Chicago?

PING WU: I'm a tough woman with strong principles, yet delicate sensitivity brings me fragile and vulnerable moments at times. Single status is my only imperfection in life—my mom would tell you so. But don't expect me go on to the Bachelorette show. I have more than one favorite things about Chicago: architecture, ethnic neighborhoods, Gold Coast, Millennium Park, Lake Michigan, etc. So many cultural events in the summertime...

WCT: Do you still do physical therapy?

PING WU: Absolutely. I love my patients and I love this work of helping others.

WCT: Are you doing any future appearances in Chicago?

PING WU: I will be back to Chicago in mid-February for Self Employment in Arts conference 2010. It was at this conference where I made my decision to pursue fashion design professionally back in 2003. It'll be my way of giving back to the conference, this time, as a speaker. I hope I can motivate more young students to fiercely hold on to their dreams.

WCT: How can people purchase your designs?

PING WU: Besides the stores listed on my Web site, I also sell at American Craft show in Baltimore from Feb. 23 till early March. You can also contact me by e-mails at any time!

WCT: Thanks for your time and have a good trip back from China!

PING WU: Thank you!! : ) Happy Tiger Year!

The all-new season of Project Runway debuts Thursday, Jan. 14. For more information, visit .

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