Interview: Mary Manning (Full Interview)

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Unis New York Interview Mary Manning 1+ See Mary Manning's work
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+ Photography by Jesse Turek
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How are you?
I’m good. This year’s been kind of wacky so far, but on a personal level, I’m well.

Where did you first live when you got to NY?
In Williamsburg, over by Diner. I just missed living in the city by a mile and half.

Where were you before New York?
San Francisco - moved there right after college and lived there for a very long time, actually. I’m originally from near Saint Louis

I feel like a lot of people who aren’t from here feel like they’ve missed the bullseye by not living in Manhattan.
Totally. Also, there was no movie theatre in Williamsburg. Now there’s three! WTF. I love movies and I hated that I couldn’t I walk to a movie theatre.

What do you love about living here?
I really love how you’re in forced proximity with everyone….all the time. It makes the energy of this place really overwhelming sometimes, but really great. I noticed during long stints in LA and driving all the time, you’re just really in your own sphere. You’re not going to brush up against anyone and something about a crowded sidewalk or subway car…. even though sometimes you’re like fuuucccck, I don’t want to be this close to you, it’s kind of that energy that feels really good.

What do you hate about living here?
Ummm… God. It’s such a trash pile here sometimes. That part’s pretty heavy.

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You’re deeply passionate about music, books, films, and photography.  Which of those four fulfills you most?
Oh man. Probably films–it incorporates all of the other things.

Is there something you’ve seen recently that’s touched home with you?
I re-watched a film by a Finnish Director Aki Kaurismaki called La Havre. There’s been an ongoing simmering immigrant issue all along western Europe and this film deals with that head-on in a really touching, almost fairytale way. It’s really beautiful and totally humane. It’s a beautiful thing to watch basically a few weeks after the initial travel ban, to encounter a storyline that dealt with border crossing and the right to be alive in different cities.

There’s a great new streaming service from Criterion collection called FilmStruck - The Criterion Collection. So I’ve been having a cozy indoor movie reality.

That’s my favorite thing to do!
I’ve been less on the cinema tip and more on home viewing.

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Is there an all time favorite genre of… anything??
Well… probably all time favorite genre of anything (laughs) - late 60s New York dance, poetry, film… that whole era of NYC. All those stories are kept alive because all those artists are still with us. Jonas Mekas is like 92, and still totally actively producing work. The city institutions keep generously offering re-workings of those things to inspire.

It was an interesting era because it was affordable to live here and the way they were artists and their commitment level they were able to have because they weren’t totally stressed about their space to live and eat and sleep here.

I think that’s a real struggle for everybody in all of NY. Especially with what’s happening with creative people.
Thinking about young people, how do they do it if their parents aren’t helping them?

You literally have to be starving or having someone sponsor you in order to do that. I mean, as an independent business owner, I think that’s something we all struggle with here in NYC.
Rent’s. Too. Damn. High.

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You have so many interests! I think more than most people I know. How do you keep up with all of it? You have a full-time career too.
Yeah, I have a full-time career. I’ve kept the same gig for quite a while. The stamina has to do with maybe where I came from. Not to get too sappy, but coming from a small river town near Saint Louis, having any chance to see something from somewhere else gave me a window to some other life. Coming to NY, I still have the energy to experience that and am still pretty excited.

That’s amazing. As I was thinking about questions I was going to ask you, I thought, man… does she have extra-extra curricular activities?
Not really! I have a studio for the first time in the past year and given more time and energy to that. Slowly putting more flow into an artist space for myself is kind of a new dynamic for me.

It’s hard to manage, having a full-time career and a lot of those other interests.
I travel a lot for work. I have a relationship. Yeah, I guess that’s extra curricular enough.

In this series I’m interviewing inspiring and cool women. But on the subject of personal style, you have a pretty simple and classic one. Tell me more about how that’s evolved.
Well, one kind of way is just naturally feeling more comfortable in your body as you get older. And back in the 90s, being in a city for the first time and trying stuff out.

When I think back to who my inspiration is… in a weird way, my dad was always mindful of the way he dressed. He’s a very peculiar guy and would give me a hard time about wearing name brands when I was a kid. Yet, at the same time, he had a classic taste but would throw in a funny shirt or funny hat. When looking at older pictures of him….He had a sensibility. I guess I’m following that in a way and feeling comfortable with it.

And a friend of mine started her own aesthetic advisor company. She came over and she did a closet cleanse with me. It’s never left my mind. We tried on every single thing. “Are you going to wear this?” or “How do you feel in this?” It made me narrow down the way that I keep clothing and acquire clothing.

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You know yourself so much more now. That’s how I feel too. We’re better at editing. “Do I actually want to bring that into my small closet?”
It’s funny now. I live with my partner Monique and her style’s amazing. She’s able to go into a vintage shop and come up with the most beautiful thing. It also works into everything she has. She’s more of a maximalist. Whereas, I’m trying to get rid of stuff but she’s always like, “Let me look at everything before you give it away!”

We loved First Impressions of Greece. Do you have any new projects in the works?
I have a couple of ideas I’m holding on to. I’ve been working on a bunch of collage prints. We’re talking about making a very limited edition book.

You have an eye for color!

You do! I can see that in your casual photographs.

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You’ve probably seen a lot of trends in fashion. Is there a fashion trend you’re loving and one you’re hating? Maybe those are strong words, but I‘m hating sweatpants on guys. That needs to stop.
I’m with you on the banded ankle cuff. Whether a woven trouser or sweatpant.

I’m always blown away by the young students from Central St. Martin’s. The way trends slowly begin to follow their style, color, or proportion.

You can appreciate it. In women’s fashion, you can get away with the same trends. When you see it in men’s fashion it doesn’t translate the right way.
You’re making menswear that’s in keeping with a broad type of man. It’s also open to women too. I have several female friends who shop at UNIS. It’s interesting when trying to translate something that’s specific and you can look at it and know it’s a date. There’s 2017 thing. I guess I kind of squirm when something looks too much like a 6-month thing.


As a creative person and as a woman, if you had put the perfect outfit for the guy what would that be?
A pair of jeans and T-shirt. I know it’s quite boring. Even a khaki pant… but that’s just a great look on anyone–it’s a real American look.

At the same time, if you ask me what you think looks sexy on a woman–I’d tell you the same thing.

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