As a part of my fabulous prize for winning the Lucky Brand 'Denim Jean-ius' blogger contest
, I was able to chat with Tim Gunn (Chief Creative Officer of Liz Claiborne and the judge of the competition) about his impressive fashion pedigree, Project Runway
revelations and new television projects ahead (youíll be seeing a lot more of him on another network soon!).
And for the record, Gunn is not only unbelievably insightful, but also charming, inspiring and gracious as could be. Check it out:
Did you always know youíd be working in fashion as such a powerful personality?
No one is more shocked and surprised than I am! This was not ordained. In a matter of speaking, fashion came after me. Itís unusual for me to cross faculty and administration. I was Associate Dean at Parsons. I was Mr. Fix-It. I went to the areas that were having difficulty. I would offer diagnoses of what was going wrong and then offer collaborative prescriptions to fix it all. I was running the search for a new dean and after exploring what was really needed, I knew we couldnít send someone new in, off the streets, to take care of everything. It would take them too long to understand the culture, deal with the situation, so I stepped in. A one year project turned into almost eight years!
I had to learn a huge amount about the industry. It was important to me that I taught students how to lead the industry, not just survive it. I basically threw out the entire curriculum. Iím on television now, but I see myself as an educator first and foremost. Iíve spent 29 years of my life teaching.
Youíre a natural on camera and fans around the world love your calm and collected personality in such a chaotic environment. If you werenít in the fashion industry, what would you be doing?
Iíd be working in architecture and interiors. Still creative and all about lifestyle. I had a fine arts education. I spent four years as a two and three-dimensional sculptor, actually.
That is amazing! And now youíre surrounded by creative talent every single day. What is the best part of Project Runway?
My interaction with the designers. I have a huge affection and respect for them. I am constantly wowed with what they do. I have no idea how they do this. Although I have to say this season, I have never ever ever witnessed so many designers gluing and pinning at the very last minute and it is against the rules, and the judges arenít even saying anything! The producers arenít whispering in Heidiís ears and reminding her of the rules. I donít interact with the judges at all.
Can you let us in on any Project Runway behind-the-scenes secrets?
What you probably wouldnít know is that after a very long day, everybody changes clothes and Heidi presents next challenge before the group after theyíve already completed an extremely long and arduous day finishing the last challenge. When they edit it, it looks like itís a brand new day and everyone is fresh and ready for the next challenge, but actually itís the same day and everyone is about to fall over. Also, Heidi is always saying, 'Last week on Project Runway
...," but actually it was two days ago! I refuse to lie about the timing just to appease producers.
Who is your favorite designer from past seasons of Project Runway?
They are like my kids! I love them all. Some more than others. Itís easier to test the waters because there is always a villain in the group. Youíre never quite certain who itís going to be, but there is always one. Last season...it was the winner! That doesnít thrill me because I think the quality of your character is just as important as your talent. That is always my message. Good behavior pays off as does hard work and playing well with others. If I had to pick one, I have to say I am so proud of Christian Siriano. He is an old soul. He hasnít become a bit of a diva, and it would have been very easy for him to have done just that.
Youíve seen it all. Which challenge did you think was the trickiest?
It was definitely season one, episode one. We were at Gristedes, the super market looking for food as inspiration for design. Austin Scarlett looked like he came from another planet and I thought, this poor thing, he might as well pack his bags now and go home! He was grabbing ears of corn and he ended up creating the most spectacular corn husk gown. It may have been the single most stunning design in the history of the show! He proved me wrong.
You obviously have an eye. What are the must-have items every woman should own?
A basic black dress, a good pair of dress pants, a white shirt and a blazer. Also a good day dress, great pair of jeans and a cashmere sweater. I mention cashmere because itís durable, it doesnít pill and it very affordable these days. I always say the first place you should shop is your closet.
Also, please, have a sweat suit alternative! I always say, if your intention is to feel like youíre never going to get out of bed, then donít!
Agreed! So what is a recommended sweat suit alternative?
A wrap dress. You throw it on, you look polished and sophisticated. And youíre comfortable. Whatís constraining about a wrap dress? Get dressed in the morning, I donít care if you are not a fashion person; everyone will judge you and make assumptions based on what your clothing. Take responsibility for what you wear.
What is the biggest fashion faux pas you see?
I would say itís a broad sweeping statement about fit. Most women wear clothes that are too small or too big, itís like Goldilocks. You have to get it just right.
Whatís next for you?
I have an ABC daytime show coming out called The Revolution
. It airs January 16 and weíre taping now. Itís about inspiration and education. We follow a woman and take her through a total evolution. Health, weight loss, family relationships ó itís thrilling. And no, it doesnít affect my role on Project Runway