Fashion Week - An Interview with Tim Gunn and the Project Runway Fashion Show

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You know, if you'd asked me a few weeks ago about the biggest personal challenge I was currently facing, I'd have said, "attempting to quit biting my nails. For, um, the 37th time." Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that the answer would soon be, "maintaining my cool in front of the one and only Tim Gunn."

Yes, THAT Tim Gunn: Chief Creative Officer of Liz Claiborne, designers' mentor on Project Runway, star of Tim Gunn's Guide to Style, author of A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style, and former chair of fashion at Parson's School of Design.

Around Bryant Park - Day 8 - Fall 09 MBFW

 

As part of my time at Fashion Week, American Express generously arranged for me to have some time to interview him on behalf of BlogHer. Now, in addition to being charming and incredibly down-to-earth (dismissing $26,000 handbags with a "who needs it?!" and praising Michelle Obama for "bringing fashion back to people's vocabulary,") he is also a genuinely NICE GUY. Not that I ever doubted this, of course, but I must share that I had just commenced my interview with him when he was summoned away for some photos with his Project Runway co-stars. "I'll come back!" he told me. Given that the Project Runway fashion show was starting shortly, I would have completely understood if he was unable to return, but not five minutes later, there was Tim, hustling over to me, apologizing, for Pete's sake. I was incredibly impressed by his thoughtfulness. With that in mind, I bring you my interview with Tim Gunn:

After having viewed the shows over the past week, in your opinion, what are some key looks you're seeing for fall?

Well, definitely a lot of knits. A lot of separates, and a lot of brighter colors paired with neutrals--and my category of neutrals is beige, black, and gray--and a lot of emphasis on accessories. Shoes, handbags, gloves, hats. A lot of emphasis on that.

Money is tight for many people right now, so if you had to tell our readers to invest in ONE key piece for fall, what would it be?

Oh, I would say a jacket or a blazer that's trend-aware, but not too trendy, or else it's going to be out of style quickly. And it's the easiest way to dress up a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, you know? It's just so easy. It's worth investing in.

What can you tell us about Season 6 of Project Runway?

Well, I feel the way about each season the way I feel about each of the classes I've had while teaching. They each have their own chemistry. There are always talented designers, but owing to differences in individuals, they all have different points of view, and they all have different backgrounds. Their interaction with each other is always different and always unpredictable, in a manner of speaking. And I will also say that Los Angeles [where this new season has been filmed] provided us with a lot of fodder for great challenges, and a different level of engagement with our environment, because it's so much about the outdoors. We really take advantage of the fact that we're there.

Do you view the finalists' collections during the final Project Runway fashion show with the same appraising eye you use to view all the other designers' collections during Fashion Week?

Well, in some ways, I think I'm harder and more critical on the Project Runway collections than I am on the other designers. And I don't have the same emotion attached to the other shows...I love, say, Michael [Kors], I love Diane von Furstenberg; I certainly have my favorites, but I don't have the same kind of emotional investment that I do here. And I'm not involved backstage in putting [those other] shows together. Which is not to say that I'm making any decisions here, but I am riding those guys. And we've had some heated moments this morning, let me tell you! Yes. Like, 'if that's the way you want it to walk the runway, accept responsibility for it. But you just lost all of the sophistication.' [chuckles.]

I've read in a number of places that you believe Angelina Jolie to have unerring taste when it comes to her fashion choices. In light of your work on Tim Gunn's Guide to Style, is there a celebrity that you'd really like to advise, fashion-wise?

Yes!

Can you tell us?

I will tell you; I think she's the greatest actress alive. She undoubtedly has the biggest intellect. She's gorgeous, she has a great figure...Meryl Streep.

And what would you advise her?

I would tell her that she has to take the topic of fashion seriously. I really believe that she thinks, 'I'm too smart for this. This is too inconsequential. This is too ephemeral an aspect of one's being to really take that seriously.' I'd go back to semiotics. The clothes you wear send a message about how you want to be perceived. So, even if you're wearing a shmatta, accept responsibility for it. But I really do believe she's sort of anti-fashion. I want to talk to her about it. I wouldn't dress her up as a dress-up doll, but I'd want to have fashion therapy with her. And I just love and adore and have the greatest respect for her. Which is why I'm a little diffident about saying anything. But I did, didn't I? [chuckles.]

* * * * *

Tim then dashed off to join his Project Runway co-stars, and the show got underway shortly thereafter. I had a great view from up in the Skybox, catching glimpses of past winners Jay McCarroll and Christian Siriano in the front row. The show was a little different than in seasons past. Whereas before, each of the finalists (including one "red herring") would come out and introduce themselves and their collection to the audience, since Season 6 hasn't yet aired (due to legal issues), the collections here were all anonymous. The show's host, Heidi Klum (clad in a fitted shocking pink suit), likened the situation to a "limbo," and said that she hoped it would be resolved soon.

As the collections made their way down the runway, I (along with the rest of the audience, I'm sure) fervently hoped Heidi's statement would soon come true, because the talent this season seems to be quite impressive.

Designer 1's collection focused heavily on big knits, as well as a lot of deconstructed looks and high-waisted leather pieces.

Designer 2's collection featured intricate detail and draping (remember Rami's work a few season's back? Like that).

Designer 3's collection contained a lot of leather, black, and gray. A running theme of his/her collection was black leather strips being sewed and/or interwoven with matching fabric to create the textured, rock and roll look that seems to be so big for fall.

Project Runway - Runway - Fall 09 MBFW

Designer 2 was, to me, the clear front-runner, showcasing amazing technique and garments that appear to be gorgeous, interesting, and red carpet-ready. The teal one-shoulder grecian goddess gown, for instance, would have looked amazing on any number of actresses at the Academy Awards this past Sunday.

My chat with the lovely Tim Gunn already had me excited about Season 6 of Project Runway, but after seeing firsthand the talent of the contestants, I'm basically SALIVATING. I can't wait to see how the season unfolds, the characters develop, and how we'll get from the original group of contestants to the finalists in the show here at Fashion Week. (And of course, I can't wait to see if my prediction is accurate.)

Many thanks to American Express for arranging this special opportunity for BlogHer to speak with Tim Gunn and view the Project Runway fashion show.

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