Interview with ‘Project Runway’ guru Tim Gunn at Georgia State

Tim-Gunn-serious

At a Georgia State University speech Monday, “Project Runway” guru Tim Gunn dished about his show, not bothering to defend the fiasco that was season six anymore.

“Oh, that dreaded season six will never leave us alone!” he said, when asked by a student. “At first, I defended the show’s qualities. Then I realized I was swimming against the tide… You barely see [regular judges] Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. I also say I do believe there’s something about the slower pace of Los Angeles. The very different fashion scene and sensibility and that impacted the designers. We’re in many ways a gauge of our environment. I noticed immediately when we taped season seven [the current season,] there was more energy, more vitality.”

Lifetime’s original plan, he said, was to alternate between New York and Los Angeles. After season six, he thinks the plan is to stay in New York.

Who would he like to do a makeover? Meryl Streep. At one awards show, “she looked like she was going to a picnic,” he said.

Gunn also admired the Georgia State crowd: “This is the best-dressed crowd I’ve ever seen! I could be at the tents in Bryant Park!”

Favorite season: “Reason it’s hard for me to answer that question. Each season is like a class of students for me. They’re all different. They have differnt DNA. I will say though that season four that produced Christian Soriano. That was a phenomenal season… he’s a prodigy.”

His fashion icon? “You guys are too young. Cary Grant! [Applause. At least some in the crowd knew who he was!] I said his name to a small group of students awhile ago and they said, ‘Who’s she?’ He was always well dressed. Even when he’s dodging a plane in the middle of a cornfield, he looks good.”

And though he lost “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style’ when Bravo lost “Project Runway,” he is working now with Dr. Mehmet Oz on his syndicated show. (Oprah, he said, helped hook him up.)

He said he likes talking to students though he only has time to do a couple of these university visits a year. So Georgia State really got lucky nabbing him! “I’m a big fan of the school,” he said. “I like the breadth of the offerings.”

Tim-Gunn-GSU

I did a short video interview with Gunn as well and sound like a chipmunk. I realized starting the video my battery was almost dead so I had set it aside for a few minutes to give it some juice while he took a bathroom break. Fortunately, we had time. “Make it work,” he said, as I fumbled about. Naturally!

I got about six minutes in before getting cut off by the dying camera.

He didn’t say who he really liked among the remaining designers. His thought on the always entertaining Atlanta denizen Anthony Williams: “He is really who he is and he is quite a character. Thank God for his humor because it works in the workroom.” Emilio Sosa, he noted, is “as arrogant as he is talented.”

Gunn said though the show gives the impression he’s in the design room quite a bit, he actually spends hours there. And when he’s not in there, he’s in the production room watching. He also said the time it takes to do the fashion show and elimination is six or seven hours but is cut to about 20 minutes of actual airtime.

Notably, he said Lifetime has been hands off in terms of the judging but Bravo “meddled” excessively with who got eliminated during season five, the network’s final year with the show. (Clearly, he is not a fan of Bravo anymore.)

After the video, I just took notes. “It’s hard for me to watch Bravo these days,” he said. “It was not a pleasant split.” [Bravo and NBC sued the "Project" producers and Lifetime television and held up the show for nearly a year before settling.]

He also has a second book coming up that will be chock full of anecdotes, something his 2007 book didn’t have much of. Out in September, it’s tentatively called “Gunn’s Golden Rules.” “It’s about how to navigate and be respectful human beings,” he said.

Also in the video intro below, I inadvertently said he still works at the Parsons School of Design. He left three years ago and now works at Liz Claiborne.

And here is some of his speech, talking a bit about the beginning of “Project Runway.”

This Thursday is a repeat of “Project Runway.” Why? I have no idea. Gunn, who writes a blog for Lifetime, was relieved to know so he could delay writing his thoughts an extra week.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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