Rounding out the Project Runway interviews, Tim Gunn talks about his least favourite contestants, what brand he loves to wear...
I have to start by letting you know you are getting to be known as quite the silver fox in our offices. Right up there with Anderson Cooper!
Thank you! It's very flattering company to be in.
So, what were you doing before Parsons?
I was working at a small museum school in Washington, D.C., called the Corcoran School of Art, part of the Corcoran Gallery. I was teaching 3-dimensional design and doing admissions work for them.
Did you ever have design aspirations yourself?
I spent years wanting to be an architect. And I actually was a very serious sculptor for a number of years. So much of that experience helps me with fashion. Not to mention almost 23 years here at Parsons. Talk about a design education!
Who has been the hardest to say goodbye to?
Oh, that’s a tough one. I can say who it was easy to say goodbye to!
That was actually my next question! So we can start there.
[Laughs] Oh, what am I getting myself into? I will say, I got so attached to them all emotionally. I want all of them to succeed… to a point. I have my limitations. But it was really hard and frequently very emotional, just to go back into that room and say, “You have to go upstairs and clean up your stuff.” In fact, I hated that line, but I had to keep saying it. It sounded kind of cold and that’s not how I am.
Not as cold as “You’re out.”
That’s true. But I’ll use Daniel Franco as an example. Lord, this past week I have found out I’ve developed an allergy to the guy. There was no way he was going to stay the course of season two. Absolutely no way. He doesn’t understand a deadline. He is incredibly annoying to be around. He’s the one person who never, ever forgot there was a camera around. So I was thrilled he left the way he left. Because he really did leave with dignity and with grace and with professionalism. And, boy, was I relieved he was gone. I just couldn’t stomach going much further with all that stuff of his. The other person from season two who I was not only perfectly happy to see go, I would have arranged for a car service to get her out of there, was Zulema. Oh, my God.
Zulema had a big chip on her shoulder.
Tim: She had a huge chip on her shoulder. And she had this thing about me, and I didn’t understand where it was coming from. She just didn’t want to interact with me. Most of the interaction I had with the designers is in our big workroom. And it’s camera friendly in that it’s easy for the cameramen to get around. But Zulema’s tactic was to do almost all her work in the Sewing Room. It’s not only not camera friendly, it’s not audio friendly because of the roar of the machines. So I would go in and ask her if she would come in and speak to me, and she would simply say “No.” So we didn’t have a lot of interaction. I found her presence to be grating. And I didn’t realize until after she was gone that the designers had all been terrified by her in a way and how mean and horrible she was to them. The other thing that was funny was that we supply the designers with muslin to do prototyping. In season one, I think we bought two 50-yard bolts the entire season. Season two we were buying a bolt of muslin every other challenge. After Zulema was gone, the designers asked for another bolt of muslin, and I said, “We just got you a bolt of muslin. What are you guys doing?” It turns out Zulema was using it all. She was doing tons of prototyping, then she would take the bolt and stick it under her table and tell people they couldn’t touch it. I said, “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have done something about it.” “We were afraid.” I looked at Santino and said, “You were afraid?” And he said, “Actually, I didn’t need the muslin so I didn’t care.” Anyway, she was a trip. Wait until you see her in the reunion show.
Do you have a designer you love to wear?
I really am a Banana Republic addict—and I was one before Project Runway. I had been associate dean for years and I wore Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers. I wore suits every day and that’s just the way it was. I came to the department of Fashion Design. I had been here for about a year and a half and I thought I was an old stick in the mud. I needed to slightly edge it up. So I thought, I need a black leather blazer. So I went to Saks Fifth Avenue and I found one. It was Hugo Boss. It was gorgeous, and it was $800. I gasped and I bought it, and I thought, There’s my clothing budget for the whole year. So I walked across the street into Rockefeller Center where the Banana Republic flagship store is. I hadn’t been in Banana Republic for years. There was a black leather blazer for $400, and the two of them were indiscernible from each other. So I bought it and took the other one back. I went back to Banana and I fell in love with everything they were doing. So when Deborah Lloyd, the design director at Banana, oversaw our first Banana Republic challenge, I had the opportunity to meet her, and I told her the story. She looked at me and her eyes sort of bugged out and she said, “That was my first collection for Banana Republic.” It goes to show you how important a designer is to the brand. She turned me around completely.
Now the big question: Are you single?
I’m very single.
How can you be single?
This is going to sound ridiculous to you. I’m so resigned to it. I went to a psychic about 25-26 years ago. Ostensibly the real thing; she was a consultant to the NASA space flights, and she was a consultant to the FBI. And it was a horrible session. She punched holes in every myth I’d created about myself. I’d spent a lot of my life blaming things on prior lives. And she said to me, “I don’t believe in talking to people about prior lives.” I thought, That’s disappointing, it’s one of the reasons I wanted to see you. Then she said, “In your case, I have to make an exception. I have never met a new soul. Until now.” I say that because it helped explain a lot. I have never, ever been more hurt than from a relationship that goes back to Washington, D.C.—before New York. I’m welling up thinking about how horrible it all was. After many years, it was the advent of AIDS and knowing that this guy who I loved more than myself had been sleeping around… it was awful. More awful was his out and out rejection of me, saying, “I don’t have the patience for you. I’m tired of you. Get lost.” And I haven’t been in a relationship since. And I’ve run from a couple of opportunities. I keep revisiting this “new soul” thing and I think, It’s not gonna happen in this lifetime. It’s not meant to be.
Well, if that’s how you feel, then I say… you’re crazy! I could think of 20 great guys for you off the top of my head who’d want to be your life partner!
That’s nice to hear. I have very good friends, and I think that’s the way it’s probably going to stay. God knows I live in a gay Mecca. I live in the West Village and work in the middle of the fashion industry. It’s hard to find a heterosexual male within half a mile.
Do gay men approach you?
I was at the Human Rights Campaign dinner recently. I was at the Bravo table and I thought, I don’t think I have ever been in a room with so many extraordinary-looking gay men. And people came up to me. People are really nice. With the exception of one person who punched me when I was at the end of last season. You know what’s weird? No one ever asks, “Are you that guy from that show?” They just come right up to me and start talking. It’s weird to me.
Maybe you’re really destined to be with Andrae.
[Much laughter] Maybe I’ve been waiting for Andraé!
You can read the whole thing at Out.com