Slicked-back hair, impeccable style (usually highlighted by a suit and tie), and a signature phrase render Tim Gunn one of the most recognizable figures in fashion.
We caught up with the “die-hard coffee drinker” at a Nespresso launch event, to hear what he had to say about cohosting Project Runway with Heidi Klum, the backlash to his controversial comments regarding transgender model Andreja Pejic, and the show’s new season.
The 13th season of Project Runway just premiered. What can we expect from the designers this time around?
TIM GUNN: It’s a very interesting season. It’s so often [that] we see [the same] people three, four, five seasons in a row [but] many of them were brand new to us. I was asking designers, "Where have you been? Why have you not been here?” I think it’s the economy getting better. They’re smart and they’re incredibly talented, but what’s so interesting for them and their work [is that] it’s a hit-or-miss season. They’re either on top of they’re on the bottom. I mean, a part of it is because they’re taking risks. It’s interesting and odd.
You’ve been on the show since, basically, its inception. Tell us about that.
TG: Well, 10 years. I was chair of the fashion program at Parsons and the producers approached me to be a consultant. My role on the show didn’t exist. It all happened at the very last minute. The producers were afraid that the designers would go into the work room and no one would talk. And they probably wouldn’t. In fact, this season of the show, if I hadn’t gone in the work room you’d have nothing. Because no one did talk. So serious.
“Make it work!” became your signature phrase, then.
TG: Well, I just said that because, [in] 29 years of teaching, [it’s what I would say] in my classrooms all the time.
So you were using it even before being on the show?
TG: Oh, yeah. I’d say, “Let’s make it work, people.”
What's it like working with Heidi Klum?
TG: All you need to know about Heidi, in terms of her quality and her character, [is that] every crew member loves her. She has a heart of gold, family comes first for her, she’s never late, she’s always cheerful no matter what’s going on. She’s fantastic.
Do you have any funny stories from the set?
TG: Well, [Heidi] knows I’m ticklish and goes after me. Sometimes at moments that are really inappropriate.
You had made some comments about transgender model Andreja Pejic that received backlash. Do you regret making them?
TG: I don’t regret it for a moment because I wasn’t lashing out at transgender male-to-females. I was lashing out at the fashion industry for finding yet another form or mannequin for clothes that is a shape that is unachievable by most women. First it was eating disorders […], then it was underage models, then it was limb-lengthening. So, now it’s transgender male-to-females… and why? Because they don’t have hips. It’s just mind boggling to me why this continues to happen.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK DAVIS/GETTY IMAGES (GUNN AND KLUM); JAMIE MCCARTHY/GETTY IMAGES (GUNN)