Tim Gunn “Makes it Work” in Annapolis
Mar 21, 2012 09:45PM ● Published by Anonymous
Did you ever think you’d have a superstar career in the fashion industry?
Never in a million years, it never crossed my mind. No, I thought I would be an architect, then a writer, and I ended up being a fine artist, and then devoting most of my life to teaching. So, no, I never ever dreamed I’d be even remotely near the fashion industry. It took me by surprise and it happened because of my role at Parsons [The New School for Design in New York]. I was teaching and was an associate dean, and as associate dean I was a kind of mister fix-it. I would go into places that were broken in a manner of speaking and our fashion department was in a state of crisis.
What kind of crisis?
Really a crisis of leadership. Once I started to do my own probing, I realized it was largely about morale because the curriculum had remained unchanged for more than 40 years—and this is an industry that’s changing all the time, so holding on to these old methods and not embracing the computer and not offering the students fashion history, just to be frozen in time, in the late 1940s, 1946 to be specific, was just unfathomable. So, turning the department around was really a labor of love. I’m most proud of repositioning the fashion program at Parsons, because it was always touted as being the premier fashion program of the nation and when I took over I was ashamed for Parsons and the department because it was really was just a dress making school. And when I left it seven-and-a-half years later, it really was the premier design program in America. I don’t think I would have the courage to do it again.
Your passion for American fashion and new designers in particular is something you take seriously, why is that?
It is something that I take very seriously. What I hold up so high and celebrate about the American fashion industry is the fact they we look at fashion design through a lens of commerce. We’re not saying it’s a piece of art that has to sit under glass in a museum; it’s something that has to go on the body and move. I would always say to my students, “I don’t care what you design or what you make, as long as the person wearing it can get into a taxi.” If they can get into a taxi, it means that this is something that can navigate the real world. If you can’t bend your legs, can’t bend your waist, or you’re constrained in some way, it’s not valid in my view.
What advice can you offer about that plaguing piece of clothing that causes almost all women and even some men to squirm—the dreaded jean?
Well, everyone has a lot of insecurities about themselves, how they can present themselves to the world. They want help, they want some guidance. I say this with impunity and I said this well in advance of joining Liz Claiborne, I have never had a better fitting pair of jeans than the Lucky Brand jean. And there is a very specific reason why; it’s because of the quality, the associates in the store and their ability to really help you with what the best style and fit is for you. Some people may just think I’m a Liz Claiborne huckster, but I’m really not. I own integrity and my own reputation. So, I say getting the fit right is essential and they will help you. When you walk into a Lucky Band Jean store, surrender, the sales associates are the experts.
What other fashion advice can you offer our readers? Perhaps targeted at the men.
Well, every man needs a suit. A dark suit. I’m not talking about a closet full of suits, but every man needs a suit. Go anywhere. Every retailer has suits for men and you don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you do have to pay attention to the fit. You want comfort, but that’s a funny word. Most men wear clothes that are too big because they think that’s comfortable. I have this thing for people who want to be dress comfortable. If you want to feel like you didn’t get out of bed, than don’t.
You sure stay busy with being a co-host, author, speaker, etc. What’s a typical day like?
There isn’t a typical day and there isn’t a typical week, which frankly appeals to me. I have a rough idea of what each day will be, but that’s constantly changing, and you know what? I like that.