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Tim Gunn: Make It Smirk!

Tim Gunn on Ask Me Another.
Mike Katzif
Tim Gunn on Ask Me Another.

Project Runway mentor and fashion guru Tim Gunn owes his signature look to Hollywood costume designer Rita Ryack. Gunn shared the story on the Ask Me Another stage with host Ophira Eisenberg. Ryack was tasked with dressing Gunn for the 2011 film The Smurfs. "She pushes me into the dressing room, and I start looking at the labels of things and I see a shirt that's $450 and a suit that's $4,000, and a tie that's $250 and I shriek at her, 'I cannot wear these things! I'm not going to do it.'" She wasn't having it. He tried to draw the line at pocket squares — an accessory he loved but never felt he could pull off — but she was unrelenting. Now, he's addicted to pattern mixing and pocket squares. "I may still look like an ass, but I'm a confident ass."

As the longtime mentor on Project Runway, Gunn is the perfect support figure for the aspiring designers on the hit reality TV program. A huge contributing factor to his success? He knows how to deliver the blunt truth without being a bully. "I learned quickly as a teacher that if you are perceived to be mean-spirited, unkind, caustic in any way, your students shut down, and they discredit you," he shared with Eisenberg. "I want the doors to be open, I want us to have a good healthy relationship, and one that is based on truth-telling and candor."

Gunn was initially skeptical when it came to the spinoff show Project Runway: Junior, which features teenaged designers. He was worried he would have to dial back the critiques, and even coddle the teens. He was pleasantly surprised, telling Eisenberg "Within five minutes, pow, it hit me! They want it all, they know when you're pandering, and they're much more mature about it than the regular Project Runway designers. They accept responsibility for their work, they're supportive of each other...if I had to choose between the two shows, I'd take Junior in a heartbeat."

For Tim Gunn's Ask Me Another challenge, we remixed his classic catchphrase, "make it work," to be about things that rhyme with "work."


On drop crotch pants

Unless you're packing a Depends, don't do it.

On his recently purchased first pair of sweatpants

You need to have freedom and agility, you need to have ease of movement [for fencing]... and I have to tell you, I get a real kick out of the sweatpants.

Heard on Tim Gunn: Make It Smirk!

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