Project Runway mentor Tim Gunn caused a bit of a stir this week. He described the Project Runway judges catch phrases as “offensive.” The respected fashion expert spoke with Stuff New Zealand about the most recent season of Project Runway Junior. He particularly raved about the three judges on this show, describing “their voices are measured and thoughtful — and honest.”
Life is not a solo act. It's a huge collaboration, & we all need to assemble around us the people… – Tim Gunn pic.twitter.com/MyQGaf1rPt
— Tim Fargo (@alphabetsuccess) April 16, 2017
Who are the judges that Tim so greatly praised? The three Project Runway Junior judges include fashion designer and Project Runway Season 4 winner Christian Siriano, fashion critic and designer Kelly Osbourne, and Cosmopolitan and Seventeen fashion director Aya Kanai.
In a surprising contrast, he called the three Project Runway judges, model and host, Heidi Klum, fashion designer, Zac Posen, and Creative Director of Marie Claire, Nina Garcia, “piercing and mean-spirited.” Gunn has worked with Klum and Garcia for the entire 15 seasons of the show.
“I am sick of our regular season judges and their attempts to outwit each other and come up with a remark they think is adorable and cute but which is, in fact, piercing and mean-spirited.”
— Tom + Lorenzo® (@tomandlorenzo) July 13, 2016
“I don’t like it,” Gunn admonished. “I find it to be very unprofessional and offensive.”
Could it possibly be assumed that the judges for the junior version of the show were much more “thoughtful” in what they were saying, as they were speaking to children?
— SgT Group (@sgttextile) April 22, 2017
Fans of the show may be a bit surprised to read these not so flattering outbursts from Gunn. Erin Robertson, winner of the recent Season 15, spoke to Rue LaLa about her win and Project Runway. She explained that as a mentor to the designers, Gunn was quite diplomatic.
“Yes. He’s super nice. He’s very Switzerland – very neutral. He’s seen so much, because he’s been in the industry for so long. It was really cool to get feedback through his lens.”
Perhaps Tim Gunn is a bit burned out with the reality television format? After several decades at Parson’s, with half of that time acting as associate dean, could it be possible that Gunn’s experience with the motivation of fashion design students of the past might have been quite opposite to the motivations of some of the designers that are attracted to the reality television format of Project Runway? He appears to imply that some of the designers are not there to design clothes.
“I have to say this — the adults, some of them, they want to be TV characters and once they arrive it would appear that that’s why they’re really there.”
Perhaps there is a contradiction between Tim Gunn and the producers of the reality show? Anyone who saw the first episode of Season 14 saw designers asked questions about being competitive, or if they ever got mad. There were no questions about making a French seam or knowing how to drape a design.
Then Tim pointed out a recent season that he found especially enjoyable, noting that there was no extra drama. The focus was only on fashion.
“My favorite season of all was the season that Sean Kelly appeared on, Season 13, because there were no games, there was no unnecessary drama and all the designers wanted to do was create the best work possible.”
Tim may have to refresh his memory about the 13th season. There were certainly some of the most breathtaking garments in the history of Project Runway. The most memorable challenge was the “Rainway Challenge.” The designers were told to create a garment for a rain runway. A first ever for Project Runway. Hawaiian-based fashion designer Kiniokahokula “Kini” Zamora created a very Schiaparelliesque “Umbrella” dress. New Zealand native Sean created a design that began on the runway as a simple, white cotton dress. Yet as the model continued walking, and twirling in the rain, the garment transformed into a multi-colored sensation. The designer had cleverly placed colored dye into the seams of the garment, intending for the dye to positively react to the water. Sean took a gamble and it was awe-inspiring.
Yet, contrary to Tim Gunn’s recollections, Season 13 also showcased some of the worst drama in the history of the show.
Amanda Valentine was voted back by the fans to do another spin on the Lifetime Television show. A few episodes in, her roommates, Karina Emmerich and Charketa (Char) Glover, told her, off camera, that they did not “trust” her and even implied that she was a phony. Amanda, sister of Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine, was deeply upset by the unfounded comments, yet managed to carry on, make it work, and weeks later, finished in second place.
While the drama around Valentine settled down, things heated up for the two roomies, Karina and Char. Although they were “thick as thieves” throughout most of the competition, when Tim Gunn used his save on Char, things began to get tense.
When the contestants did a “real woman” challenge, on runway day, right before they were going to go before the judges, Char’s real woman model had broken the zipper of her romper getting into the garment. Tim asked the other contestants if it was okay to give Char 10 minutes to quickly replace that zipper and everyone nodded in agreement. Yet, Karina said what was on the faces of many of the designers.
“How many saves is Tim Gunn going to give her?”
A week later, there was a one-hour showdown between the two designers, and frontrunner Emmerich was sent home — but not before she said some damaging things about Glover’s sewing and designing skills.
At the end of the season, at the reunion show, Karina Emmerich had revealed that people sent her emails, telling her she should commit suicide for what she had said. This was absolutely shocking. Eventually, she and Glover reunited and ended as friends. This whole scenario was full of drama, and this took away from the design aspect of the competition. Fans who were looking for some fresh designers instead were treated to more drama than a soap opera.
Erin Robertson found the Project Runway experience really helped her grow as a designer. When asked what a young designer should do, she expressed her wish for more Project Runway-type of experiences.
“I always say that I wish there was a Project Runway class, because being able to make something quickly and pushing yourself forces you to move in a way that you don’t normally move. I learned to listen to my gut, whereas in college you have time to mull over it. “
Yet, for Tim Gunn, he felt that the Project Runway Junior designers were more “self aware” than the adult designers he dealt with.
“They have to calibrate their ambitions to what they know, to what their skill set is and, in my view, the junior designers do it better than the regular season designers.”
Contrary to Erin Robertson’s comments, Tim expressed his beliefs that the junior designers showed growth.
“You can see them grow. You can see them evolve and it’s very exciting to be able to observe that.”
What are your thoughts about Tim Gunn’s comments about the Project Runway judges and designers? Do you think he is right? Or do you think that because this is a reality show, some designers are not going to be there for the intended reason? Please share your thoughts below.
[Featured Image by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Image]