Project Runway Season 16 is back, staring on August 17! Promoting the new season, judges Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia and Zac Posen visited Good Morning America, yet suspiciously without fan favorite, mentor Tim Gunn.
The three judges that appeared on the ABC show spoke at great length about the “real women” twist of the new season. For the first time in Project Runway history, there will be plus-sized models on every show, and as the Inquisitr previously reported, the designers are not terribly pleased with the surprise twist.
Tim Gunn has been an advocate for all designers to include plus-size clothing in their collections. Gunn wrote a highly publicized op-ed column about the reluctance of designers to design for women size 12 and above. So, it seems rather strange that the man most famous for the show slogan, “make it work,” did not appear on GMA, along with the other regular Project Runway judges.
Is it possible that the self-professed “truth teller” Tim Gunn alienated Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia, and Zac Posen when he was recently featured on the Really Famous podcast? Does this mean that there could there be additional drama, this time between Gunn and the three judges on Project Runway Season 16?
On Thursday, Zac, Nina and, Heidi spoke to George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America about Project Runway Season 16. Zac promised a “lot of drama,” including something that never happened before — designers that walked off of the runway during critiques!
Then, George asked about the plus-size twist this season. Nina answered him eloquently on the significance of Project Runway finally using full figured models this season.
“The perception of beauty really changes throughout the times. We went from like Twiggy to the supermodel to the waif. Now, happily, the industry is embracing body diversity and so are we. I’m very proud to be a part of a show that has full figured women, real women, designers designing for women with real body types.”
Yet, everyone’s favorite mentor, Tim Gunn, is really the one that started the plus-size conversation. Gunn has been vocal, and because so many respect him, are listening to what he has to say.
Last September, during fashion week, Tim Gunn wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post explaining how plus-sized women are marginalized, not only by designers, but also by retailers. He insisted that this needs to change. He went on to explain that fans of the show approach him all of the time and tell him that they want to dress more fashion forward, but as they are a size 12 or larger, there are no fashionable clothes for them. Most importantly, this is a huge chuck of the retail market. This is untapped revenue.
In his essay, Gunn expressed disappointment that Project Runway wasn’t leading in the movement to get fashionable clothing to all sizes.
“Project Runway, the design competition show on which I’m a mentor, has not been a leader on this issue. Every season we have the ‘real women’ challenge (a title I hate), in which the designers create looks for non-models. The designers audibly groan, though I’m not sure why; in the real world, they won’t be dressing a seven-foot-tall glamazon.”
Gunn went on to say that one designer, Ashley Nell Tipton, who won Season 14 of Project Runway, did design for the plus-size market, yet, Gunn labeled her clothing as “hideous.”
“This season, something different happened: Ashley Nell Tipton won the contest with the show’s first plus-size collection. But even this achievement managed to come off as condescending. I’ve never seen such hideous clothes in my life: bare midriffs; skirts over crinoline, which give the clothes, and the wearer, more volume; see-through skirts that reveal panties; pastels, which tend to make the wearer look juvenile; and large-scale floral embellishments that shout ‘prom.’ Her victory reeked of tokenism. One judge told me that she was ‘voting for the symbol’ and that these were clothes for a ‘certain population.’ I said they should be clothes all women want to wear. I wouldn’t dream of letting any woman, whether she’s a size 6 or a 16, wear them. A nod toward inclusiveness is not enough.”
When Tim Gunn was recently interviewed on the Really Famous podcast, he spoke at length that Kelly Dempsey should have won the 14th season, not Tipton. Just as he wrote in the op-ed piece, Gunn repeated his conversation with Nina Garcia.
Garcia had reportedly told Gunn that “I so admire her courage.” He then explained to Kara Mayer Robinson, the host of the podcast, that Nina was “surprised” that Tipton went out into the world as a plus-size woman, and felt this was courageous.
When they were determining who they choose as the winner of the 14th season, it was between Kelly and Ashley. Heidi Klum argued that she would wear Tipton’s clothing. Tim didn’t believe her, but as he told Robinson, “This was before she wore Big Bird at the Emmy’s.”
Gunn was clearly not a fan of the canary yellow gown Klum wore just weeks after the finale was filmed, nor is he much of a fan of the fashion that Heidi has been wearing of late. Labeling himself a “truth-sayer,” Gunn expressed concern over Heidi Klum’s recent fashion choices.
“Heidi is challenging our credibility as a fashion show.”
He also wondered out loud if perhaps “middle age is setting in,” when speaking of Klum. He explained that there was a vast difference between “being boring and a float on a parade.”
Tim Gunn also expressed his frustration with all three judges. He was not impressed that during the runway show, they often spent more time looking at each other, instead of at the clothes walking the runway.
Tim confessed that he really really misses former judge Michael Kors. When Zac Posen replaced Kors, in the 11th season, the designer and the mentor immediately butt heads. On the first episode that he was on Project Runway, Zac began examining the finished garments, off camera. Gunn called him out on this.
At the end of that 11th season, Gunn spoke to the showrunner, and they determined that they would allow the top three and bottom three garments to be examined after the runway show, but before the judges chose the winner and loser.
Despite disagreeing with Posen on that first day, when Project Runway Season 12 began, Gunn was quite glad that they implemented the rule of the judges closely inspecting the garments.
According to Tim Gunn, Posen has not been terribly polite to him from the start. On Zac’s first episode, Tim watched in shock as Posen told the designers that when he heard advice from a teacher or mentor it has “never been good advice,” all the while looking at Gunn as he spoke. Tim feels that Zac continues to say things about him to others.
“I know he’s been discrediting me. And I know he feels he knows best.”
Then Zac asked to join Tim when he made his workroom rounds. Gunn recalled that he asked Posen if he didn’t perhaps think that this would be a conflict of interest? Tim reminded him that he is a mentor, and not a judge. He is “not making a decision about their fate.”
Tim felt that “what was the point” of a blind runway, if one of the judges has already examined the clothes before they walked the runway? He also mentioned that he already didn’t like it when Heidi came back to the workroom during her season challenge. He stated that this could lead to the judge knowing who designed the garments, and if the designer didn’t listen to their comments, that judge could grade them unfairly.
Tim may have implied, but did not specifically mention, that on Project Runway Season 15, this very thing occurred. This was early in the season and the challenge was to design a fabric, and use it for a swimsuit and cover-up. The winning design would be included in Heidi’s swimwear line.
When Tim and Heidi made the rounds in the workroom, Heidi targeted designer Sarah Donofrio’s bikini bottoms, saying a few things, and then even trying them on over her jeans. The designer did not change the design, and Heidi made a point of saying she was not pleased. That designer was eliminated, despite other, poorer fitting bathing suits that were made safe.
Perhaps one of the most serious revelations Tim made in the three-hour interview was that the situation with Zac Posen is so serious that he had his lawyer write it into Tim’s contract that Posen cannot join him in the workroom visits. If he is allowed to go into the workroom, Tim said he would walk.
Gunn does say that he does have “respect” for Posen as a designer, yet believes Posen’s clothes are not creative.
“It’s not innovative. It’s not creative. He owes his career to Charles James, basically.”
Tim declared that if Zac Posen tells a designer that they are not creative this season, he is going to say the same thing back at him.
It should be noted that Zac Posen and Heidi Klum have become best buddies of late. Both attended Domino Kirke’s second wedding to Penn Badgley in upstate New York. When Heidi held a book signing in New York City, for her new book, Heidi Klum by Rankin, Zac was there with her, and the famed photographer. Have lines been drawn? Nothing has been revealed.
On the podcast, Tim also mentioned that he was going to speak to the showrunner about the new season’s plus-size twist. He explained that he has been wanting to do this for a while. Fans of Tim Gunn could easily argue that he has spent the most energy on plus-size, so why wasn’t he on Good Morning America with the rest of the judges?
There was no mention of him by the GMA staff, or Heidi, Zac or Nina. There was no reason why he was absent. Last year, Project Runway celebrated with a cake on television, and Tim was there, along with the three judges. Have things become so tense that Gunn doesn’t want to be with the trio? Or could he have been busy fencing, his new passion?
Perhaps it was all for the best. It may have been a challenge for Tim to not say anything about Heidi’s shiny, gold, low-cut, dress, with a thigh-high, lace-up slit, which screamed Whitesnake video, not high fashion. Nonetheless, it was unfortunate that Tim Gunn was not there along with the trio of judges.
Speaking of GMA, there was a very fun twist on the episode with the judges. They brought in three favorite designers from recent seasons: Season 14 runner-up, Kelly Dempsey, Season 14 winner, Ashley Nell Tipton, and Season 10 runner-up, Fabio Costa. Each designer had to create a garment in one day, using unconventional materials that GMA had stored in a back room.
The three designers had ten minutes to gather their supplies, and some time to meet with their GMA clients, before designing and sewing a dress in a day. Kelly was designing for Amy Robach, who was “all about looking great but also feeling great.” Ashley was paired with Mara Schiavocampo, who wanted “urban meets ladylike.” Fabio was paired up with Lara Spencer, who wanted “elegant fun.”
The final results were all fantastic! “Kelly from the Deli” won, creating a dress made of sparkly, cut up compact discs. Heidi pointed out that during her season, Kelly loved to create her own fabrics. Anyone who watched that season cannot ever forget her incredible Brooklyn Bridge dress.
What do you think about the Project Runway Season 16 plus-size twist? Do you agree with Heidi Klum, who recently stated that she regretted that Project Runway was not “pioneers” of that movement, “instead of following it”? Do you worry that perhaps there will be more drama than fashion this season? Please share your thoughts and opinions below.
[Featured Image by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for NYFW The Shows]