My Night with Tim Gunn

Project Runway mentor, author, fashion guru and catch phrase king Tim Gunn stopped by Cincinnati this weekend as he opened the 2012 SmartTalk ConnectedConversations speaker series at the Aronoff Center. Gunn, who I envision as that proverbial angel on everyone's shoulder, was just as sweet in person as on TV.—-

Dapper as ever in a navy suit and gold tie, Gunn met with media and fans before and after his talk, humoring fashion students with bits of advice and posing for photographs. During his appearance, however, he wasn't afraid to pull out the big Gunns (sorry) and dish some dirt on fashion giants.

Gunn gabbed about his personal mentor and "therapist" designer Diane von Fürstenberg, noting that at restaurants she always orders the same food (boneless roasted chicken, string beans and couscous) and never uses silverware. He lovingly joked about her running "her greasy little hands" through her hair between bites.

A much juicier tale touched on his war of words with Vogue Magazine after he was quoted describing the following scene: Vogue editor and all-around terrifying ice queen Anna Wintour was making her way around New York fashion week a few years ago. It's important for her to see at least part of many runway shows, so a quick exit is a must. But when Gunn spotted her at the Metropolitan Pavilion, she wondered how she'd make her escape - the show took place on a fifth floor, where there was only a service elevator or stairs. In a move only a true diva could pull off, Anna had her two body guards lock arms fireman-style, sat on them cheerleader-style, and was carried down to her car (they placed her in there like that, he added). After a lengthy battle with Vogue regarding this story, he refused to retract his statement ("I couldn't make this up!" he said), but did offer to print that he never meant to imply that Ms. Wintour didn't know "how to work a Monolo" and sent her a giant bouquet of white flowers.

Project Runway fans were elated to hear some inside gossip, as Gunn talked in great detail the beloved reality show. First off, he says he and the panel judges would have loved to be a part of the current All Stars season, but producers had it overlap with the taping of Season 9, making it impossible to use the same cast. He also revealed that after Heidi shunned his advice on the show ("You're not a judge, your opinion doesn't matter," Heidi Klum reportedly said to him - bitch), she turned to him during the Season 8 finale. Apparently it was Micheal Kors and Nina Garcia for Gretchen (who's name sparked a resounding "Boo!") vs. Heidi and Tim for Mondo. Majority ruled on this one, but Mondo fans can rejoice in his return for the All Stars season (9 p.m. Thursdays on Lifetime).

Of course, the true message of the night was about maintaining quality, taste and style - not just in clothing, but in the overall way we present ourselves and interact with others. Gunn mentioned fit as a major fashion problem for most - people often buy too large or too small for their frame. He also tried to convince the fashionally-challenged that what we wear really does matter: "It's not superficial, it's true!" he said, asking the audience how we can tell who the wait staff is at a restaurant - uniforms.

And speaking of the service industry, Tim offered a bit of advice that I have considered many times. Whenever there is someone with whom you might have a significant personal or professional relationship, go out to eat with them and pay attention to how they treat the staff. How they act toward someone in service can be very revealing as to what kind of person they are. On behalf of servers everywhere, we love you, Tim.

Gunn also discussed the problem with larger sizes in fashion. He expressed his disgust with the lack of clothing options in plus sizes (which, sadly, can be considered size 8 and above), but moreso with the attitude of designers who don't want to make clothing above a certain size. It was great to finally hear someone in the fashion industry discuss the problems in sizing - If a designer chooses to go above a size 10, the clothing is sized up the same as every other size, meaning the design is exactly the same, just bigger. Gunn argues that designers should instead re-size the garment so proportions are correct and all the garment's lines match up correctly on the body. Any curvy girls out there can certainly testify to this need.

Finally, during a Q&A session with the audience, Tim spoke out about PETA and the use of fur in fashion. He fought to get a representative from PETA into his class at Parsons School for Design and was surprised by how wrong common perceptions of the group are. "I would never tell anyone to not wear fur," he explained,"but if you choose to wear fur, it's your responsibility to know where it comes from."

Alright, so I am a little biased (I geek-ily have him listed under my "People who inspire me" on Facebook), but Gunn's talk was really entertaining. Even my straight, completely-normal-dude boyfriend enjoyed it! Clearly a storyteller (he opened with "If I start rambling, somebody yell, 'Shut up, Tim!'"), it was truly a delight to hear his quips and tips.

I'll share his parting advice, a great mantra for the new year: "Keep making it work!" Swoon.