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10 Quick Questions for Fashion Guru Tim Gunn

Check-in with the star of 'Making the Cut' as he returns to his educator roots

Tim Gunn holding his tie while standing in front of a huge wall display of multicolored ties

ELIZABETH LIPPMAN/The New York Times/Redux


Through Jan. 7, the Emmy Award-winning former Project Runway host is leading a master class, “Innovation for Impact,” at Boston’s Emerson College. In his own life, Gunn embraces change, but that doesn’t mean you’ll see him without a tie on TV anytime soon.


In a pre-COVID world, you told us sweatpants are for workouts and that comfort isn’t king. Is that still your truth?

I understand the comfort trap. I used to have nothing but disdain for it. I get it now, and it’s been a liberation. I mean, right now I’m wearing a turtleneck and no pants! (laughing). I still like getting dressed up. It does make you feel good, but at the same time, lounging around the house in a suit doesn’t make you feel good. It’s ridiculous.


Tim Gunn in a scene with contestant Ji Won Choi on Making the Cut

Jessica Forde/Amazon Studios

Tim Gunn with contestant Ji Won Choi on 'Making the Cut,' the Amazon series he co-hosts wih Heidi Klum in which designers from around the world compete to be the next global fashion brand.

What kind of sweats does Tim Gunn wear?

There is no reason to spend a lot of money on these athleisure clothes. It’s ridiculous, a waste and inconceivable to me. Buy a Champion sweatshirt and/or a pair of sweatpants and give the balance to charity.


Can some of that at-home style stay as we reenter the office?

Absolutely. I’m not going to jettison my wardrobe. But I am modifying it, unless it’s an event where I really need to wear a suit — in which case I’m wearing the same suit in the same way that I did pre-pandemic. But I look at my wardrobe in a slightly different way. Well, not even slightly — in a very different way now.


Thinking differently leads me to your class, “Innovation for Impact.” You have a 25-year history at Parsons School of Design. What does innovation mean to you?

Taking a new path — taking a route that’s unknown, something new.


How do you flex that muscle, especially when for some, change is hard and gets harder with age?

If we don’t embrace innovation and change, we just stagnate. You have to make it happen, or at least have very sensitive radar that allows you to detect when something has potential and you can cultivate it. We would have a dull, awful existence if we just did the same thing day in and day out, even things that we happen to like or even love. It’s like what I always say about clothing: “Try it on.” Take some risks.


What’s something new you have done?

I took up fencing six years ago, at age 62. It wasn’t entirely a whim. My fencing coach, whose club it is, was someone who had interviewed me a couple times. I just became very intrigued and hooked. In addition to liking change, I am blessed with a curious mind.


So many of us became teachers during the pandemic. What makes an effective teacher?

I wrote a book called The Natty Professor, and I organized it according to an acronym for TEACH: It’s truth telling; empathy; asking; cheerleading —and H is hoping for the best. Those are my guiding principles.


What do your students teach you?

They teach me about pop culture for one. My students always kept me current. I always learned from them. That was a prime reason why I loved it so much. That and watching them evolve and have a kind of epiphany about who they can be and who they can become. To me that’s the most thrilling thing imaginable. You’re witnessed the triumph of the human spirit.


We have to talk about Heidi Klum, your TV partner all these years and current cohost on Amazon’s Making the Cut. Share with us something we might not know about her.

All that you really need to know about Heidi is that every crew member adores her, and crew members do not suffer fools gladly. She’s never late, she’s always so kind to people, asking them questions about how they are and what they are doing. She’s a real person. I think it’s why we’ve been together for 17 years. She calls me her TV husband. I’m very flattered. She also says it’s the longest relationship she’s ever had.


What’s the next big thing in fashion?

I’ve developed a kind of cynicism about this whole thing, because fashion is a pendulum. If the skinny jean is in, then next season it will be the boyfriend jean, because retailers want us to buy things. I’m always saying to people, don’t chase trends. Go with what you look good in and just keep repeating it.

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