Style consultant gives his measure of the designers
By Pamela Sitt
Seattle Times staff reporter
NEW YORK — If only I'd had the foresight to ask Tim Gunn to meet me at Red Lobster for our interview. There's one at 41st and 7th in Midtown, just a block from Parsons School of Design, which is where I met Gunn during Fashion Week to talk "Project Runway."
I am such a fan of Tim Gunn that I wish someone would make him into a doll, one that says "Make it work" and "Carry on" when you pull a string in its back. I settled instead for respectfully poking around his fifth-floor office because he was running a bit late. It's cozy and homey, filled with Asian accents and leather furniture and art and fashion books and cookbooks. And then I heard that voice coming down the hall, and then there he was, dressed head-to-toe in Banana Republic and looking — and sounding — just like he does on TV.
First question: Have you ever been to Red Lobster? Answer: "No, I haven't! And there's one right here ... I've said repeatedly, 'Let's go to Red Lobster. I want to see what it's like.' "
Here's more from my chat with Tim Gunn, "Project Runway's" breakout star and a fellow TV addict:
Q: Santino has emerged as this season's designer everyone loves to hate. Last year, it was Wendy Pepper. Are they really as bad as they seem, or is it all in the editing?
A: Wendy Pepper ... I just have to say, the producers can't put words in anybody's mouth. I will say very bluntly about this season, the editors have been extremely kind to Santino. If the audience saw all of it, they'd say, "This is ridiculous."
Q: What did you think of Santino's impression of you?
A: I love it, actually. I mean, I didn't take offense at all. He's big-hearted in that way, and he's really good at it. There were times [when I was talking] off-camera where I'm thinking, "Is that my voice or is it Santino's?"
Q: Nick was a favorite and I was shocked that he was cut before Santino. Were you surprised?
A: I was really disappointed [with Nick's final outfit]. To see all the puckering and the uneven seams, the thing was a mess. It just screamed amateurism. ... In Santino's case, I believe he was really thinking strongly for Kara. There was risk-taking there, and I do think the judges responded to it. Ever since the Inspiration challenge, Santino's been listening more. Given a choice between Santino and Nick, I would have taken Nick out, as much as I love him.
Q: There's been a lot of chatter about the producers keeping Santino in for dramatic effect. Any truth to that?
A: People are fixating upon this disclaimer, the same one that appeared during season one. But this season, people are acting as though the judges want person X out and the producers are saying no, it has to be person Y. The producers never step in and say, "No, no, Santino's not going to go home. Nick's going to go home." Producers weigh in only when the judges are at a stalemate, when we see two people, both of whom can or should be out and [the judges] can't come to a collaborative decision.
Q: Is there anyone on the show you thought was cut prematurely? Or anyone who lasted longer than you expected?
A: Raymundo I thought would stay the path longer, but he completely blew it with the Barbie challenge. He did that old-lady-Barbie's-mother dress. There was no going back from there. ... Daniel Franco is an excellent designer, but he has a terrible discipline problem, in terms of time management and prioritizing tasks. ... I will share disappointment that Nick isn't among [the final three]. Kara has been uneven. Frankly, with the exception of Chloe, I think they've all been uneven. If Daniel hadn't had immunity [in the makeover challenge], he would've been right on the runway with Nick and Santino.
Q: How did you get involved with the show?
A: It went from being a consultant to, "Would you be interested in going on the casting calls?" And then it evolved to, "We're thinking we'd like to have a mentor role with the designers." When I saw the first show, I had no idea whether I'd even be in it. I was terrified about being in it. I watched the whole thing under the covers of my bed with a little hole like this in my sheets.
Q: What else do you watch on TV besides "Project Runway"?
A: I love TV, it's my therapy. I love the Food network. It's sort of like "Project Runway"; they put all these ingredients together and make something. I love "The West Wing" and I'm sorry it's not coming back, but I can watch reruns forever. I like "Grey's Anatomy." I've become tired of "The Apprentice" ... I was enthusiastically hopeful for the Martha Stewart version of "The Apprentice."