What are some fashion trends that should never make a comeback?
The bare midriff – unless you’re at the beach – is just not a good look on anyone. And leggings, in general. It’s not the leggings themselves I have the difficulty with, it’s that people just don’t get the proportion right.
What are your guiding principles when it comes to getting fashion right?
I have three, and they all need to be in alignment and well synchronized: silhouette, proportion and fit.
How would you describe your fashion mentoring style?
It’s very much a Q&A where I ask the individual questions about who she is, what she does, with whom she interacts, and how she wants the world to perceive her. And I accept people’s size and shape. You are who you are, let’s accept it, let’s be joyful about it, and let’s dress that person.
What surprised you most when you first started on Project Runway?
How piercingly smart, insightful and intuitive the audience is. I wasn’t expecting that, and they really are.
How do you split your time between being CCO at Liz Claiborne and shooting Runway and Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style?
I’m always a hair shy of a psychotic breakdown. I’m flexible, however, I bend and I bend until I snap. I snap very rarely, but when I snap, I snap.
On Guide to Style you put fashion-flawed women on the right style path. Have you ever allowed anyone to make you over?
Shortly after I became chair of the fashion design department at Parsons, I was speaking with Diane von Furstenberg and she was looking at me and wrinkling her brow. She said, ‘You need to look more like you’re part of this industry… you need to look more modern.’ She helped me realize that while I can be corporate in my own way, I need to look like I’m in the 21st century.
If you could make over any celebrity, who would it be?
It’s somebody for whom I have the utmost respect, [but] she simply turns her nose up at fashion. It’s Meryl Streep. At the 2007 Oscars, her outfit was a disappointment. Her skirt was to the middle of her calf, which is a recipe for dowdiness, and she had on turquoise and coral jewelry, which I thought was more appropriate for a picnic than the Academy Awards.
If you could live in any time period, which would it be?
I’m a huge fan of the 18th century, but I’d like it with modern plumbing.