Television personality Tim Gunn continues to take over the world of reality shows with a brand-new offering on Amazon Prime Video called Making the Cut. Many will recognize the openly gay fashion advisor from Project Runway, where he earned a Primetime Emmy Award in 2013 for outstanding host for a reality or reality-competition program.
He followed that show with several spinoffs, such as Tim Gunn's Guide to Style and Under the Gunn. He not only mentored, but executive-produced Project Runway: Junior. This lead to acting roles on Ugly Betty, How I Met Your Mother and Gossip Girl.
On Making the Cut, he again teams with Heidi Klumthis time to create a fashion competition show in which each round's winner has his or her garments immediately available to be sold on Amazon.com. The judging panel includes Naomi Campbell, Nicole Richie, Chiara Ferragni, Carine Roitfeld and Joseph Altuzarra. The 12 contestants travel throughout the world to compete for the prize of 1 million dollars while making it work.
Tim Gunn: Hi, Jerry. How are things in Chicago?
Windy City Times: Quiet.
TG: It's so strange in New York, everybody has been cooperating and behaving well, until yesterday. Suddenly, there are dozens of people on the sidewalks, where before, they had been empty. Half of them aren't wearing masks. There's a ton of traffic and all the construction sites are active again. I don't understand it. I feel like I am Rip Van Winkle and who fell asleep for 20 years!
WCT: Do you think it's the weather?
TG: I don't know. I talked to a neighbor about it and she's a psychologist. She feels that people are just tired of this and this is their own way of acting out. This is certainly not good for people's health.
WCT: How have you been staying busy?
TG: It's never an issue for me. As a matter of fact, I actually love being home alone. [Laughs] What's different about this is we have a bayonet in our backs.
WCT: I know you are a hugger, so this must be challenging.
TG: That's definitely changing. We have been having conceptual conversations about the second season of Making the Cut and what it will be like. It can't be the way it was.
WCT: You produced the show. What ideas did you bring to the table for the first season?
TG: It was a huge collaboration of the most wonderful kind. I usually think design by committee is a bit of a foible, but this was me, Heidi and Sara Rea, who was the show runner for the last 11 seasons of Project Runway. The three of us had been in conversation for season after season about the changes that we would like to make on Runway. The network people wouldn't let us do it.
It took us 10 seasons to have models of all sizes. When the show left Lifetime, we decided it was time for a change.
We have great respect for the fashion industry and for entertainment, but we wanted a show that was more relevant. When Project Runway was born, it was very relevant, but today, the fashion scene has changed and the retail scene has changed. We felt we needed to do something different.
The best collaborators of all have been the Amazon team. Jennifer Salke and her team are phenomenal. They nurture and probe in the most positive ways. Their feedback is invaluable.
It's been a dream to work on it and see it evolve.
WCT: What was your favorite American expression to stump Heidi on?
TG: [Laughs] "Titillating" was the best!
WCT: Were there any diva moments from Naomi Campbell on set?
TG: Jerry, what do you think?
WCT: Did she have any special demands?
TG: Yes, but she knows her stuff. What really impressed me is that she really cares for the designers. When she gets mad, it's because she's frustrated and wants them to do better.
WCT: I didn't know you fenced until seeing a segment on Making the Cut. Have you ever been hurt while fencing?
TG: No, but I will tell you that I work with a personal trainer twice a week.
Last fall, I got a terrible hernia doing something I shouldn't have been doing, so after that I haven't been on the fencing strip as much as I would like to. I can't have anything done about this hernia until after this crisis.
WCT: There was a pop-up shop on one episode of Making the Cut. Have you ever worked retail before?
TG: Yes. In fact, it was my first job. I was fired the next day. I was working for the Hecht Company in Washington, D.C. The company is now gone.
I had a week of training and that went well. My first day was a Saturday and there was a sale. The manager and coworker called in sick, so I was alone. It was the olden days of the cash register. I knew to put the check number in, but then hit cash. People came to the register with no price tag. I would ask them, "How much do you want to pay?" It was a mess!
I felt set up in a way, because I was all alone!
WCT: What would you like to do differently on the next season of Making the Cut?
TG: I loved everything about it, to be honest. We are all proud of it, but we can't get into a rut. Runway wound up being a rut, a rut of the best kind and a success, but we need to change things up. We had a conversation about this before the pandemic and still want to travel, if we can. We still want the show to be global in terms of presentation. Branding has to be at the core of it.
WCT: Do you feel the designers this season on Making the Cut were stuck in a rut? There was Jonny Cota with all that leather and Esther Perbandt with sticking to black.
TG: I feel it's important for them to stick with what they do well, but at the same time you don't want them to bore the judges.
When you consider Amazon fashion, they each have to keep in mind how the Amazon shopper will see their work in a little tiny photo. In Esthers' case, all those beautiful details go away.
WCT: You have been a big advocate for not using fur in clothing.
TG: Big time!
WCT: How do you feel about leather?
TG: PU leather [artificial leather that is coated with polyurethane] needs to evolve more. Right now, faux leather looks faux. It looks, quite frankly, cheap. I am a PETA advocate on the fur side, but there are vegans and some people that believe in absolutely no animal products, including silk.
I had been involved with PETA when I was at Parsons. I was much maligned with the school after they said you can't have fashion without fur. I begged to differ because you can. I thought that was appalling and had PETA come in and speak to the students.
When I went to Liz Claiborne and had 48 brands, we went fur free as well.
WCT: What do you think about RuPaul on his show being a mentor similar to you in the workroom with suits and glasses?
TG: I love him. I feel a spiritual kinship!
WCT: Will you work on another book, since you have a lot of time on your hands currently?
TG: Actually, I have been. It's on hold at the moment, because I don't know how appropriate it will end up being. It's about me at age 62, four years ago when I started fencing and working out, [and] having never been a jock of sorts, although I was a competitor swimmer when I was a teen.
I want to make a fun, inspirational book. I have been working on it with my trainer who makes these routines accessible and relatable. I am the least likely candidate for this, which is why I wanted to share the story.
The entire first season of Making the Cut is currently available on Amazon Prime Video.