Let me start by saying, this book is a must-read. I am usually proclaiming (to anyone who listens) to thy own self be true. Figure out what flatters you and develop your style around that, not just what you see in magazines or on your favorite celebrity. Learn to edit yourself and your closet. This book echoes every style and fashion belief I have, only…it is more succinct and irreverent. It is chalk full of big dictionary look-up words and ‘Timisms’ as well as sage advice and personal anecdotes.
I couldn’t wait to interview Tim Gunn. Fact is, I really like and identify with the man on Project Runway. I think he is the sole reason I am so hooked. I commented that I felt like I already knew him, he said I probably did. He is exactly the same in person as he is on television.
TG: You really can’t extract one from the other. There is good fashion and then there are good clothes. I just returned from the Project Runway auditions and one thing I kept saying was "I see clothes, but I don’t see fashion." Clothes are to fashion what food is to cuisine.
SCS: Where will fashion be in 10 years?
TG: Our current challenge is not design, but production. Fashion is in a place to help lead to improvements in the US as far as recyclability, textiles and work conditions. My hope is that in 10 years we are leading the market.
SCS: What do you think about the celebrity/designer craze and what it’s doing not only to taste, but how it’s effecting real fashion designers?
TG: Some of them (celebs) I don’t think know what’s going on. They are lending their name to a label of which they have no control and that’s not good. However, I now have an amended view. I realize how many people are employed by these celebrity designers. Designers are getting jobs because of these lines. On one hand I cringe and on the other a half a dozen people have a job. It presents a conflict.
SCS: What is the difference between style and trendiness?
TG: Style is something that is always with us. It responds to societal and historical context. Trends are of the moment. You have to stand back and observe where it goes. It’s like looking a petri dish. Some become embedded in our culture.
SCS: What do you think about our obsession with looking younger and how it effects our taste (Timism: Tim Gunn calls this the ‘Grandma Jezebel’, which I love).
TG: It’s an ill-advised notion that dressing like you are 20 when you are 45 will make you appear younger. How about trying to look better rather than younger? You are o a fast slide down a slippery slope when you try to pull of your daughter’s trends and frankly, it only makes one look older.
SCS: What celebrities, musicians, or other people in the public eye would you recommend to read your book?
TG: Britney Spears! She needs to be locked away with this book. Then again I think she’s beyond hope. Also, write off anybody in the music industry. They are spectacle in a parade of clothes. Oh, and although I absolutely adore her, Meryl Streep. I think she sees someone different then we see when she looks in the mirror. She needs to hone in her self-critical analytical abilities.
SCS: The first word in your book’s title is ‘quality’ (a word that isn’t used enough). Why do you think that word has lost it’s meaning in mass fashion and where did the title come from?
TG: You are the first person to ask me about the title! About ten years ago, when I was the associate dean at Parsons, a new dean came on board (there were several) that was from the design world. He absolutely forbade me to use the words ‘quality, taste and style,’ saying they were exclusionary, elitist and politically incorrect. Within design schools architecture is highly regarded whereas fashion is in the gutter in comparison. Think about it, you can’t educate students without making things and a sewing machine is viewed as ‘vocational.’ Anyway, as soon as that guy was gone and I became the chair of fashion design…the words ‘quality, taste and style’ became my mantra.
SCS: What is the last thing a woman should never wear? Ever. And don’t say flip-flops (in his book it is clear he hates them, as do I).
TG: (laughing) The tube top! Oh, and a bare midriff.
Here are some notes (Cliff Notes if you will) from the book:
- How we dress sends a message about how we want the world to perceive us.
- Look at your appointments for the day and dress for the highest level of expectation that day.
- The ballet flat is the sophisticated older sister of the flip-flop.
- Buying well means buying once.
- Creeping Closet Syndrome: the sad state of affairs in which your wardrobe takes over your home.
- Your diction and tone should not clash.
What you will learn from this book:
- How to figure out who you are style wise
- The whole sizing and fit challenge and how to navigate inconsistent sizing
- Diagnosing and cleaning out the common closet
- Fashion mentors vs. fashion icons
- Style from the inside out
- Preparing to shop with a plan
- Shopping for quality, not quantity
- Saying no to the ‘it’ bag
- Black ties affairs
To purchase Tim Gunn’s A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style visit Amazon
– Lauren Dimet, Editor-in-Chief, Second CIty Style