Tim Gunn visits VCU to discuss fashion industry

Samantha McCartney
Staff Writer

Fashion mentor Tim Gunn always wanted to attend VCU.

“I actually wanted to attend VCU. … I’d already been to four schools and my parents, God bless them, said ‘I’m not sending you away to school again; you’ve already cost us a fortune.’ But otherwise I was set to come here, and I’m happy to be here now,” Gunn said Monday night at his speech in the Commons ballroom.

Fashion consultant and “Project Runway” producer Tim Gunn spoke at VCU as part of the Activities Programming Board’s Springfest. Photo courtesy of Activities Programming Board
Fashion consultant and “Project Runway” producer Tim Gunn spoke at VCU as part of the Activities Programming Board’s Springfest. Photo courtesy of Activities Programming Board

Renowned American fashion consultant and “Project Runway” producer Tim Gunn graced the halls of the VCU Commons ballroom this past Monday to speak to VCU students.

VCU’s Activities Programming Board sponsored Gunn’s appearance. More than 400 tickets were available and sold out within the first two days.

APB advisor Mary Bramley said the APB contacted a speaking agency about the possibility of having Gunn come to VCU for Springfest, an end-of-the-year celebration for students before exams.

“We thought he’d be perfect since he had worked with celebrities and could talk about that experience,” Bramley said.

Gunn got his start as a normal student, indecisive about what to do with his life and where to go to school. He attended Corcoran College of Art and Design after high school. After bouncing from architecture to literature, he finally realized that his true passion was in the arts. After getting a Bachelor of Arts degree from Corcoran in his hometown of Washington, D.C., he moved to New York and eventually became a faculty member and administrator at Parsons the New School for Design.

One of his most notable feats was the complete revamping of the school’s fashion design curriculum in 1999, which Tim explained had not changed since 1952.

“Can you imagine? It’s fashion,” Gunn said. “For me it was about changing a culture, a culture that had been about doing the same thing year after year after year.”

Gunn’s major upheaval of the program, though initially met with opposition, changed the face of Parsons and the way the fashion world viewed design education. Gunn’s name spread further through the fashion world, which he said led him to his role on the Emmy- nominated TV show “Project Runway.”

“It was because of all this work I did in the fashion program that there was talk in the industry,” Gunn said. “I was approached by the producers and I thought, fashion reality? We have enough problems without that. … No.”

Gunn’s outlook changed after he saw the opportunities that “Project Runway” could give to other people by providing them with a chance to get their start in the fashion industry. The show has now become one of the reasons he’s known internationally. He has also written three books that have appeared on the New York Times best-seller list.

“The clothes we wear send a message about how the world perceives us,” Gunn said.

After his talk, audience members participated in a question-and-answer session with Gunn.

“You must be tenacious,” Gunn said to one student who asked about breaking into the fashion industry. “You must be a Weeble and be able to bounce back. It’s a matter of survival, survival of the most tenacious.”

He offered advice on how students could realize their potential:

“I’m a very proud pep-talker and truth-teller, but (you) can’t make anyone succeed more than they want themselves to,” Gunn said. “I don’t believe in talking about things you cannot change.”

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