Rejoice, ''Project Runway'' fans: The fashion mentor tells EW that despite his new responsibilities, he's ''moving forward'' with producers on season 4

By Margeaux Watson
Updated February 06, 2007 at 12:00 PM EST
Sylvain Gaboury/

Project Runway

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Last week Project Runway‘s silver fox, Tim Gunn, announced he’ll be leaving Parsons, the New York City fashion design school where Bravo’s hit reality show is taped, to become chief creative officer of Liz Claiborne Inc. But that doesn’t mean Gunn won’t carry on with Runway, as its fans feared — in fact, the 52-year-old told EW’s Margeaux Watson, he has ”not one iota” of doubt he’ll return as the show’s beloved mentor on season 4.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Happy new year! And congratulations on your new job!

TIM GUNN: Isn’t this thrilling?

It is! You’re moving and shaking all over the place. [Gunn also will star in his own Bravo show, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, and write a related book.]

Thank you! I have to tell you: I wasn’t planning to leave Parsons. That wasn’t anywhere in my vocabulary…. But I had this meeting with [Liz Claiborne CEO William McComb]. I thought we were just going to be talking about Parsons, the Parsons graduates, and various things of that sort. And then when he presented this, I just thought, ”Gee, you’d be a really great person to work with.” And little did I know. Just phenomenal…. I’m babbling. You probably have questions.

Oh, I do. Let’s start with you telling me about what your role will be at Liz Claiborne.

I’m interacting with all of the designers [for labels under the Claiborne umbrella, including Kate Spade, Lucky Brand Jeans, and Juicy Couture]. It’s a role that’s very much like my role here at Parsons: I’m a mentor, I’m a cheerleader, I’m a truth-teller, I’m an advocate. And my first role there is to really get inside the brands and understand where the designers are coming from and what their goals are…. I’m not a fashion Svengali, I’m a fashion therapist. It’s taking everything that I’ve achieved in the last seven years at Parsons and it’s really applying it to the real world of the fashion industry. And for me, that’s a big challenge and one that I just am so excited about.

I just see this as a greatly enhanced role from what I have right now. And I’m totally committed to Project Runway, and to the new Tim Gunn show, and to [other] things — like I’m gonna be covering the Academy Awards for the Today show, and Ugly Betty has said that they’d like me to come back. [Gunn played himself on the Feb. 1 episode.]

Will Liz Claiborne be involved with Project Runway in the same way that Banana Republic and Macy’s have been involved with the show?

We’re not expecting that at all. No, no, no. I mean, who’s to say what could happen organically? But it’s certainly not a plan.

Are you confirmed to return to Project Runway for a fourth season?

Hmmm. People were just asking me, ”Have you signed your contract?” And my answer — tersely — is: ”I’m signing.” Present tense. It isn’t past tense yet because there’s still a few little things that we’re working out. But do I have even one iota of a doubt that I’ll be back for season 4? No. Not one iota. And I’ve talked to the producers and we’re trying to set up times for the auditions and things of that sort. So we’re moving forward. And what’s so exciting about this new season is that there was such a huge ramping up of the quality of designer between season 2 and season 3 — season 3 being the strongest yet — and I can’t help but think we’re going to have an even stronger turnout and certainly just as high a level of designer. But who knows how much higher it could be for season 4? And I’m gonna be really blunt about it: While I’m sitting there interviewing thousands of people and looking at work for the auditions, in my own way I’m going to have on my Liz Claiborne Inc. recruiting hat, so you never know who you might see.

Is Runway still going to be taped at Parsons?

Yes! Absolutely. I don’t know if I ever talked to you about this, but the show coming to Parsons was not part of the plan. The plan was we were going to be outfitting a loft space at the Atlas apartment building, but we didn’t have the budget. So I knew we were taping in August, and I knew that Parsons was empty, so I just said to the producers, ”Let’s go across the street and look at Parsons.” And that’s really how it happened. And the producers know the lay of the land here. And Parsons and the university are thrilled to host them. And all parties agree that they’ll return. And also, my Liz Claiborne office is right across the street!

From Parsons?

Yeah! So if Heidi [Klum] wants to come over and find a dressing room, she can use my office at Liz Claiborne! [Laughs]

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