Who: The oft-imitated Gunn is the host of Project Runway and chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne.
Backstory: The son of an assistant director of the FBI, Gunn grew up an introverted, fey kid with a stutter and says he had a miserable childhood, switching schools a dozen times to escape bullying. He went to college at Yale, where he studied English literature and sculpture, before going to DC's Corcoran School of Art, where he stayed on to teach and work in the school's admissions department. In 1983, he joined the Parsons School of Design as an admissions director; he later moved to teaching and was appointed chairperson of the school's department of fashion design in August 2000. At Parsons, he was credited with making over a curriculum that hadn't budged in 50 years, adding classes on fashion history and the unglamorous realities of fashion retail.
In 2004, Bravo executives came calling, asking him to become a consultant on a new reality show called Project Runway. By the time the show premiered in December 2004, Gunn had found his way in front of the camera, serving as mentor and voice of reason to the show's contestants, and lending the show a shot of academic credibility. Almost immediately, Project Runway became a ratings bonanza and made Gunn a household name.
Of note: Gunn's known for his simultaneously supportive and bluntly critical handling of Project Runway contestants, his catchphrase "make it work," and his much-mimicked inflection. Having morphed into an unlikely celebrity thanks to Runway, in March 2007 he ankled Parsons to take a top job at Liz Claiborne, the holding company responsible for more than 45 fashion brands including Lucky jeans, Kate Spade, and Juicy Couture. Gunn has been tasked with reversing the company's dismal economic fortunes, injecting life into the dowdy flagship brand, and playing daddy (Liz Claiborne execs call it "creative dean") to the 350 designers employed by the company.
Meanwhile, his media presence continues to expand. On top of Project Runway, he's hosted a reality makeover show, Tim Gunn's Guide to Style (which grew out of his first book, Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style), has appeared on numerous other TV shows, and released a second book in the fall of 2010, Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work. The book, which contained brutally honest assessments of some of the industry's most notable figures (including Vogue editor Anna Wintour), generated a good deal of controversy in fashion circles.
Personal: Gunn, who is single and says he hasn't been in a serious relationship since the 1980s, lives on the Upper West Side apartment.
Full Name: Timothy Mackenzie Gunn
Date of Birth: 07/29/1953
Place of Birth: Washington, DC
Undergrad: Yale University
Graduate: Corcoran College of Art & Design
Residence(s): New York (Upper West Side)
Filed Under: Fashion, Television