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After 14 seasons, anyone who's watched Project Runway knows that design mentor Tim Gunn is never afraid to tell it like it is. Now, he's throwing some (additional) shade at the show that helped make him famous. It turns out that he's not too happy about the winner of the most recent season. Here's what he had to say about the most recent season and designer Ashley Nell Tipton's winning collection.
This season, something different happened: Ashley Nell Tipton won the contest with the show's first plus-size collection. But even this achievement managed to come off as condescending. I've never seen such hideous clothes in my life: bare midriffs; skirts over crinoline, which give the clothes, and the wearer, more volume; see-through skirts that reveal panties; pastels, which tend to make the wearer look juvenile; and large-scale floral embellishments that shout 'prom.' Her victory reeked of tokenism. One judge told me that she was 'voting for the symbol' and that these were clothes for a 'certain population.' I said they should be clothes all women want to wear. I wouldn't dream of letting any woman, whether she's a size 6 or a 16, wear them. Simply making a nod toward inclusiveness is not enough.
Woo, boy. Did Tim Gunn just trash that winning fashion collection, or what? The man is not happy people, and his editorial, which was written for The Washington Post, makes it abundantly clear that he thinks the whole fashion industry is missing the boat on clothes for plus size women. And, unfortunately, he also believes that the collection that won Project Runway is a symptom of that problem.
Tim Gunn starts his article by talking about how the fashion industry as a whole is more apt to ignore plus size customers than to try to cater to what happens to be the largest percentage of American women who buy clothes. He's actually got lots to say about how fashion is to blame for giving plus size women crappy clothes to choose from, as opposed to this being a problem of those women not knowing how to buy the right clothes for themselves. Then, the conversation dovetails, as I supposed it must, into the record breaking win for Ashley Nell Tipton in Season 14 of Project Runway. Tipton was the first to win the contest with a collection for plus size women, but Gunn, obviously, feels that she didn't quite deserve it because the clothes don't represent things that all women would want to wear. Take a look at some of her offerings.
OK, well, Tim Gunn is certainly right about the crop tops, the pastels and the see-my-panties skirts. Even though I'd never wear it as-is, I do think the middle ensemble is kinda cute, but my opinion isn't the issue here. Gunn feels the win wasn't a vote for the best collection, but a simple vote for its-time-a-plus-collection-wins-this-show, meaning that "tokenism" is the right phrase to use when referencing Tipton's win. The fact that someone actually told him they voted for her based on that idea is pretty damning.
Ah, well. Let's hope that Tim Gunn's words get through to people in the fashion industry, and especially to those who vote on Project Runway collections. Gunn will be super pissed if he has to have this same complaint about the show after Season 15, which starts up on Lifetime on September 15. Come on fashion people, make it work.