Tim Gunn

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Biography

Sophisticated, silver haired design guru Tim Gunn became an unlikely breakout celebrity at the age of 51 when he debuted as the fashion mentor on Bravo's reality fashion design contest, "Project Runway" (2004- ). The urbane, dryly witty man in black was previously known in academic design circles for his 25-plus years at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, a premier institution for art and design. But it was his presence as the …
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Job Title

Actor

Born

July 29, 1953

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Sophisticated, silver haired design guru Tim Gunn became an unlikely breakout celebrity at the age of 51 when he debuted as the fashion mentor on Bravo's reality fashion design contest, "Project Runway" (2004- ). The urbane, dryly witty man in black was previously known in academic design circles for his 25-plus years at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, a premier institution for art and design. But it was his presence as the stern but lovable guide to the fashion boot campers on "Project Runway" that turned him into a recognizable personality and a respected tastemaker for the masses. In the wake of Gunn's "Runway" success, he authored A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style and was granted his own spin-off show, "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style" (Bravo, 2007- ).

Tim Gunn was born in Washington, D.C. in 1953 - the fifth generation son to a decidedly non-arts-oriented family. His father, George William Gunn, was an assistant director at the F.B.I., while his mother, Nancy, was an establishing force of the C.I.A. library. As a kid, the yet-undiagnosed artist Tim was introverted and quiet, due in part to a stutter. He had little interest in sports and social activities and preferred spending time reading, playing piano, and building Legos. His non-social behavior resulted in his being transferred to a dozen different schools until, at the age of 20, he figured out that design was his calling. A whole new life began. He enrolled at the Corcoran College of Art+Design, graduating with a BFA in sculpture in 1976. After graduation, he stayed on at the school, teaching 3-dimensional design and working in the admissions office. In 1983, he landed a job in the admissions office at Parsons The New School of Design and relocated to the fashion and art mecca of New York City.

By 1983, Gunn had worked his way up to Associate Dean at Parsons, and over the next 17 years, he helped develop new academic programs and launch Parsons affiliates overseas in Paris, Korea, Japan, and the Dominican Republic. In 2000, he was appointed Chair of the Fashion Design Department, and given the Herculean task of retooling a curriculum that had been unchanged since the 1950s. Under his creative direction, the department itself was redesigned and re-invigorated, drawing industry attention to young talent and refreshing the school's overall reputation as one of the leading design programs in the world.

In 2004, when Bravo executives sought consultation on the development of a fashion design reality show, Gunn was on their short list. After several meetings, producers knew that Gunn's wealth of design knowledge, history of student guidance, and his serious yet endearing personality were just what they needed to sew the whole show up. Surprisingly, they made an unplanned casting addition to the show. After a sluggish start, the show - which pitted 12 aspiring fashion designers against one another in unique design challenges - became a sensation, with the season one finale pulling in 2.5 million viewers. Gunn was a central figure in the competition, personally interacting with designers throughout the show to offer constructive guidance. Before long Gunn had become an unlikely pop culture icon, due in no small part to the sayings he had unwittingly unleashed into catch phrases - "Make it work," and "Carry on!" being the most memorable. The show returned for three more seasons, shooting during the month of August when Gunn was available, as he was still working at Parsons.

In February of 2007, Gunn accepted an offer from Liz Claiborne to join the staff as its Chief Creative Officer, where his role would be creative advisor and sounding board for Claiborne's 45 different labels, in addition to developing and scouting new talent. April of the same year saw the release of A Guide to Quality, Taste, and Style, a book he co-wrote with Kate Moloney, Assistant Fashion Chair at Parsons. Later in the year Bravo debuted Gunn's own show, "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style," where the impeccable one would offer help to the fashionably clueless. He also moved into scripted series, appearing on two episodes of the telenovela adaptation "Ugly Betty" (ABC 2006-2010) as a TV fashion reporter. In 2010, he began making occasional appearances on "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS 2005-2014) as the tailor of the suit-obsessed Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris). An attempt to follow the success of the food-themed "The Chew" (ABC 2011- ) with a more general lifestyle series called "The Revolution" (ABC 2012) featured Tim as one of the five co-hosts, but the poorly-reviewed show received low ratings and was canceled quickly.

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