Tim Gunn chats with TV Week about the second season of his latest TV offering

A revered figure in the fashion world for decades at New York’s prestigious Parsons School of Design, Tim Gunn became a bona-fide pop-culture icon in 2004 while serving as a mentor on TV fashion competition Project Runway, where he spent 16 seasons encouraging budding designers to “make it work.”

Making the CutAmazon Prime VideoSince March 2020, Gunn and his Project Runway bestie Heidi Klum have been hosting a style battle all their own on Amazon Prime. Now in season two, Making the Cut finds a diverse array of fashionistas competing to become the next great global fashion brand, while giving competitors a leg up by making their creations available for viewers to purchase via Amazon after each episode.

TV Week: Travelling to these grand locations like New York, Tokyo and Paris was such a big part of season one. In season two, you had to create your own “fashion bubble” in L.A. How has that changed things?
We’d already done scouting for season two globally and then this pandemic hit. And we knew we couldn’t travel [but] we still had a greenlight to do the show from Amazon Studios and we thought, well, we’re going to do this no matter what. So we thought since we can’t go around the world, let’s bring designers from around the world and we’ll be stationary in one place. And thankfully, our fantastic team found a wonderful venue that has all these different venues within it. So when you see the show, it actually looks as though we do travel... because the fashion show settings are so different.

A lot of reality competitions tend to be full of drama, but this show is such a pure celebration of talent...
Yes, Heidi [Klum] and I wouldn’t be on board if this were a show that created drama. As a matter of fact, whenever there is a little bit of drama or you sense that it’s brewing, I do all that I can to extinguish it, because the designers don’t do their best work. There’s enough stress, there’s enough tension without adding in emotional or psychological assaults on people.

Do you feel your background in education informs your TV work?
Oh, well, my background in education has made me who I am. It was there that I was able to hone how I talk to—well, in the case of being a teacher—how I talk to my students. I learned quickly that if you are perceived to be mean-spirited or harshly critical or harshly judgmental, your students discredit you. And then anything you have to say to them just doesn’t enter their ears. It’s counterproductive.

When you first made the transition to TV, was it awkward at all?
It was extremely awkward. I was a consultant on Project Runway; I was never intended to be on camera. The producers shoved me into the workroom the day that the designers arrived and said, “Go in there and ask them what they’re doing.” And I was very aware of the camera placement. There was a camera on me, there was a camera on the designer and you never saw us together. And I was like, “Oh, I get it. As long as they have the designers responding to me, no one needs to hear my voice, no one needs to see me.” I honestly thought I would never end up in the cut of the show. So when the show came out and there I was, no one was more shocked than I was.

What advice would you give to someone who isn’t all that fashionable and wants to up their game?
Well, go to a brick-and-mortar store and try things on and look in the mirror. I’m ambivalent about whether one should do this alone or with a partner, because I think having someone with you can help push you out of that comfort zone... And I have to tell you, I’m a great example of that. I was wearing plain, baggy Banana Republic suits. And I had a small role in the Smurfs movie, and the costumer [Rita Ryack] said, “Your clothes aren’t good enough for this movie. Meet me at this tailor.” And I had a fit in the dressing room because she was dressing me like this, the way I now dress. “I can’t mix all these patterns! This looks ridiculous. I look like I just got out of the circus”... [But] I’ve been dressing like this ever since. So it can happen to me too, and I resisted hugely.

Making the Cut streams Fridays on Amazon Prime Video