Sunday, February 18, 2007

Arts: Project Runaway

After 25 Years, Tim Gunn Leaves The New School

By Cait McGinn & Photographed by Sam Lewis

Students and faculty alike were running a very fashionable five minutes late at last Tuesday’s meeting, set for noon at the Parsons building in the heart of the Fashion District. Tim Gunn emerged, wearing a stunning pinstriped suit. He announced to his predominantly ripped-denim-wearing student body his plans to leave the school for an executive position at Liz Claiborne, Inc.

News of Gunn’s resignation first emerged in a memo on February 1st to students of Parson’s fashion department. The memo closed with an invitation to Tuesday’s meeting urging students to voice their questions and concerns, given the abrupt nature of Gunn’s departure.

Gunn started his career at Parsons in 1982 and attained the title of associate dean in 1989. In 2000, he became chairman of the Fashion Department. Those familiar with the department agree that Gunn has lead Parsons to its highly acclaimed and rigorous reputation as one of the top design schools in the country.

In 2004, Gunn was yet again center stage when he accepted a lead role in the Bravo reality series, Project Runway. The reality show documents a team of amateur designers competing for $100,000 to start their own clothing line and the opportunity to host their own runway show for New York's Fashion Week. Gunn played mentor to the designers and consistently delivered his now famous catch phrase, “Make it work!” It has made him an intrinsic link to fashion know-how.

Pushing the microphone and podium aside, Gunn spoke warmly to students and staff about his departure. In a sympathetic and charismatic way, he expressed his love and admiration for the school, his coworkers, and most of all, his students. “You’re like my kids,” he said.

Gunn admitted that he was caught off guard by Liz Claiborne’s offer for chief creative officer, assuming that he would always be at Parsons. He “was never going anywhere else short of being expelled,” he said. He reassured students that everything would be “business as usual” after he left, promising a smooth transition into the final months of the spring semester, despite his absence.

Gunn’s explanation of his mid-semester exodus was brief, and made it clear that he would be embarking on a great professional opportunity, urging students that the change “would be good for all of us”. In his memorandum to students Gunn expressed enthusiasm for his upcoming work at Liz Claiborne, encouraging students by stating that he would utilize his corporate placement to recruit Parson’s graduates. Gunn’s duties as department chairman will come to an end next month.

Students asked about the fate of the department and the uncertainties that come along with an administrative head stepping down without naming a replacement. Students also expressed concern about a lack of space because of classroom and workspace overcrowding and expressed disquiet over their anticipating disruptive months in search of a replacement for Gunn.

When asked who would be taking his place Gunn responded, “We don’t know yet.”

No comments: