For those of us who are obsessed with Project Runway, airing Wednesdays on Bravo, it’s easy to get distracted by the glamour of Heidi Klum or the frenzy among the designers during their challenges. But it’s the style of the show’s mentor, Tim Gunn, that is really off the hook. Actually, make that off the rack.
For someone who’s been such an integral part of American fashion for the past three decades — he’s been a teacher, dean and now department chair at Parsons The New School for Design — it’s surprising to hear where he does most of his shopping.
“I love Banana Republic,” says Gunn, who is also the host of Bravo’s Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style along with supermodel Veronica Webb. “Their clothes are well-tailored, and because of their volume they can produce clothing that is easily worth 30 percent more.”
That’s not to say he doesn’t wear other labels such as Hugo Boss and John Bartlett — who was recently named the new menswear designer for Liz Claiborne, for which Gunn is Chief Creative Officer — but a significant portion of his wardrobe came right off the Banana Republic racks.
“I’m always in favor of budget shopping,” says Gunn, whose 2007 book Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style led to Bravo giving him Guide to Style. “And when it comes to shirts, every shirt I wear is from Banana — with the exception of tuxedo shirts, which are from Brooks Brothers.”
The Gunn uniform, which fans recognize as a black or charcoal suit jacket over a white dress shirt with matching suit pants or jeans, can be found entirely in one place. That’s refreshing.
“I need to look a certain way for the designers,” he says. “I’m their port in the storm. … I’ve been teaching for 29 years. I realized I needed to dress a certain way. I’m the grown-up; I’m the teacher. I want to be accessible, not off-putting.
“And black and charcoal has a sophistication to it, a crispness to it,” Gunn adds. “It resonates with me.”
Gunn, who is always in a jacket, leans toward the two-button center vent versions from Banana but also has its three-buttoned version in his closet. His advice is to buy two pairs of pants with the jacket to account for “laundry days.” And those pants must be flat-front with no cuffs.
“Men, just like women, want to look longer and leaner,” Gunn says. “Pleats and cuffs just don’t look modern enough.”
And while his shirts all feature traditional collars and barrel cuffs, he has been known to mix it up in the color department, working blues and pinks into the rotation — again, all from Banana. When he decides to pair the look with jeans, he chooses a dark, slimmer, straighter look from Hugo Boss, Levi’s (regular 501s), Banana Republic and Lucky Brand, his current favorite. For footwear, his budget gets stretched — he recommends shoes from Hugo Boss and Cole Haan that run around $300.