Tim Gunn, the endearingly flamboyant and uncle-ish co-host of Bravo’s Project Runway and Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, told The Daily Transom last night that he spent most of his life masking his sexuality.
“I’ve grown into feeling safer and safer, but there were times when I didn’t at all,” the now-out-of-the-closet television star said—nearly resting his chin on his clavicle—at a benefit for Safe Horizon, which supports victims of violence.
“I didn’t even really come out until I was thirty. So for me personally, it means a great deal. I can talk about the kinds of hostility that I’ve received and the forms of abuse I received when I was a teen and a young adult”—he paused and looked skyward—“it’s what drove me right back into the closet, frankly. It was an inhospitable reception.”
Mr. Gunn, the seemingly ubiquitous 54-year-old creative director of Liz Claiborne Inc.—a multi-billion-dollar company that, until he left his chair at the New School to become the company’s baron of bandbox, conveyed more suburban-geek than city-chic—was wearing a Ted Baker tuxedo fashioned, rather fittingly, from Kevlar. (“So it’s a safe tux. Isn’t that wild!” he laughed, pulling at his cuffs.)
Switching gears slightly, Mr. Gunn donned a facial expression of theatrical heartbreak and mentioned a certain “big celebrity” he knows. The unnamed star, he said, simply couldn’t bring herself to end an abusive marriage. She would repeatedly move in with her mother—children in tow—only to go back with the belligerent a few days later. “It just begs the question: What is it within our whole psychological makeup that allows for that and enables it?” he pressed in a warm baritone.
Sitting with his legs crossed and his eyes peering over the tops of frameless glasses, Mr. Gunn would lean closer as the topic of conversation turned decidedly serious. “When it’s in your house, you feel shame and huge embarrassment,” he said, adding: “It’s like, ‘Let’s not air the dirty laundry; I’d rather just pretend nothing ever happened and move on.’”
Bravo hasn’t yet asked the natty designer to sign on for a second season of Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, in which he co-stars with an often-awkward Veronica Webb, the ever-radiant former supermodel. (He hadn’t seen her since wrapping the show, but they reunited at last night’s party, which was held on the Hudson River at Chelsea’s Pier 60.)
Whether or not Guide to Style jumps the shark, Mr. Gunn assured us that the other wings of his professional house are hopping. “We’re in the midst of rebuilding the whole company,” he said of Liz Claiborne. “And while on the one hand there are lots of terrifying aspects to [major change], if we don’t move on it, if we don’t aggressively go after change, we—like any other company—will just have had it,” he said, unfurling his arms to punctuate the gravity of his conviction.
“I couldn’t be more excited about where we’re going to be when we reposition all of this,” he beamed. “It’s a really thrilling ride.”