A finalist on Project Runway Season 6, Althea Harper is a successful fashion designer and entrepreneur managing both ALTHEA HARPER as well as a new a baby line, Lilias & Love. She also recaps Project Runway episodes and is a brand ambassador for Rowenta. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
When I heard that Tim Gunn was coming out with a book about mentoring I was extremely excited and eager to read. He was such a positive presence and motivating force from my time on Project Runway. I often get asked the question about how “real” my experience was on the show: Was the show rigged? Do they only let the crazy personalities stay? Do you have a script? I always defend the integrity of the show and that is because of Mr. Gunn.
Tim Gunn would always take the time to give legitimate feedback that reminded me of my experience from teachers in college. He would not ask questions about the drama of the contestants but kept it focused on the garment. He would never give suggestions that would change your personal style but rather ask questions and create scenarios that would make you look further and therefore enhance your garment. Tim Gunn would be in the workroom referencing historical fashion moments, balancing out the guest judges that had no knowledge of construction or fabric.
One of my favorite things about Tim’s teaching style is that, when critiquing a garment, he would often use references that had absolutely nothing to do with fashion. This pushes designers to look beyond current trends and style and gain inspiration from history, nature, and architecture. I remember when I was creating a St Tropez-inspired garment and referenced a Brigitte Bardot movie, he not only knew the movie but also pointed out a particular point of the movie that gave me a great idea for the garment. It inspired me to continue to learn and take in information, not only continue to educate myself but also enhance my creativity.
I also appreciated his honesty during my time on Project Runway. There is a reason that every time a designer receives a great critique from Tim they are ecstatic. It is because you know that it is sincere. Tim will let you know if thinks something is not coming together or if he is not seeing the inspiration. He will let you know bluntly but he will always finish with encouragement. “Make It Work” has become such a positive and uplifting catch phrase because of the way that Tim would assess a disastrous situation and offer hope for a better outcome. I felt like Tim was my biggest cheerleader while on the show and yet he never gave any designer favoritism. I think he was so successful at this because of his sincerity and honesty.
I have enjoyed reading Tim’s new book, The Natty Professor because I know that he exemplifies the type of mentor that I would like to be to my daughter, my family, and my friends. His honesty, suggestions and personal stories have created a great guide to not only teachers, but also parents and professionals.