Tim Gunn

Tim Gunn, making it work. Photo courtesy of Lifetime

StyleList always wondered what might happen if beloved "Project Runway" mentor Tim Gunn traded places with the show's hyper-opinionated judges for a day. Turns out, the show's producers were curious too!

Gunn
reveals they approached him about taking a turn in the judges' circle for season 8, which begins July 29 on Lifetime, but he declined.

"I'm a believer in the separation of church and state," says Gunn, who will instead speak his mind in a series of one-on-one interviews to be used in the show's new, extended 90-minute format.

"I'll be my candid, honest, truth-telling self," he told reporters July 22.

Expect Liz Claiborne's chief creative officer to spend part of those chats venting about those "crack-smoking judges." Yes, he really called Heidi Klum, Michael Kors, and Nina Garcia that, complaining, "I've never witnessed a season where I felt so disabled by what the judges have decided."

Here are more of Gunn's insights.


He's a fan of himself
. Gunn confesses he collects DVDs of past "Project Runway" seasons and sometimes watches to reminisce. "I don't want you to think I'm totally obsessed," he says, "but I do enjoy reliving it."

He's not a fan of '80's fashion. The return of fashion and accessories from the '80s is a trend that does not work for Gunn. "I didn't particularly enjoy living through it," he says. But if you must indulge, be subtle. "You don't want to look too costume."

He's ad-dressing a personal passion. Gunn is performing fashion makeovers on five women suffering from moderate to severe psoriasis. (His sister has the painful autoimmune disorder.) "It really affects how these people present themselves to the world," Gunn notes, adding that sufferers tend to avoid wool and dark clothing because of telltale flaking. "One of the season 8 designers also has psoriasis," he says.

He likes to stay in touch. When former contestants give him a ring, he's happy to meet for coffee or wine. "I don't force myself on anyone, but I am happy to hear from them and enjoy it when they come to me for advice." No wonder season 7 winner Seth Aaron Henderson affectionately calls him "Papa Gunn."

He doesn't like a know-it-all. Gunn gets impatient when contestants don't listen to his design suggestions. This season, "there's a designer who takes it upon his or herself to add comments to my critiques, and I admit I get frustrated by it." He also takes umbrage when one of the designers plays "big bossy boots" on a group challenge.

He speaks his mind. In a rare moment this season, Gunn intervenes in deliberations when the judges misinterpret the intent of a design challenge. "There's a reason I call them the crack-smoking judges," he says. Whether they listen to Gunn is another matter.

He really does make it work. The catchphrase that helped make him a reality-TV icon originated when he was an instructor at Parsons School of Design. "I had a student who was going to throw an entire collection away, literally and metaphorically. I said, 'You're going to make it work!''" Now, however, "I invoke it only when necessary."

He likes the "Odd Couple." Gunn has his DVR set for the new Lifetime makeover show "On the Road with Austin & Santino" featuring "Project Runway" alum Austin Scarlett and Santino Rice. "It's one of the oddest pairings I can ever imagine. It's like Oscar Madison and Felix Unger."

For more "Project Runway" news, check out what host/judge Heidi Klum had to say about season 8 and her Emmy nomination.