Tricks of the Fashion Trade
By: Sharon Mosley
Want to know some of the inside scoop from fashion insiders who may know that the “Devil Wears Prada,” but oh … so much more? How about what it’s like to live with fashion editors and designers with egos as enormous as the next BIG thing?
Well, now the inimitable Tim Gunn has filled an entire book with dishy stories of drama queens and divas from Vogue’s Andre Leon Talley being hand-fed grapes to Anna Wintour being carried down the stairs to Isaac Mizrahi’s outburst about an elevator attendant wearing brown. But the “Project Runway” mentor has much more to talk about in his latest book, “Gunn’s Golden Rules” (Simon and Schuster, $23.99, 2010).
“The advice I give most often is to ‘make it work,'” he says. “It’s a philosophy I’ve followed my whole life, and I credit it with all the wonderful and surprising success I’ve had as a TV personality, teacher and writer. What ‘make it work’ means is that you should use whatever tools you have at your disposal to create something that you’re proud of and that gets the job done.”
While Gunn is never one to mince words — whether he is working with prima donna designers on “Project Runway” or his former students at Parsons School of Design who “couldn’t function without their parents’ help” — the fashion guru has written a book on “what constitutes a life well lived” by focusing on 12 “rules” of good manners.
“These rules are what I’ve always tried to impart to my students,” he says, “and have tried to follow in my own career and social life … Good manners lead to better relationships, more career success and less personal stress.”
Here are Gunn’s top five “golden rules” for “making it work”:
— One: “Make It Work,” of course. It’s the mantra Gunn has made famous, even when he was very young and faced a very problematic childhood in Washington, D.C.
“I had to face up to whatever it was that I didn’t want to deal with — my homework, an angry parent, a fight with a friend — rather than just trying to put it off until it went away. Until you address them, I have since learned, such problems never truly vanish.”
— Two: “The World Owes You … Nothing.” A few juicy stories about the fashion elite at Vogue: “When I see what a bubble they’re all living in, how detached from reality they are, how much money and time is wasted in the course of their work, I worry about the example it sets for people coming up in the fashion world, a world that — let’s face it — is now a lot more crowded and a lot less moneyed that it has been in years past.”
— Three: “Take the High Road.” One piece of advice Gunn recently gave a group of high school students is: “Listen and listen intently when you’re being spoken to about something. Take the high road. When presented with frustration or anger or discontentment with a situation or a person, don’t reduce yourself to that level. Don’t get into a conflict in that moment. You’ll feel better about yourself for it.”
— Four: “Don’t Abuse Your Power — or Surrender It.” Even in the fashion industry, there are certain rules, says Gunn. “As anyone who sticks around in an industry for a while knows, the people who have the best careers and the best lives (and often who do the best work) are not the demanding, screaming, flinging divas. They’re the people who take their ego out of it and put all that energy into their creative life.”
— Five: “Get inspired if it kills you.” It will only make you a better person, according to Gunn. “I don’t enjoy people who think they have it all figured out, because I certainly don’t. I like the idea of always learning. Always. If you’re not learning, what makes you want to get up in the morning? Why wake up if you have it all figured out? People who coast are not having any fun. It’s almost dangerous. People around you are still working and pushing themselves. If you don’t keep up, it doesn’t matter how advanced you were when the race started — you’re not going to win it.”
Sharon Mosley is a former fashion editor of the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock and executive director of the Fashion Editors and Reporters Association. To find out more about Sharon Mosley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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