[10/02/08 - 12:02 AM]
Interview: "Guide to Style" Co-Hosts Tim Gunn & Gretta Monahan
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

Like the fine-tuning of someone's fashion style, Bravo's "Tim Gunn's Guide To Style" begins season two tonight with a little fine-tuning of its own. Tim Gunn has a new co-host in Gretta Monahan as well as a show with a quicker pace and efforts to dig deeper into why women dress the way they do. Talking to our Jim Halterman, Gunn and Monahan discussed the new and improved series with the same camaraderie that is evident onscreen.

After being aided by supermodel Veronica Webb in season one, Gunn is now paired with Monahan, who is a top celebrity stylist and brings a different element to the series, according to her co-host. "Gretta's a real woman," Gunn explained. "Gretta's petite. Gretta knows, as well as the people with whom we work, the kinds of challenges that she faces when shopping and when she's confronted with different silhouettes and when she looks at herself from the viewpoint of proportion of fit." There was also a relatability factor that figured into Monahan fitting into the philosophy of the series. "Gretta can empathize and Veronica Webb is a supermodel and she could break all the rules and still look absolutely fabulous. As for our subjects... Gretta has her feet planted firmly in the ground and there's a girlfriend element to Gretta... and with Veronica... she was on a pedestal. It was more difficult."

Besides his partner in crime, Gunn mentioned that there were other changes that are evident with the new season. "The fashion challenges that are presented to Gretta and me are a little more subtle, a little more nuanced. They're not quite the blunt instruments that you saw on Season 1 and we have women who have sensational figures and are beautiful but have issues with the clothes that they've been buying, clothing maintenance, grooming."

Gretta added, "Why the show is so useful and why it delves deeper in a more complex fashion actually in a good way is that you can easily see the cures and the cures to those situations and the fact that style is about the devil in the details there." She emphasized that one of her favorite parts of the show is that they are not merely throwing high fashion and design on each episode's participants. The participants, she said, " build it themselves with our help and coaching but the fact that you see this inner evolve of them feeling really aligned, both their style, their goals and basically their inner confidence."

One of the appeals of the show is the natural sense of humor that Gunn and Monahan bring to the series. With priceless reactions of surprise and funny quips along the way, are the two ever concerned with hurting the participant's feeling? "Gretta and I are very sensitive to people's sensitivities," Gunn pointed out. "It's only at a point of perhaps frustration, sometimes exasperation, when we feel a blunt instrument is really necessary."

Monahan added, "As we are going back and forth with one another, we are trying to dig up some humor... and sometimes for participants it's exactly the medicine they need." Recounting the experience with the current season's contestants, Monahan remarked "We've maybe shocked some people with honesty but I've never had anyone leave us and say they felt that we mistreated them or that we were mean, which I'm really proud of."

Outside of the advice of the two hosts, participants are also exposed to OptiTex, which takes a computer image of their shape and clothing choices and displays it on a 103-inch screen. With this technology, Gunn and the participants can get a better view as to what needs to be corrected. Gunn further explained, "OptiTex is actually a software program for fashion designers and I was introduced to it by the OptiTex founder, Yoram Burg, when I was at Parsons and I put it in the curriculum. And when we had 'Guide to Style,' I thought let's bring some new dimension of helping women really look at themselves objectively and what better way than OptiTex."

One of the primary lessons that the participants undertake in each episode is the shopping excursion they venture on while armed with Tim Gunn's Ten Essential Items List. The goal here is for Gunn and Monahan to teach the participants how to shop for themselves and to extinguish any anxiety surrounding purchasing the correct clothing. Monahan explains that her presence on the shopping trip is to only "assist them because by the time they get to the shopping they've had Tim in a one-on-one lesson. They've had their in-style visit. The shopping is all about exercising what they've learned. And it would be a two minute thing if we just swept through and grabbed all these things for them off of the racks."

Gunn also stated that he and Monahan have strong beliefs when it comes to critiquing someone's personal style. "Unless the style challenged individual were to come to us and declare that they need help," Gunn said, "we would never venture into their territory and say hey you, you need to change. You need to listen to us."

Case in point, when asked about a certain Vice President candidate, Gunn and Monahan each had something to say regarding the style of Sarah Palin. Gretta went first by saying "I've kind of been one of those people that would love to pull the glasses off and see the hair down. I just can't help it. You know, I own salons and boutiques and I would love to see her also just have a little bit of variation in her look. But, undoubtedly, you know, she's a very pretty woman and I think what people respond to is... it's very nice to see someone who is very feminine." Gunn, however, quipped, "All I can say is we should all brace ourselves for a Broadway revival of 'Annie Get Your Gun.'"

As for celebrities they both admire, Gunn stated, "I'm fond of saying that the person who I believe gets it right with sophistication and polish and an individual who is occasion appropriate is Angelina Jolie." However, Gunn also warned about the attention given to celebrities like Jolie at the red carpet events. "I say don't look at red carpet looks because it's not the real world. Look at how people pick up the kids at daycare or go shopping. It's much more of a gauge of someone's real style and how they navigate the real world. I applaud [Jolie's] style." Gunn cited another celebrity who he suggested women learn from. "Someone else who may be a little over the top in a way on the red carpet but who navigates her real life with style and panache is Sarah Jessica Parker."

In regards to the "Sex and the City" fashion icon, Monahan also said, "I definitely ooze when I see [her] out there looking cool having her little one on her hip. I see her in the neighborhood [in New York City] and I think it's really nice to have that aspirational quality to fashion and to style." Back to everyday women, though, she offered, "I just think that women need to really celebrate their own shape, look... everything about themselves. And I think style is available at any part of the country, in the world and at any price point."

Finally, with all the attention on women, what about the guys? Gunn and Monahan both expressed the desire to include men on the third season of "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style." Gunn did say, "The show is not an intervention so people need to contact us. And this goes through Bravo." He added, "We were really looking for a guy for Season 2 and from Bravo's perspective they were disappointed in who had contacted us and Gretta and I never even got a chance to review them. But for Season 3 I think we have to do it. But just in terms of getting your fashion right, the same three principles apply to men as to women and that's silhouette, proportion and fit."

Season 2 of "Tim Gunn's Guide To Style" kicks off tonight on Bravo at 11:00/10:00c.

  [october 2008]  


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