YES, REALLY. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to interview both Nina Garcia and Tim Gunn. Although overall yesterday was a pretty good day (nice weather! productive meetings! bang trim!) speaking to Nina and Tim was the highlight of the day week month. Here’s what Nina had to say…

 

How did the judges go about deciding a winner, based on the differences you felt for the samples?
Nina
: I think the pre-finale show was a wakeup call to the designers. At the finale they really step it up and there will be a clear and definite winner. It wasn’t so much of a disagreement towards the finale, or at least, I didn’t think so. For me there was a very clear winner.

What qualities do you think the winning collections  tend to share?
Nina
: At the end of the day, clothes are meant to be in a store; they’re not for a museum. It has to be a stand out collection; it has to have creativity. At the same time it has to have wearability. You want to aspire to own it, but at the same time be able to see yourself wearing it.

What did you see from each of the finale designers that made you think that they were the ones to watch?
Nina
: They all brought very different things to the table. Fabio is one of those very conceptual, modern designers. Dmitry is very architectural and very skilled as a tailor. Christopher is also very technically skilled and makes garments look very light when they’re not. Melissa loves separates, and that is so important when you’re putting together a collection. She has a very easy and urban attitude to her clothes.

What did you first think when you were approached to be a judge on Project Runway?
Nina:
I thought it was a crazy idea and that nobody would be interested! But I knew Heidi and Michael very well and knew I’d be in good company. Heidi brings the model perspective, Michael his designer perspective, and I bring an editorial perspective. And, of course, Tim Gunn is a perfect mentor.

Have you ever had times when the guest judge is not helpful?
Nina
: Yes that has happened. I will not name names, but some guest judges are skeptical about hurting designers’ feelings. But this is a show about giving constructive criticism and helping them through your observations. Some judges feel very uncomfortable with doing that.

Over ten seasons of the show we’ve seen some heartbreaking elimination. Are there any decisions that you would change?
Nina
: No, not really. Although sometimes we will be at home watching [an episode], and we see a personality that is despicable, yet we’ve given them a very good review. As judges, we don’t see what happens behind the scenes. Had I known how this person behaved, it would have swayed my perception of them, but in the end I am only there to judge them on their clothes. The behind the scenes [drama] doesn’t even factor in to our deliberations about them.

How long is the typical judges’ deliberation?
Nina
: It takes a good two hours. You just see little snippets of it!

Which is your favorite season?
Nina:
The very first. It’s like our baby. We were all creating a phenomenal show without even realizing it, and it came from a place of genuine interest for all of us. I think that’s why it struck such a cord.

Which Project Runway designer’s clothes have you worn yourself?
Nina
: I’ve worn some Christina Siriano, Kimberly’s winning look for the Marie Claire challenge, and some other pieces here and there.

Based on your feelings earlier in the season were you at all surprised by who made it to the finale?
Nina
: I was. If you had asked me at the beginning of the season, I would have pointed out two other designers that kind of lost aim throughout the process. The other thing that was very distracting is that we had some very colorful personalities starting this season. When you have that kind of personality it can cloud other people’s work. But as the show goes on and you see the designers’ work, skill set, determination, and how tenacious they are, you start to see the clear winners.

You often point out when a piece does not look expensive. What can a designer do to make a garment look more luxe?
Nina:
It’s about the combinations, the finishing of the clothes, the fabrics that they choose. We don’t give them a lot of money to go shop at Mood. I’m always stressing it needs to look finished. and well put together. That is a reality that we are living in right now – we can buy things that are fashionable but don’t necessarily cost a lot of money. It just needs to look well-made.

I’m not sure how well Project Accessory was received, but do you think that a show like Project Stylist would be well received?
Nina
: I certainly do. I think it would be a great idea.

Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in auditioning for the show?
Nina
:  Put together a very concise collection or portfolio of your collection. Be very motivated, focused, and articulate when you present it.

Do you stay in touch with any of the designers from any of the past seasons?
Nina
: Yes. They sometimes come to the magazine. They will show me their collections. A lot of them reach out.

What do you owe to the show’s long-time success?
Nina
: I think there’s great chemistry between the judges. We come from a place of real genuine care for the talent and betterment of the designers. We appreciate their work, and I think that that’s part of the success of the show, that authenticity comes across on TV.

And do you want to be part of the show for as long as it goes on?
Nina
: Well, we’ll see. I’m not going to be there in a wheelchair. I mean we joke about it that we’re going to be like 20 years from now, “Oh hi, Michael. Please push my wheelchair.”

What can you tell us about season eleven?
Nina
: A lot of surprises! There will be some twists and turns and surprises in store but they’re all good.

See Part 2 with Tim