Tag Archives: designer

Off the runway, honorary AIDS Walk chair Tim Gunn is a teacher and activist

For the 25th year of AIDS Walk Wisconsin, the state’s largest HIV/AIDS fundraiser has invited Project Runway mentor and co-host Tim Gunn to serve as the event’s honorary chair. Gunn will meet with LGBT youth in Milwaukee, join an auction winner for a private dinner and, of course, walk the walk, on Oct. 12.

In advance of his appearance in Milwaukee, WiG spoke to Gunn about his time on Project Runway and his lifelong activism against HIV/AIDS.

How did you get involved with AIDS Walk Wisconsin? I’ve been very active in the AIDS Walk New York and AIDS causes, and they knew that. I’m very passionate about this cause, and I’m so proud to participate in the Wisconsin AIDS Walk, because Wisconsin has been so successful working with AIDS and with spreading the word and helping people get treatment. It’s wonderful. And very inspiring.

How long have you been involved with AIDS-related campaigns? Oh, boy. Well, I’m trying to think of how long it’s been in New York. I’ve been there since the beginning; I can’t even remember. And I’ve only missed one, since it’s been happening in New York, because of business travel.

Why are events like the AIDS Walk still important? Well, it’s about awareness. So many people think, “Oh, AIDS, there’s cures. I can be sexually irresponsible, and it’s not going to come back and bite me.” And in fact AIDS still kills people, and it can be very debilitating. If I sound preachy, I talk to young people about this all the time and they roll their eyes. And I say to them, “Wake up! You need to understand this. This is very serious, and it’s so easily avoided.”

Is that a way in which the purpose of these walks has changed over time? Oh, yes. Every year I see an erosion of concern about AIDS. And it troubles me tremendously. 

You’ve been a mentor on Project Runway for 13 seasons. What’s it been like? It’s a phenomenon, and I love every second of it. Season 13 for me is just as fresh, if not fresher, because we’ve reinvented so many things. I’d say it’s fresher than Season 1. And the opportunity to be able to work with these phenomenal designers — of whom I’m in total awe, to be completely honest — it’s a joy and an honor, and I consider it to be a privilege that I don’t take for granted. 

I’ll also say one of the things I’m proudest of about Project Runway is that it’s demystified for so many people what the fashion industry is. Prior to Project Runway, it was covered in this veil of mystery, and to be honest, the industry liked it. They liked that people thought it was so glamorous and so exotic and so elite. And we ripped the veil off and said: “Look at it. It’s dirty, it’s gritty, it’s daunting and unless you have an unconditional love for this industry, don’t go into it.”

Did you expect the show to run this long? I never dreamed there’d be a Season 2! You know, I was never intended to be on camera; I was a consultant. The designers arrived, and the producers were, I deduced, terrified that no one would speak in the workroom. So they sort of shoved me in there and said, “Go ask them questions about what they’re doing.”

This year, you hosted Under the Gunn, a different sort of reality fashion competition in which new designers worked on teams with Project Runway alumni. How did that come about? Heidi and I have a pinky pact, and the pact is: We will not do a season of Project Runway without the other. And Lifetime came to us and said, “We want to do another season of the show (in early 2014).” Heidi said, “I can’t,” and they came to me and I said, “Well, I won’t. … I’m able to, but I have a pact with Heidi and I won’t do it.” So they fell back and regrouped, and went to our fabulous Project Runway showrunner Sara Rea, and came up with this new concept. Which I loved. I loved it.

Do you think you’ll be asked to produce another season? To be honest, I don’t think so. Lifetime was disappointed in the ratings. All of us who worked on it loved it, but ratings rule these days. Unless you have something substantial, it’s just not going to come back. I’m disappointed, but I’m also used to this world. I get it.

Is there anything else you’ve been working on off-camera? I have a new book that’s about my career as an educator. It’ll come out in late March. And I’m the very proud voice of Baileywick the butler on Disney’s Sofia the First. And that’s been a huge amount of fun. I’m a lucky guy. I say that every day.

Did you ever anticipate an on-camera career like this for yourself? Oh, never. Never, never, never. I thought I would retire at Parsons (The New School for Design, where he taught). I never dreamed of leaving. I didn’t leave because of Project Runway. I left because another opportunity presented itself, but I was there for 24 years. That’s my world, academia. I’m still on an academic calendar. For me, the year starts the day after Labor Day. I never dreamed of it. And as I said, when the Project Runway producers contacted me, it was never to be on camera, it was to be their consultant. And I was, for a good eight months. 

So no, this is a phenomenon. And it happened after I turned 50! I pinch myself every day. It’s surreal.

Aids walk wisconsin

The 25th annual AIDS Walk Wisconsin and 5K Run is on Oct. 12 at the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee. The 5K Run begins at 10:15 a.m., while the walk begins at 12:30 p.m. Run registration is $30, $35 day-of; the walk is free with pledges encouraged. For more, visit aidswalkwis.org.

In Skylight’s ‘Cinderella,’ couture makes the character

Fashion takes center stage in Skylight Music Theatre’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Cinderella).

Couture designer Cesar Galindo, whose CZAR line of dresses was warmly received earlier this month at New York Fashion Week, is the costumer responsible for this fashion-forward production of the most popular operatic rendition of the Cinderella myth. Galindo also has designed for Dolce & Gabbana and Calvin Klein.

A Houston native who began by designing corsets and period costumes for the Miami City Ballet and the Houston Grand Opera, Galindo is a personal friend of Skylight artistic director Viswa Subbaraman. The pair had wanted to work together for some time and La Cenerentola, recast as a 21st-century fairytale, was the perfect vehicle, Galindo says.

“The first thing that came to mind was the ball scene, which as a designer was an exciting thing for me,” Galindo notes. The resulting scene is largely inspired, he adds, by Truman Capote’s infamous Black and White Ball.

In 1966, when Capote was at the height of his fame and financial success following the publication of In Cold Blood, the out author finally was able to throw the type of party he felt would attract the socialites he was trying to court. The result was the Black and White Ball, a masquerade held at New York City’s Plaza Hotel in honor of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham.

The event, on which Capote spent an estimated $16,000 (more than $113,000 in today’s dollars), became the benchmark for New York social events for years to come. 

In La Cenerentola, the Capote-inspired ball scene becomes a dramatic monochromatic moment in a show Galindo otherwise describes as a Technicolor riot of excess. 

At the center of that excess are Clorinda (Erin Sura) and Tisbe (Kristen DiNinno), the two wicked stepsisters. They suffer from a hoarding disorder and an obsession with wearing the latest fashions — often all at once and regardless of pattern or color palette. They also smoke and drink gratuitously throughout the performance, which Galindo says bears testament to their moral weakness.

“We were very ‘AbFab’ when it came to the sisters,” says Galindo, referring to the 1990s BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous starring Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French. “This is, after all, an adult take on Cinderella.”

Rather than a wicked stepmother, Rossini’s version features Don Magnifico (Andy Pappas), a wicked stepfather whose wardrobe follows a level of excess as well, largely in how poorly it fits. He is rarely seen without a cigar in his mouth.

The wardrobes for the Cinderella character Angelina (Sishel Claverie) and the prince Don Ramiro (Luke Grooms) follow a deliberately different color palette, one that’s more tempered, clean and “preppie,” Galindo says. Their more conventional wardrobes, which reflect the characters’ virtue, are the opposite of the sisters’ gaudy couture.

“Angelina is a simple girl that we’ve dressed in a simple pastel palette that’s very Ralph Lauren,” Galindo says.

The home in which the characters interact contains many archive pieces from Galindo’s own studio. Ramshackle walls are styled to represent the characters’ moral decay. It’s a set deliberately at odds with the costumes, which are “very couture, glam and over the top,” the designer says.

Galindo may be better known for his dress designs than his costumes, but he says he enjoys theater work — even though it requires a more collaborative approach. “You have to learn how to work together,” he says. “After all, there is a show to be had and that’s everyone’s first priority.”

On stage

Skylight Music Theatre’s season-opening production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola runs Sept. 19-Oct. 5 in the Broadway Theatre Center’s Cabot Theatre. For more information visit skylightmusictheatre.org.

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‘Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston’

If you can overlook writer/director Whitney Sudler-Smith’s unnecessary and self-indulgent intrusiveness, his doc “Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston” is informative, enjoyable and respectful of its topic. Smith’s search includes marvelous period film footage. His interviews with such high profile subjects as (Halston muse) Liza Minnelli, right-wing socialite and impresario Georgette Mosbacher, designers Diane Von Furstenberg, Anjelica Huston, Billy Joel and others provide the fabric as well as the stitching.

The legendary Halston (born Roy Halston Frowick) was one of the greatest fashion designers of the fashion-frenzied 1970s, and his legacy continues. With matinee idol looks and glamour and influence to spare, Halston lived large. He was the kid from the Midwest with whom celebrities wanted to hang out.

A celebrated representative of the excesses of the ’70s and ’80s, visionary Halston is credited with many fashion innovations. Ultrasuede, for instance, was a polyester fiber made in Japan that allowed him to marry practicality with luxury. He developed ready-to-wear lines at both Bergdorf-Goodman and JC Penney and opened the first modern couture establishment in America. He is credited with bringing minimalism to fashion. He was a pioneer for (and also a victim of) licensing, as well as a trendsetter in the field of fragrances.

Equally as legendary as his design sense was Halston’s love of nightlife. A regular habitué of Studio 54, Halston could count himself among Andy Warhol’s entourage. The dinner parties he threw in his stunning Manhattan home also are the stuff of legends. Halston was the king of New York when hedonism was chic. 

Unfortunately, Halston was also the king of bad decisions. High on that list was his relationship with artist Victor Hugo. Considered key in Halston’s downfall, Hugo ranks with Minnelli as one of the more colorful personalities in the late designer’s life.

Even though Halston died of AIDS complications at 57, his signature lives on. Anyone interested in learning more about the designer and his contributions to culture will enjoy “Ultrasuede.” DVD bonus features include a deleted scene, an interview with Smith and more.

HRC partners with Marc Jacobs for T-shirt

The Human Rights Campaign has announced a new partnership with gay designer and activist Marc Jacobs for the Little Marc Jacobs children’s line of clothing.

HRC and LMJ are selling T-shirts that offer a modern family take on an old tradition – one parent telling a kid to go ask the other parent. The T-shirt slogans read, “If Mom says no, go ask Mom” and “If Dad says no, go ask Dad.”

Constructed of 100 percent organic cotton, the infant and toddler T-shirts are available in unisex sizes.

But there are only 200 available online at shop.hrc.org, at HRC stores in Provincetown, Mass., San Francisco and Palm Springs, Calif., and Washington, D.C. and at the Marc Jacobs store in New York City.

The shirts, retailing at $35 each, raise money for HRC.

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