At the risk of being the hated magician who reveals the secrets of the world of magic, I am going to let you in on a little secret of the world of writing. Most non-fiction books “written” by your favorite television talk show hosts or self-help gurus are not, in fact, written by them at all. Most are written by a ghost writer, who remains anonymous, yet creates a voice of influence and expert knowledge for another person who gets all the credit.
And most “authors” are too prideful and egotistical to admit that they utilized a writer to develop their book. Fashion guru and television host Tim Gunn is not among them. In fact, he proudly and honestly shares the byline of his latest book with Ada Calhoun, former editor at Babble.com, author of “Instinctive Parenting: Trusting Ourselves to Raise Good Kids”, and co-author of “Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work”, which was just released in September. Gunn’s transparency makes me love him all that much more. Yes, the man has style, but he also has integrity, a topic that he highlights among the lessons in his book.
“God bless Ada Calhoun, because she was so critically important to the development of this book,” Gunn tells me during an exclusive one-on-one interview, just prior to a Lucky Brand fashion show at The Forum Shops, which Gunn co-hosts with Leah Salek, Director of Marketing and Special Events at Liz Claiborne, the brand that owns Lucky.
“Initially, I wanted to write about manners for the digital age. The motivation was to write an anecdote to bad behavior that’s in abundance around us. As I wrote it, I began to pepper it with a lot of personal stories, and then it became something very, very different,” Gunn explains.
In fact, “Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work” could be considered a list of examples on how not to behave, through which Gunn cites moments of bad behavior which he witnessed first-hand, including that of Anna Wintour, Andre Leon Talley and even himself (hey, we’re all human). “In many ways, the book is more of a manners cum memoir book than anything else,” elaborates Gunn. “I wrote it as though I was giving advice to young people in my office – advice on how to navigate the world with respect and responsibility. The core of the book is positive thinking and ‘take the high road.’ No matter how much you want to lash out at someone, hurl expletives at them, send them a nasty email, don’t do it. You’ll always regret it, and you’ll never regret taking the high road. Ever.”
As far as I am concerned, manners and polite behavior are part of the concept of style. Contrary to popular belief, style is not all about pretty shoes and expensive handbags. Gunn agrees, “Style is the whole package. You can be beautifully turned out, but if your behavior is such that you’re a hair shy of a primate, what difference does it make? It’s everything about us that figures into style.”
One thing that definitely does not figure into style for Gunn is a pair of Crocs. After watching the “Project Runway” star talk about his disdain for the plastic clogs on “Lopez Tonight,” I ask him what other products or trends he does not like. “I don’t want to see skin that I ordinarily wouldn’t see in any other place than the beach. A bare midriff? Never,” Gunn states. And while I am enjoying the resurgence of the 80s (I was too young to really enjoy it the first time around), Gunn is not. “The 80s constituted one of the worst decades of fashion. So to have a revival, for me, is just a little woeful.”
Feeling so grateful to be able to spend a few moments with Gunn, I express my thankfulness to him for recognizing bloggers as media. “You’re a huge part of the media,” confirms Gunn. “I take blogging very seriously. I pay attention to those that have integrity. When it’s really responsible journalism, it’s an incredible medium.”
After my interview with Gunn, I attend the Lucky Brand fashion show, featuring fall denim fashion and an abundance of attendees. They are surprised to see Gunn in a pair of jeans, but he gushes about the knowledge of the staff at Lucky. For example, he thought he knew his own jeans size, but he was wrong. “The expertise that exists in the store is phenomenal,” Gunn tells the audience.
Another tip that Gunn shares with the crowd is that when wearing camouflage, wear one item only. Do not attempt a head-to-toe look. “Or it loses it’s special-ness,” he says. Gunn also encourages female shoppers to experiment in the men’s department, “Think about menswear as a possibility.” One humorous incident during the show is when a male model sports his shirt half tucked in, half tucked out. Gunn makes the model tuck his entire shirt in. “What do you think?” he asks the audience, who cheer their approval. “I’m not a fan of that look,” he says.
During my interview, I learn that it is Gunn’s first trip to Las Vegas. I welcome him to my home and tell him of my mission to show the world that fashion does exist here. I ask for advice. “You’re very stylish. You clearly know who you are,” Gunn flatters me. “Just keep being true to who you are.” As candid as he is about the development of his book, and the information in it, Gunn personifies the advice he gives me. And I plan to follow it.
Visit Lucky Brand at The Forum Shops at 3500 Las Vegas Boulevard South. Purchase Tim Gunn’s book “Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work” at Amazon.com.