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Tim Gunn Slams Fashion Industry for Its ‘Disdain,’ ‘Lack of Imagination’ for Plus-Size Styles

Tim Gunn
Tim Gunn

Not mincing any words. Tim Gunn slammed the fashion industry for ignoring plus-size women in an eloquent editorial for The Washington Post on Thursday, September 8, calling out designers for failing to think outside the box.

“I love the American fashion industry, but it has a lot of problems, and one of them is the baffling way it has turned its back on plus-size women,” the 63-year-old Project Runway mentor wrote. “It’s a puzzling conundrum. The average American woman now wears between a size 16 and a size 18, according to new research from Washington State University. … There is money to be made here ($20.4 billion, up 17 percent from 2013). But many designers — dripping with disdain, lacking imagination or simply too cowardly to take a risk — still refuse to make clothes for them.”

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According to Gunn, many of the industry’s top designers won’t create silhouettes for women who are curvier than the traditional model because “they say the plus-size woman is complicated, different and difficult, that no two size 16s are alike.”

The mindset is problematic, the TV personality writes, because this leaves a large percentage of the female population feeling excluded from the fashion industry for lack of options.

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“Based on my experience shopping with plus-size women, it’s a horribly insulting and demoralizing experience,” Gunn wrote. “Half the items make the body look larger, with features like rushing, box pleats and shoulder pads. Pastels and large-scale prints and crazy pattern-mixing abound, all guaranteed to make you look infantile or like a float in a parade.”

And even though Project Runway crowned Ashley Nell Tipton, the first contestant to show the competition's first plus-size collection, as the season 14 winner, he wasn't satisfied. "I've never seen such hideous clothes in my life," Gunn noted in his piece. "Her victory reeked of tokenism."

In summary, the fashion guru wrote, “a nod toward inclusiveness is not enough”; designers need to get creative and truly understand what looks best on curvier women.

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Project Runway Season 4 winner Christian Siriano expressed similar sentiments earlier this year when Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones complained via Twitter that no designers wanted to dress her for the film’s premiere.

"I love Leslie and I'm a huge fan of her work," Siriano said in a statement before they met in June. "I can't wait to create something special for her to wear. … I support all women no matter age or size!"

Season 15 of Project Runway kicks off on Thursday, September 15, at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime.

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