If you’re a fan of TIM GUNN, meaning you faithfully watch BRAVO-TV’s "PROJECT RUNWAY" and "Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style" –
you already know that he was hired away from the prestigious Parsons School of Design, where he was Chair of the Fashion Design Dept., by Liz Claiborne Inc. LCI created the position of Chief Creative Officer* for Gunn to discover & develop new talent there.
You also know that MACY’S famous 34th Street HQ (the heart of the classic movie, "Miracle on 34th Street", as well as its more recent re-make, plus the Broadway musical, "Here’s Love!") is the place where he brings his TV makeover clients to build a personally stylish wardrobe.
So Liz Claiborne Inc. didn’t have to look far to choose the venues in which to show off their treasured new CCO*. Macy’s Atlanta operation, however, underestimated his fan base, setting up 200 chairs when over 300 people showed up -and that’s with newspaper advertising that emphasized calling to reserve the (free!) admission tickets. Braving Atlanta’s notorious rush hour traffic to arrive well before the 6PM start time, what lured people in was a promise made in print: EVERY ONE purchasing $100 or more Liz Claiborne merchandise would personally meet "Mister Gunn," have him personally autograph your free copy of his (HC) book, Tim Gunn; A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style, aaaaand, be professionally photographed alone with Tim and presented with the 5×7 color glossy print to take home a minute later!!
The line to the escalator leading to the Liz Claiborne boutique formed immediately. Upstairs, Macy’s runway models – a glorious assortment of ages, body types and racial/ethnic groups – not only mingled with fans gunning to rack up their quota of merch, they scurried around helping locate items and get answers to questions!
By the time I made my selections (2 dresses, to be modeled for you next week) 15 minutes later, the line stretched out of the boutique onto the main aisle. I did a quick headcount, timed a few of the meet & greets and did the math. I knew we were looking at a 2-hour journey to The Gunn-man. Not to worry, Macy’s had this affair catered with polished waiters gliding among us offering canapes, mini-chocolate mousse in white chocolate cups, and water-with-lemon in elegant stemware.
In front of me were two friends who were proud to announce to those around them their age – 80!! They became my motivation to stay on line. I mean, c’mon!
I got to watch Tim-in-action and I am here to tell you the man NEVER showed a moment of fatigue, distraction, boredom or judgement. He walked toward each new person, solid eye contact, a smile that telegraphed "Thank you SO MUCH for coming out tonight; delighted to meet you!" and a firm handshake. They would make conversation, he’d write something personal in his book which was held in trust by a Macy’s employee while he escorted each fan to the orange LIZ CLAIBORNE backdrop, put them at ease as they both faced the camera and he delivered another mega-watt smile, before a final handshake or hug. The Macy’s employee then escorted the fan to the photographer’s station where personal items, the gift book and the photo were delivered. There were bottles of water that may have gotten consumed, but I never saw the man pause for a moment!
When it was my turn, I gave Tim one of my "BEFORE & AFTER" color photo postcards. As is usual, it took Tim and LCI PR VP, Gail Garramone, a moment to realize the side-by-side images were both me! They wanted to know more about EMBODY SUCCESS! COACHING SERVICES’ unique method of teaching clients how to stop self-sabotage every time it gets triggered and kept the postcard. They enthusiastically agreed that coaching people on how to diet was fairly simple and notoriously unsuccessful!
Tim studied the postcard and then inscribed my copy of his book. We stepped over to the orange screen, without thinking twice Tim placed a proprietary arm around my shoulders and I slipped my arm around his waist. We happily faced the camera, "got the shot" and mutually thanked one another for the all-too-brief visit.
I followed my escort beyond the roped off area, retrieved my coat, bag, book and photo. It was 9:40PM, the only way out was through a side door leading directly to the parking deck. As a security official held the door open for me, I suddenly felt my aching feet! I hobbled to my car, got in and, only then, permitted myself to open the cover and see what Tim Gunn had written to me. There on the title page, in a bold and exuberant black marker were his words:
"Lauralyn, Thank you for making it work!! Congrats!! Tim XOX"
I had spent the past 41/2 hours at this event. Was it worth it? You betcha! Baby, it was FIERCE!