WHOwhatwherewhy: Tim Gunn, fashion mentor, delivers at Ross Park Mall

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Many shoppers traded tracksuits for their best attire Saturday when Tim Gunn, fashion's reigning mentor and the quick-witted co-host of Lifetime's "Project Runway," graced the stage at Ross Park Mall. He lent his frank commentary to a spring 2011 runway show featuring Lucky Band Jeans, Kate Spade New York and Juicy Couture.

The event was part of a six-city tour to promote Mr. Gunn's role as chief creative officer of Liz Claiborne Inc., which owns all three labels. Creative director Leah Salak joined him on the stage in front of Nordstrom, providing commentary for more than 40 looks from the new spring collections.

"I am the luckiest person in the world," Mr. Gunn told the audience. "I love fashion events like this. I think it's thrilling to give people epiphanies. I want you to come away with a little more confidence."

The show began with an ensemble fit for a royal wedding, with a Kate Spade polka-dot dress and a big bow hat for a touch of "wit and whimsy." His first lesson was to mix the scale of dots on garments. Mr. Gunn occasionally picked people out of the crowd to demonstrate some of his rules, such as mixing patterns or using separates to change a look from drab to fab. He ended the event with a question-and-answer session that brought out the dirt on the unpopular ending to season eight of "Project Runway." "Mondo Guerra is going to be great. Gretchen Jones needed the money!"

More than 500 people came to watch the show, although gift bags and prime seating were given only to the brands' top 20 customers. But the event also managed to create a broader VIP base by giving customers who spent more than $150 at the three stores a pass to get their photo taken with Mr. Gunn. He graciously met everyone who stood in line for nearly two hours after the show had ended, while a champagne and pizza reception was in full swing.

His accessible fashion tips and clever delivery earned his book "Gunn's Golden Rules" (Gallery, $23.99) the No. 5 spot on the New York Times bestseller list. His next book, "Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible," will have historical explanations for fashion entries and is expected to be out in 2012.

Sarah Lolley is a Pittsburgh-based freelance-writer: lonestarlolley@hotmail.com .


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