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Edgewood Boy Meets Fashion Icon Tim Gunn, Shares Dreams for Design

A guest column by Jason McDonald shares his experience of taking his son to meet his idol, Project Runway's Tim Gunn.

The following is a guest column by Jason McDonald of Edgewood, husband of our When we heard about their son Ian's experience of meeting his hero, Tim Gunn, along with getting a chance to see the six-year-old's own designs, we had to share it!

Somewhere along the line, my six-year-old son Ian started watching Project Runway. I'm not sure I can even tell you how or when -- I guess it was about season five, but I could be wrong. For whatever reason, the show really appealed to him. He liked the idea of "making dresses so that ladies could feel pretty." So one night a week, he gets to stay up late, he gets his paper and crayon box and watches the show and draws along with the challenges.

As a side effect of this, he loves Tim Gunn. He thinks Heidi Klum is pretty, but is otherwise apathetic to her existence. He probably couldn't pick Michael Kors out of a police lineup. But Tim Gunn is like Sidney Crosby and Spider Man rolled into one in his book.

Sidenote: I know what some people are likely to think. It's weird. It's girly. Even the mean-spiritied, knuckle-dragging, "It'll turn him gay." And I suppose I get the first two to an extent (holders of the third opinion can pretty much go take a flying leap). It certainly defies gender expectations. And it's definitely not anything he picked up from me -- my sense of fashion is "what T-shirt should I wear with these jeans?" But parenthood has never been about raising "Mini-Me," it's always been about letting them go where they want to go. Of course at age six, it's a transient thing -- last year he wanted to be Sonic The Hedgehog when he grew up. And build robot ninjas. But for now, it's women's fashion, so we'll roll with that.

At any rate, we found out that Tim Gunn was coming to Pittsburgh to help pimp the spring lines of some stores at Ross Park Mall this past Saturday (I refuse to name them, defying their attempts to make me a marketing tool). So we had to at least check it out. Only problem -- the meet and greet was based on making a purchase from these brands, and the brands in question are of the kind where you look at an item and say, "that looks nice," and then you burst out laughing at the price tag.

So I waffled, I wavered, but in the end, I now have a pair of obscenely priced cargo shorts. Let's just move on, shall we?

First, we had to sit through the fashion show. I was bored out of my skull, Annie, Ian's sister, was mostly horrified by the footwear, but Ian was right up on the rail of the upper level, alternating between nodding at Tim's sage advice and waving hello in six-year-old eternal optimism that Tim would spot him from 60 feet away and wave back. Ian's opinions were mostly restricted to proclaiming that one dress looked "creepy" and that another model's bright orange purse looked like a lunchbox.

Next came the Q&A, which was at least sort of amusing. I did chuckle on Tim bagging on sweatpants with the word "Juicy" written on the butt, and Crocs making people look like they have hooves. Ian wanted to ask a question, but I didn't have the heart to tell him we were nowhere close enough to get a microphone, and the microphone ladies weren't probably looking for raised hands at the 3.5 foot mark anyway.

Then came the meet and greet. The line was semi-tedious, but in fairness, I at least got a glass of champagne and they were passing out gourmet pizza samples. Hillbilly that I am, I passed because Pizza Hut pepperoni is more my speed than jerk chicken with onions. The only real excitement was speculating about which people in line Tim would be secretly rolling his eyes at (looking at you, track-suit girls), and listening to the guy who had to be at work at 3 p.m. try to repeatedly con his way up the line one group at a time. For the record, when the guy reached us, I let him go because I didn't want Ian's moment spoiled by this guy staring daggers at us waiting for "the little kid" to hurry up.

Finally, Ian was up. I think we caught Tim a little off-guard because I think he was expecting Annie to lead the charge, not the boy in the "How To Train Your Dragon" t-shirt. There may have even been a half-second of freak-out in his eyes. But Ian did a great job: started with the "Firm Handshake," then introduced himself and went into a very coherent speech about being one of Tim's biggest fans, and how he likes to do the challenges at home. And maybe I'm projecting, but you could tell Tim was pleased once Ian got rolling. He even told Annie, "You must be pleased to have such an exuberant younger brother," when she came in for the second picture. For the record, I declined to be in the photos. I told him I'm a fashion disaster and I know it.

And just like that, it was over. Yet not over, because of Ian's proclamations every 10 minutes or so that this was the "best day ever" and how he wanted to call home and tell mommy all about it. So, mission accomplished.

Is his future in fashion design, or will it head 100 other ways between now and when he grows up? Who knows. But for today, a little boy got to meet one of his heroes, and that's all that really matters.

Heidi McDonald March 29, 2011 at 05:14 AM
In case the drawings look advanced for a 6-year-old, I thought I should explain. Sometimes, Ian's imagination exceeds his drawing ability. That's when he'll explain, I'll draw, and I'll keep erasing and re-drawing on his instructions until he is satisfied that the design on the page looks like what's in his imagination. The designs are 100% Ian's. As they were getting ready to leave for the mall, I asked Ian, "Who is cooler, Batman, or Tim Gunn?" "Tim Gunn, of course," he answered. "Tim Gunn would tell Batman that the cape is too costumey." We decided not to bring Ian's drawings with him to the mall, because we weren't sure how close he'd get and didn't want to get his hopes up. We may print them out and mail them with a copy of the picture and a nice thank-you note to Tim Gunn, so he can see that the little guy really is serious about this as a hobby and that he really does think of Tim Gunn as a hero.
Stephanie Rex March 29, 2011 at 12:25 PM
I was so touched by this story. Ian's designs and creativity are so wonderful to see and he just looks so happy meeting his hero! Thanks to your family for sharing your adventures with us. Go Ian!
Andrea Bosco March 29, 2011 at 12:33 PM
What a great story — dream big, Ian!
Lilith March 29, 2011 at 06:07 PM
You folks are great parents! So many, especially the dads, would freak out at their six-year-old son wanting to be a fashion designer and idolizing Tim Gunn. Even among those who wouldn't, you'd be hard pressed to find a lot who would take the time, trouble and money (enjoy those cargo shorts, Jason!) to help him meet his idol. Whether Ian is gay or straight, he'll be the better for having a mom and dad who let him be himself and pursue his dreams, whatever they may be.
Rebecca Quick March 30, 2011 at 04:27 PM
I'd like to see Ian compete on Project Runway next season! They should have a kids competition to shake things up. Way to go Ian and for moms that help kids reach their dreams!

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