Tim Gunn Thinks Designer Kelly Should’ve Won Project Runway

'I don't believe they really looked at the finale collections carefully, because the strongest collection was Kelly's. Period.'
Tim Gunn stars in Project Runway season 14, airing Thursday, September 3, at 9pm ET/PT on Lifetime. Photo by Barbara Nitke Copyright 2015

Tim Gunn Photo by Barbara Nitke / Lifetime

Tim Gunn, like many fans in Boston, was pretty bummed out when local designer Kelly Dempsey came up short during the season 14 finale of Project Runway.

The fashion guru, who’s coming to town to interview Dempsey at the Massachusetts Conference for Women this week, believes the judges didn’t look closely enough at the final designs.

“The strongest collection was Kelly’s. Period,” Gunn said in a phone interview. “The judges wanted to make a point in supporting a plus-size designer. The trouble is, those clothes were dreadful.”

Clearly Gunn isn’t afraid of speaking his mind when it comes to the decisions made on the long-running reality show. Here’s what else he had to say about this year’s Project Runway finale, what to expect from his Boston appearance, and more:

Have you traveled to Boston a lot over the years? What are your thoughts on coming back to town?

I love Boston! I have been a lot. I’m a big fan and I’m happy it’s not filled with six feet of snow like it was last winter.

What should fans expect from your discussion with designer Kelly?

I told her that the audience is interested in hearing about her design process, creativity, and innovation, and how they can apply it to their own lives. Quite frankly, that’s up to them. We can’t offer up a prescription for how to do that because prescriptions don’t work. It’s different for everyone. Being a teacher for 29 years, each of my students possessed a different point of departure for their work, and certainly that’s true for Project Runway.

I also said to Kelly, “The audience is surely going to want to hear about your experiences on Project Runway. … People will want to hear about that and how is that different from how you innovate and create in your own studio when you don’t have the same kind of time constraints.”

Fans in Boston were pretty bummed out when she lost in the season 14 finale.

They weren’t the only ones bummed out—so was I!

(L to R) Tim Gunn and Kelly Dempsey during the twelfth challenge of Project Runway season 14, airing Thursday, October 22, at 9pm ET/PT on Lifetime. Photo by Barbara Nitke Copyright 2015

Tim Gunn and Kelly Dempsey Photo by Barbara Nitke / Lifetime

What impressed you the most about her run on the show?

To be blunt, I was worried about her taste level, the quality of execution, and I just didn’t know how far she would go. To bear witness to her incredible ascension on the show—I mean, she won four challenges!—that may be a record breaker. Nina Garcia kept saying, “I’m looking for something more sophisticated from her.” I would say to Nina, “What you’re looking for is not who Kelly is.”

I loved Kelly’s authenticity. I loved her spirit, her tenacity, her go get ’em spirit. It works for her. I just became enraptured and I became a huge fan and I adore her. I was doubtful about her and she proved me wrong. In fact, I’m always saying that my first impressions are usually the wrong impressions, and she certainly proved that to be the case.

After seeing all of her progress, it must’ve been hard to watch her lose.

It’s probably quite unprofessional of me to say this, but I will say this to you, people believe that it was premeditated that Ashley, as a plus-size designer, would win. Let me put it this way: If it was premeditated, it was not premeditated by the producers. I don’t believe the judges really looked at the finale collections carefully, because the strongest collection was Kelly’s. Period. It just was. The judges wanted to make a point in supporting a plus-size designer. The trouble is those clothes were dreadful. And, in my view, dreadful throughout most of the season. I know she won two challenges, but I don’t care. I’m happy for Ashley that she won, but that was not the case of the strongest designer winning. Period. It just wasn’t.

I had a huge fight with [the] judges during the presentation of the finale models. Huge. I just said to them, “You’re not looking. You’re not. If you were, you’d see what I see.” Heidi [Klum] has a way of shutting me up when I get a little hysterical, and the way to shut me up is to gesture to whatever garment I’m opposed to—in this case it was Ashley’s—and to declare that she’d wear it. I looked at Heidi and I said, “Where are you going to wear this, to Disney Comic Con? Don’t be ridiculous!”

Tim Gunn will appear at the Massachusetts Conference for Women on December 9 and 10. For more information, go to maconferenceforwomen.org.

This interview has been edited and condensed.