Buy With A Practical Eye

What does Gretta love about working with Tim Gunn? Find out!

Bravotv.com: What is it like working with Tim Gunn?

Gretta Monahan: Oh my gosh, honestly, I pinch myself - it's the best. It's a dream come true. Tim is like your teacher and your husband all wrapped up in one! I want to make him my man, he's so cute! He's the best, he really is. I get to work with someone I truly admire. Not only has Tim been a mentor, but he has been an industry idol of mine for a long time, long before television.

How did you get your start in fashion?

I came to New York and spent some time at F.I.T., and ended up pursuing beauty first. I got into fashion by way of opening my first boutique. I started styling a bit and picking up clients, and then figured I was shopping all over the world, why not open my own boutique - it has always been a dream of mine. So I opened up Gretta Luxe in Boston, and always worked in tandem between New York and Boston. Now I spend a lot of my time in New York. I buy all over the world - I go to the shows in Paris, Milan, and New York to buy for my boutique. My boutique has primarily European and American designers, and it's mostly ready-to-wear. But it's a great mix. I call it casual couture - things you can buy that you can actually wear. I buy with a practical eye so that real women can take advantage of great fashion.

And you were at New York Fashion Week this year?

Yes, I was! I went to the Couture Fashion Week in Paris in July and then Fashion Week in New York. I really thought it was great. One of my favorite collections was Michael Kors. I carry his line in my stores, so there was a lot to buy there, and I really enjoyed it. I think New York still has the best Fashion Week. A lot people didn't know what to expect, but fashion is forging ahead, regardless of the economy. I think that people will always invest in quality.

Did you get to see the Project Runway show?

I was there! Oh my God - honestly, my head was spinning. I was thrilled to be there and I really enjoyed it. You have to have mercy on Tim and the judges, because there was a lot of terrific talent there. The essence of each designer really came through in the collections. I thought they turned out great work. Any favorites? Hmm, the designer who put out the very soft palate of dresses - Kenley. Loved hers. My top two would be Kenley and Korto. I was in love with their collections. Everyone had good stuff, but if I was buying for my boutique, I thought things within Kenley and Korto's collections were very sellable. For me, fashion is not just about what is great design, it also has to be wearable in real life. Being a designer makes me pretty critical.

In this episode you were working with Meredith Elliot who had a "shopping phobia." Any tips for viewers on how to avoid feeling overwhelmed while shopping?

There is a difference between shopping just for fun and shopping with goals or a plan. I think you do need to have a shopping strategy. If you know that you need a specific item for a specific event, then I think you need to narrow that down first. If you know it's a dress, and you know you have a certain budget, don't shop in stores that don't observe those parameters, because that's a waste of your time. When you go into a store, you want to be precise. Go into the right department and try to put on your blinders. I know we all get caught up in the jewelry and cosmetics, but you have to go and really zero in. I always say to Tim, "We're not like you, we're women, we're wired differently!" If you're planning on browsing, be careful not to just spend money. Look all you want, but don't necessarily buy. If there is an item that you remember when you get home, something that you know you can't live without because there's a void in your closet, then that's a reason to invest.

Any other important shopping tips?

If you're looking to add to your wardrobe, you need to think about wearing an item in more than one place, and in more than one way. So, if you have a dress that can be worn casually with boots, but then can also be worn at night to a cocktail affair with a cute pump, or could be accessorized with a little cardigan as a work outfit, then you can invest a little more in that dress, because it will work in three different ways. Tim and I would rather see women buy higher quality items, clothing that lasts and fits them properly and really works in their wardrobe, instead of spending frivolously. An item should be modern, but should also stretch your style options within your wardrobe.

Do you and Tim disagree on style or do you think your tastes are similar?

We always joke because you'd think we would disagree, because he looks so straight edge and I look so colorful and zany. The fact of the matter is, we don't disagree. I mean I love fashion and I love trends, but I am practical about it. I like to dress people according to their personalities, and style with a little humor and fun. I've found that Tim is very much the same way. When he is working with real women, he doesn't ignore their age or who they are. He adapts his ten essentials to each person. He's not afraid of color - there are all these rumors about him being so stiff and so this and so that - NOT true! On the shopping floor, he's a blast.

Were you happy with Meredith's overall transformation?

I was thrilled with Meredith's transformation. Not only did her style improve, but she also felt so good in her own skin. She described feeling more at ease and more confident. I think that the lasting difference between Tim Gunn's Guide to Style and other shows out there is that on Guide to Style, the transformation isn't superficial. The lesson people learn from Tim, and hopefully from me, is that they should have more confidence in every area of their lives. It really showed with Meredith, she expressed it in a much better way than we could, and I always think that helping her find more confidence was the best payment of all.

Some boutique owners try to push clothes on people - how do you make someone feel comfortable about what they're buying?

Isn't it just as easy to sell the right thing as it is to sell the wrong thing? I always tell my employees, don't do me any favors by selling something that's not right for someone. It would be terrible promotion for my company. I would never be happy with anyone doing that. And if a customer is looking for something we don't have, I tell them we don't have it. I've told women we don't have the right thing for them. I'll put them in the right direction or I'll call other stores and get them the right thing. I think that's a good note for our viewers. You see Tim and I scrutinizing, but we really think you should hold out for the very best thing. Why wouldn't you package yourself in a way that makes you feel your best? You should want to present your best self to the world. That's the way we feel good and that's the way we're aesthetically balanced. So that's what we're doing when we're being critical - it's not the person we're criticizing. When I see people in the wrong clothes, I just tell them it's a mismatch. Maybe that item is better or somebody else. Give it to your sister! Don't stick with it! End it!

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