'Under the Gunn': Tim Gunn makes it work with 'Project Runway's' Mondo Guerra, Anya Ayoung-Chee

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tim-gunn-anya-ayoung-chee-nick-verreos-mondo-guerra-under-the-gunn.jpgTim Gunn has become Lifetime's go-to fashion maven.

In the same way Food Network consistently relies on Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri, Lifetime taps the "Project Runway" mentor for his own show, "Under the Gunn," premiering Thursday, Jan. 16.

The new series features "Project Runway" alumni Mondo Guerra, Anya Ayoung-Chee and Nick Verreos as mentors.

"It takes what I love most about 'Runway,' " Gunn tells  Zap2it. "It takes talented designers, fun challenges and great fashion and has to do with me mentoring."

"They are mentoring the designers in the workroom, and I am mentoring the mentors. We have a whole new layer of content in this show. In 'Runway,' I am mentoring everybody. With this, it is about the success of the designers and how the mentors are faring and about their own growth and development."

The show begins with 15 hopefuls, but in the first two episodes, they will be winnowed down to a dozen, with four on each of three teams. Designers will be eliminated weekly, and if a mentor loses all of his or her designers, the mentor is out.

The show's judges are designer Rachel Roy, stylist Jen Rade,and Zanna Roberts Rassi, a magazine editor.

Speaking from Los Angeles, where the series shoots, Gunn compares it to when "Runway" aired from the West Coast.

"We are fully owning and embracing the fact that we are in L.A.," Gunn says. "When we taped Season 6 of 'Runway,' the season here, the audience had a quite negative response to the whole thing. We were in the very beginning of a lawsuit between The Weinstein Company and NBC. We thought we would be a show without a home. We were flirting with being in L.A., but we weren't owning it.

"The first thing we do is take a Hollywood bus tour as an inspiration for the designers," Gunn continues. "They could take any seed of inspiration from that trip. It could be anything. Some were inspired by the view into the hills of West Hollywood, others by the Spanish architecture."

This show features the hallmark of "Runway" -- tough challenges. Though the designers are tasked with the challenges, the mentors know exactly what they are experiencing, having been on the receiving end.

"I am so envious of the mentors," Gunn says. "What I'm envious of is I had so little time with the designers. In 'Under the Gunn,' they have full, free access, day in and day out. They can be in the workroom every day."

Gunn confides that is an issue for some, and he has to reel in the mentors. He makes the first workroom go-round with the mentors but does his best to not take over. "I am very aware of how important it is for me to play an ancillary role," Gunn says.

Once the designs are shown, "I pummel them with questions."
Photo/Video credit: Lifetime