'Project Runway's' Tim Gunn: 5 Things to Know

Scott Gries/Getty Images

The fashion mentor was at the center of Thursday’s premiere when he woke contestants up at 5 a.m. and challenged them to create an ensemble from their pajamas.

Project Runway returned Thursday for its ninth season. The 20 designers were cut down to 16 after a challenge in which they had to create an outfit from their bed sheet and the pajamas they were wearing when Tim Gunn woke them up at 5 a.m. and dragged them to the design studio.

Here are a few things you may not know about the fashion mentor:

1. Gunn was born in Chicago, but raised in Washington, D.C., where his father, George Gunnkowski, worked as an FBI agent under then director J. Edgar Hoover. He was a champion swimmer in high school, and went on to attend the Corcoran College of Art and Design, where he received a BFA in sculpture. In 2009, the school  awarded him an honorary doctorate.

2. He first began working at NYC's Parsons School of Design in 1982. From 1989 to 2000, he worked as an associated dean, and then in 2000, he was named chair. He left Parsons in 2007 to become chief creative officer  of Liz Claiborne.

3. He joined Project Runway in its first season in 2004, quickly becoming known for his catchphrase "Make it work." His spinoff reality show, Tim Gunn's Guide to Style, premiered on Bravo in 2007. He's appeared on Ugly Betty, Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother and Drop Dead Diva.

4. He's also an author, publishing his first book, A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style, in 2007. In 2010, he released Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work.

5. He's active in causes he believes in. Gunn narrated an anti-fur PSA for PETA about rabbit fur farming in China in 2008. He also contributed to the "It Gets Better Project," which supports gay youths struggling with depression, by admitting that he attempted suicide when he was 17 years old by swallowing more than 100 pills.