Michael Stewart/WireImage
Anna Hecht
Nov 13, 2015 @ 3:15 pm

Fashion guru Tim Gunn just finished up season 14 of Project Runway. Instead of taking a much-deserved break, the full-time fashion mentor dove straight into filming another spinoff season of the hit reality show, Project Runway Junior, which premiered Monday, Nov. 12. 

This time around, however, Gunn isn’t focused on guiding adult designers to runway greatness. Instead, he’s keeping after a dozen aspiring teen designers, ages 13 to 17. Sitting down for a chat with Yahoo! Parenting, Gunn explained his initial feelings about working with young people, his optimistic opinion on Generation Z (or the Post-Millennial demographic), and why he’s scared of quote unquote mean girls.

Upon taking over as mentor to the teens, Gunn said it was his inexperience working with younger designers that made him uneasy. “I spent 29 years teaching at the college level, and on Project Runway everyone is 21 or older,” Gunn said. “I had a little experience mentoring high school students through the Cooper Hewitt Design Center’s education department, but I’ll be blunt: I was really apprehensive.”

Gunn’s apprehension didn’t stick around long, though. Soon, Gunn was back to his usual ways, offering up honest criticism and unrelenting support to the show’s contestants who are each vying for a spot at New York Fashion Week, a $25,000 scholarship to California’s Fashion Institute of Design and Marketing, and a feature in Seventeen magazine. Um, where can we sign up?

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To make it to the top of the pack, the aspiring designers must impress Gunn, which is no easy feat considering he’s already seen some impressive work during his decade-long stint hosting Project Runway. The difference, remarkably, between the work he’s seen from adult designers and that of the new junior competitors isn’t all that different.

“Given that they are as young as 13 and as old as 17—developmentally, that is a huge difference—I thought there would be a big variation in skill level. I have to tell you, when it came to presentation and quality of execution of the work, you could tell no difference,” Gunn said.

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Prior to mentoring and getting to know the teens, Gunn’s impression of Generation Z was not the best. But after experiencing the junior designers’ work ethic and maturity, Gunn said he now feels differently.

“I used to say, 'Generation Z is for the birds.' I thought they were brats, they were spoiled, but my tune has changed. As far as I’m concerned, the future couldn’t look brighter.”

To read Tim Gunn’s entire interview with Yahoo! Parenting, visit Yahoo.com

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