By Colleen Kratofil
Updated February 12, 2016 08:26 PM

During New York Fashion Week you’re bound to see the hottest models, including Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid and (of course) Kendall Jenner all over the runways. But the event at which you’re guaranteed to see the most stars on the runway? The Go Red for Women fashion show. The American Heart Association taps famous musicians, actresses, TV hosts and more to work it in red designer gowns on the catwalk. And this year, designer Nicole Miller’s muse was Top Chef judge Gail Simmons, who gave PeopleStyle the exclusive scoop (and an inside peek!) on how the whole process went down.

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Aside from some brief modeling experience back in the 12th grade for charity fashion show, the event marked Simmons’s first official modeling gig. “Of course I’m nervous. I’m definitely out of my comfort zone here,” she tells PeopleStyle. “I’m trying not to overthink it, but what if I fall? What if I have a wardrobe malfunction?” Luckily, she had good perspective on the whole thing: “I know it doesn’t matter as it is for a great cause and it’s all in good fun.”

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And it didn’t hurt that the whole process leading up to the big moment was such a delight. “Nicole did the initial sketch of what she had in mind, based on my fit and body type. She sent it to me and really involved me in the process which I was so thrilled about. I made a few suggestions and changes and then we had two fittings.”

Kristina Bumphrey/Startraks

Plus, they instantly hit it off when Simmons’ favorite topic came up. “She was so helpful and made me feel really comfortable with it, [she] knew exactly how to fit it so I felt great. She’s such a pro and an icon of New York fashion. Plus, she loves good food!”

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Kristina Bumphrey/Startraks

Simmons explains that she felt great and comfortable in the design, but that she particularly liked the subtle sexiness of it. “I love that it’s shorter in the front — so you see some leg — and long in the back. It moves so beautifully when I walk, as that detail creates the illusion of length and fluidity.”

Aside from getting to hang out with Miller and create and model a one-of-a-kind gown, she was really grateful to be able to support the organization so publicly.

Kristina Bumphrey/Startraks

“This cause is important for all women, always, as heart disease can affect anyone and most women don’t have it on their radar,” she explains. “As I have a young daughter now I’m even more conscious of wanting to be healthy and take care of myself so I can be there for her as long as possible. I also want to act as a role model to her and set a good example so she leads a long and healthy life of her own.”

It also has a very personal meaning to her. “About 2 years ago my father, who is in great shape at the age of 78 and really does take good care of himself, had a massive heart attack, with no warning at all, while he was swimming at the gym one morning,” she says. “It was the scariest day of our lives. Thankfully he has fully recovered but it has made me hyper aware of heart health issues. I am grateful every single day that he is still with us.”

Since red plays a major part in her wardrobe (she says she has six or eight “amazing” red dresses that she wears all the time for cocktail parties, events and television), she’s now got a major red gown to rock with a deep red lip — a pairing, she says, that “never goes out of style.”

What do you think of Simmons’s catwalk debut? Loving her custom gown? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

— Colleen Kratofil