Posts Tagged ‘Justin LeBlanc’
Justin LeBlanc, the NC State graduate and design professor who won fans and friends on Lifetime’s “Project Runway” last year, is previewing his spring/summer 2015 collection tonight with a show titled “Inaudible.”
In the collection LeBlanc, who is deaf and wears a cochlear implant, revisits the theme of his thesis show at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he explored communication between hearing and deaf people.
He describes the looks as upscale, casual and comfortable. No word on whether we’ll see anything like the gown made of tiny pipettes that wowed the judges last summer on the “Project Runway” finale, but the collection does include the use of 3-D printing, something that’s become a hallmark of LeBlanc’s style. You can buy one of LeBlanc’s 3-D printed bow ties on jleblancdesign.com.
LeBlanc has been busy since “Project Runway.” He spoke to students at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design about his transition from architecture to fashion, showed his 3-D printed fashion at the International CES Show in Las Vegas, Nev., and presented a collection last spring at Charleston Fashion Week. That was on top of teaching classes and serving as co-director of NC State’s own Art2Wear show.
The show is 7:30 p.m. Thursday at CAM Raleigh, 409 W. Martin St. Tickets can be purchased at camraleigh.org.
A sponsor of the event is Bida Manda restaurant, a Laotian restaurant in Raleigh owned by Vansana Nolintha, who was a Caldwell Fellow at NC State with LeBlanc. (We profiled Nolintha in the Autumn 2013 issue of NC State magazine.) Arts Access, a Raleigh-based nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to the arts to those with disabilities, will provide a sign language interpreter and an audio description of the event.
–Sylvia Adcock ’81
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Justin LeBlanc was not only a finalist on Lifetime’s Project Runway reality show, he’s also been selected as the grand marshal for the Raleigh Christmas Parade. But life is beginning to settle down a bit for LeBlanc, who received a degree from the College of Design and is now an assistant professor there. We had a chance to catch up with him in his office in Leazar Hall this week in between student conferences.
Justin LeBlanc addresses the crowd at showing of the final episode of Project Runway at the Hunt Library
How long were you in New York for the filming of Project Runway? We were there for six weeks. The filming of every episode took two to three days. When Tim [Gunn] would announce the challenge, we’d have a day to do it, but that was 10 hours, not 24 hours. We had to eat and sleep, too – they forced us to eat and sleep! I was so glad when I got home and I could cook my own food.
How much sleep did you get? About four hours a night….I would think of it more as a power nap. We were up at 5 a.m., and sometimes filming past midnight. Some days we were lucky and could sleep in a little. We had K-cup machines everywhere and we used, abused them, a lot.
What was it like having Tim Gunn to dinner at your family’s house in Raleigh? My father fixed him North Carolina barbecue. My father is an amazing cook. Tim loved it, ate all of it. After that he went to The Pit and had more barbecue.
Your collection for the finale at New York Fashion Week included accessories made with 3-D printing, earning a lot of praise from the judges. How did you come up with the idea? When Heidi [Klum] announced that three of us were going back home to design a collection – that was when I had the idea. It just came to me. I knew we had 3-D printing technology at the College of Design. It’s expensive to use, but I had a budget of $9,000…..Of course there were a lot of errors; the machine has a mind of its own.
The showstopper in your collection was a white gown made with tiny pipettes. How long did it take to make that? Well, when Tim came here, he looked at it and told me I would need to bring some people in to help. So I did. It took three days with no sleep ….We had to drill holes in the top of each pipette and then sew them each onto nonslip carpet backing. Then added nail polish to make sure they wouldn’t come untied.
Do you get stopped on the street by people who recognize you? What’s that been like? When I was in Chicago three weeks ago…..a woman was driving and I was walking down the sidewalk. She backed her car up, then got out of the car while it was still running to get a picture. I was like, OK….I have learned the behavior of fans. I know the body language, I can see when someone recognizes me and they freeze up and don’t know how to approach me. Sometimes people take my picture without even asking……People should just come up to me and ask, that’s all, I love striking up a conversation with fans and seeing their insight.
You’re teaching a textiles studio class. What do you like best about teaching? I teach at the College of Design and I expect creative people. I want to know what they would like to do, what media they want to use, I like to see what story they want to tell. They constantly surprise me ….I never know what is coming next.
LeBlanc signs autographs at the Hunt Library
How did you manage to stay clear of a lot of the drama on the show? I was alert for it. I knew everything we do is going to be on TV. I am a teacher, and I knew students would be watching ….Overall I think the producers did a good job, but at the same time, it’s a reality TV show. Something is going to happen. For me, it was about being in the right mindset.
Other than teaching, what’s next for you? I’m in the process of putting together a fall-winter 2014 collection, hoping to show it in the spring.
—Sylvia Adcock ’81
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While Justin LeBlanc didn’t come out on top in the final round of Project Runway, he earned a standing ovation last night from hundreds of students, faculty and fans who gathered in the Hunt Library auditorium to watch the final episode of the reality show.
LeBlanc, an assistant professor at the College of Design, was one of four contestants who survived from the original 16 to make it to the runway of New York Fashion Week. In the finale broadcast last night, LeBlanc presented a 10-piece collection that included a stunning a full-length gown made of tiny pipettes (referred to on the show as test tubes) sewn onto mesh fabric, giving it the look of white fur.
LeBlanc’s theme for his collection was his transition from a deaf person to a hearing person (he received a cochlear implant when he was 18), and he used 3-D printing to create neckpieces, belts and other accessories that were reminiscent of sound waves.
As Chancellor Randy Woodson congratulated LeBlanc on making it to the finals, he noted the choice of materials. “If it was made with 3-D printing and test tubes, it had to be from NC State,” Woodson said.
Lope Max Diaz, a retired professor of art and design, remembers when LeBlanc took his studio class in fashion in 2008. At the time, LeBlanc was a senior in architecture, but when Diaz saw a dress he was designing for Art2Wear, he realized he had to speak up and told him, “Justin, you are a fashion designer.’’
Diaz said he encouraged LeBlanc to finish his architecture degree and then study fashion design. “After I told him that, I was freaked out—here was this senior and I was encouraging him to go into another field,’’ Diaz said last night at a reception celebrating LeBlanc’s success.
At the Hunt Library viewing party, some technical glitches delayed the broadcast. But LeBlanc saved the day, setting up his laptop to skype a broadcast of the show. “Some friends of mine in Chicago are having a party…..if you’ll be patient, we’ll ‘make it work,’” he told the crowd, borrowing a trademark phrase from the show’s mentor, Tim Gunn.
It did work — with a little ambient noise from the Chicago party (cheers for Justin, a dog barking) thrown in.
No one in the audience but LeBlanc and his family knew the outcome, and when Heidi Klum said the words, “Justin, you’re out,” there were collective sounds of disappointment and “Oh, no’’ from the crowd.
That immediately became applause and a standing ovation. LeBlanc, sitting in the front row with his family, turned around and blew kisses to the crowd.
What’s next? LeBlanc has already designed a tote bag in black and white featuring a stylized version of the American Sign Language sign for “I love you.” It’s available at jleblancdesign.myshopify.com/.
—Sylvia Adcock ’81
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Kat Robichaud has a great voice. Anybody who has seen her light up the stage with her glam rock band The Design knows that.
And now the rest of the country knows it, too.
Robichaud, who graduated from the College of Design in 2006, is a contestant on NBC’s The Voice, a talent contest that aims to take relatively unknown singers and coach them to stardom. On a recent episode, Robichaud won the judges over with her version of “I’ve Got the Music in Me,” and she will compete on a team of contestants led by pop singer and Voice judge CeeLo Green.
On The Voice, the vocalists first compete in “blind auditions” before the four judges, who have their chairs turned around and can hear the voice but not see the performance. If a judge wants to mentor a contestant, he or she presses a button that turns the chair around and lights up an “I WANT YOU” sign. In Robichaud’s case, three of the four judges wanted her and she picked CeeLo for her mentor.
Robichaud, who counts Queen and The Rocky Horror Picture Show among her musical influences, is originally from Concord, N.C., but has lived in Raleigh since graduation.
She worked briefly as a freelance graphic artist and then toured with The Design for several years. The group recently made an album, Young America, but broke up last fall.
Robichaud is one of two NC State grads, both from the College of Design, who are competing on reality shows. This week, Justin LeBlanc, who is also an assistant professor at NC State, competes in the finals of Project Runway on Thursday night.
Robichaud may appear on The Voice tonight (these reality shows can be secretive with some of the details) as the contestants perform duets to see who will advance.
What are her chances? We don’t know, but People magazine named Robichaud as one of the contestants to watch, saying she “donned blacked striped pants and a[n] … attitude to catch the judges’ attention with her rocking version of ‘I Got the Music in Me.’ ”
— Sylvia Adcock ’81
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Who would think of using 3-D printing in a fashion contest? NC State’s Justin LeBlanc did, and on last night’s episode of Project Runway his innovative accessories helped earn him a spot in the show’s finale.
LeBlanc, an assistant professor in the College of Design, and two other contestants were given six weeks to design a 10-piece collection. Working with a palette of mostly gray and white, LeBlanc created a series of garments accentuated by belts and neckpieces in the shape of concentric circles — think sound waves.
LeBlanc is deaf and did not receive a cochlear implant until he was 18, meaning that until then his world was total silence. At first, hearing sound felt like an intrusion and he didn’t like it, but he has now come to terms with using a hearing aid. His collection was designed to represent that transition.
“This tells my story, the transition from a deaf person to a person who could hear,” he told the judges.
The first piece he showed was white unstructured pants and a sleeveless top that had the look of a long sleeveless vest with and a “sound wave” neckpiece, a look that LeBlanc said represented silence.
The second was a gray knee-length dress with white paint spattered near the hem, representing when he first began to hear. “I hated it,” he told the judges about that phase in his life.
“And that brings me to the last look,” he said, adding that he is now at peace. His model wore a totally white gown made with hundreds of tiny test tubes to satisfy the requirement of using an unconventional material in at least one garment.
Although the episode had the usual reality-show drama to keep viewers guessing, there were indications early on that LeBlanc might go all the way. When the show’s mentor Tim Gunn visited Raleigh, he didn’t hold anything back.
“This is a wow,” he said. “This has the potential to knock everybody’s socks off.”
Gunn was impressed with the use of 3-D printing to create the accessories that unified the collection. Gunn had dinner with LeBlanc’s family, and the segment featured a shot of an NC State banner and a sign that said, “The Pack Backs Justin.”
Live-tweeting during the broadcast, LeBlanc returned the love with a “Go Wolfpack.”
Next week, we’ll see him compete with the other three designers chosen for the finale on the runway at New York Fashion Week. (Yes, Fashion Week was in September, but that’s how reality shows work.)
LeBlanc was emotional after the judges picked him for the finale. “This is a shock,” he said. “A dream come true.”
— Sylvia Adcock ’81
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Inspired by an albino butterfly, NC State’s Justin LeBlanc came up with a look on last night’s episode of Project Runway that kept him in the running to be in the reality show’s finale and compete on the runway at New York’s Fashion Week.
LeBlanc, an assistant professor at the College of Design, impressed the judges with a black high-necked overcoat that came off to reveal a white dress enhanced by rows of thick, layered piping. The challenge was meant to be avant-garde, and he was clearly ready to take some risks.
“I am the underdog here,” LeBlanc said. “I haven’t won a challenge yet.”
Where did the albino butterfly come from?
The designers were taken to a butterfly preserve on Long Island for inspiration. LeBlanc said the albino insect appealed to him because it was an outsider — something he said that he, as a deaf and gay man, can relate to.
The contestants also had to compete in another unusual challenge — each had to pick a garment that had eliminated a contestant and redesign it to make it work for the runway.
In the workroom, the rejected dresses on their mannequins almost seemed like ghosts of contestants who had left the show. When it was LeBlanc’s turn to pick, he saw his own dress that earlier got him eliminated before the designers’ mentor, Tim Gunn, used a “save” to keep him on the show.
Clearly emotional at having to even look at the dress that almost got him kicked off, LeBlanc took a moment and then decided to pick his own dress and make it work.
And he did. One judge said the dress (below right) went from “hideous” to “sophisticated.”
“I knew if I did not pick my dress I will forever regret it,’’ LeBlanc told the judges.
Last night’s episode was intended to narrow down the five remaining contestants to the three who would have a chance to compete for the top spot by showing collections at New York’s Fashion Week.
But instead, the judges told two contestants they’d be moving onto he finale, but said LeBlanc and two others will have to battle it out, each creating a collection that could be shown in the runway in New York.
We’ll find out next week how LeBlanc fares.
– Sylvia Adcock ’81
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Inspired by a beauty queen who co-founded a nonprofit to help impoverished communities in Africa, NC State’s Justin LeBlanc designed a fabric on Project Runway last night that incorporated the American Sign Language sign for “I love you.”
The judges liked the print, but weren’t crazy about the resulting floor-length gown, landing LeBlanc in the group of three with the lowest scores.
The drama was heightened by the fact that it appeared the judges planned a double-elimination. As the stock reality-show music played, one of the three was knocked off, leaving LeBlanc and another contestant standing alone on the runway. One would have to go.
Tick, tock, tick, tock — they seem to take forever to make these decisions — and then, with the words, “Justin, you’re in,” our College of Design assistant professor and graduate was declared safe.
Last night’s challenge began by requiring the contestants to design a fabric using an HP computer (a little product placement there) with an up-and-coming innovator as their inspiration.
LeBlanc was paired with Nana Meriwether, Miss USA 2012, whose Meriwether Foundation constructs schools, medical clinics and helps provide access to clean water in rural parts of Africa.
“She’s not what I expected,” LeBlanc said. He was moved by her altruism to create an abstract “I love you” sign on fabric in grey with a touch of red. The print became part of a fitted strapless gown that one judge called “hard to look at.” Not nearly as hard to look at as a strange-looking knee-length dress with poufy pleats that did the silhouette no favor. The designer of that dress was knocked off the show.
Now, with five contestants left, there’s only one more episode before the show’s finale.
— Sylvia Adcock ’81
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NC State’s Justin LeBlanc is one step closer to the finale of Project Runway after designing a signature — literally — dress for a fan during last night’s challenge.
The designers on the reality show were each paired with one of the show’s fans, each of whom won a competition to appear on the show The fans got a makeover and a custom-made look, and the designers each got a chance to work with a so-called “real woman” (Let’s just say no one was a size 2.).
LeBlanc, an assistant professor at the College of Design, first asked his “client” to sign her autograph on a piece of paper. He then used machine-stitched embroidery to “autograph” a dark gray knee-length dress.
The fan who was assigned to LeBlanc is a Mormon and asked that her dress be modest, so he went with a simple scoop neck and three-quarter length sleeves. And the signature embroidery wrapped diagonally around the dress made it a design that was truly hers alone.
“I want it to be one of a kind, conceptual and modern,” LeBlanc said.
The judges were wowed, and LeBlanc ended up in one of the top three positions. (The winner was a dark blue strapless evening gown.) The original 16 contestants have been pared down to seven. In past seasons, the finale has featured the top three designers left.
LeBlanc made a brief appearance at the Park Alumni Center this morning to help give a presentation on Art2Wear to NC State’s Board of Trustees. In a brief interview, he wouldn’t give up any spoilers about what’s going to happen next.
But when asked about last night’s episode, he said it was “definitely my favorite.”
– Sylvia Adcock ’81
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Last night’s episode of Project Runway was filmed in New York but had a Southern theme, and NC State’s Justin LeBlanc easily advanced to the next round with only eight designers left to compete for the top prize.
LeBlanc’s design was a flirty coral dress with an asymmetrical drape and a low back and gave LeBlanc, an assistant professor at the College of Design, a high enough score to move on.
And as a native of Raleigh, it’s no surprise that he would get this week’s challenge: To design a look for the “modern Southern woman,” in particular a woman who shops at Belk. (A guest judge was a Belk executive.)
The episode kicked off with the designers being treated to a so-called “Southern-style brunch” in a New York restaurant. What, no ham biscuits? It was French toast and fruit, but never mind.
As soon as the designers headed to the workroom, it was obvious most of them didn’t have a clue about what Southern women wear, and from the way some of them talked, you’d think the South was a separate country rather than a diverse region. Let the stereotyping begin.
One designer said she was making a dress to be worn to a cotillion, and three designers made dresses out of plaid or checked fabric. (Works as a tablecloth, but not a dress.) Much of the focus was on two designers with Southern roots (one lives in Birmingham, Ala., and the other, a Philadelphia resident, has family in New Orleans), neither of whom picked plaid.
But there was no notice of the fact that LeBlanc is of, course, a true Southerner. After all, he grew up in Raleigh—not the deep South, but the South nonetheless. One Runway fan later tweeted that same sentiment, and also noted that North Carolina is the home of Belk.
“I’m glad that you noticed that!” LeBlanc tweeted back.
Oh, and the winner of the challenge? It was a plaid dress.
— Sylvia Adcock ’81
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Designing active wear for the first time, NC State’s Justin LeBlanc paired a sleeveless jacket with charcoal gray shorts and a sports bra (trimmed in lime green) on Project Runway last night, a look that kept him in the running for the top prize.
The stakes were high in last night’s competition as well, as the winning design will be produced and sold as part of show host Heidi Klum’s line of active wear. (Or “performance wear,” it was sometimes referred to. No sweat pants allowed.)
Before they could begin work on their designs, the contestants took part in an obstacle course that included a three-legged race with a partner and a tire run. LeBlanc and his partner (outfitted, appropriately, in red sweat bands) won, earning themselves an extra hour of design time and the first choice of material.
LeBlanc, an NC State alum and a professor at the College of Design, was the only designer who showed some leg and dressed his model in shorts, although he acknowledged as she walked down the runway they may have been a little too short.
LeBlanc’s sign language interpreter has been more in the spotlight in the show lately, even standing on the runway next to Klum. And the show’s website posted an interview with LeBlanc on Wednesday about his deafness and how it has affected him.
LeBlanc said he was “raised in an environment of total communication. My parents hired a sign language teacher to teach us all sign language. They also provided me a speech therapist through most of my pre-college years.” He also talked about the pros and cons of cochlear implants.
Meanwhile, the show’s finale, which won’t be broadcast until later, is being taped this week in New York. We hope we have a Wolfpacker in the running.
– Sylvia Adcock ’81
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