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