Project Justin: Designing with American Sign Language

September 27, 2013
By Bill Krueger

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.”

prs12_07072013_bn-0088The 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.

pr12-rr-ep11-jl-fLeBlanc 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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