Project Justin: Finding inspiration in one of nature’s outsiders

October 4, 2013
By Bill Krueger

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.

pr12-rr-ep12-jl-b1pr12-rr-ep12-jl-f1LeBlanc, 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.

prs12_07072013_bn-0088In 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.

pr12-rr-ep12-jl-f2Last 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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