Designer Justin LeBlanc is a Project Runway All-Star, professor, and homegrown Raleigh native. His educational background in architecture is evident in the multi-dimensional black and white designs that earned him the attention of the judges on Season 12 of Project Runway. Currently an assistant professor of Art and Design at NC State University, he teaches his students to define their signature which will carry through in all of their work. While he spends his weekdays in the classroom and his weekends behind a sketchbook, he remains an artist at his core and has created a signature all of his own. We caught up with the modern-day Renaissance man for a little peek into his world.
As a designer why did you decide to come back to North Carolina after your success on Project Runway and not nest in NYC or LA, arguably the fashion capitals of America?
I don’t see the need to live in the fashion capitals for several reasons. North Carolina is my home. My friends and family are here. I have a fantastic job at North Carolina State University where I can mentor and watch emerging artists create. North Carolina is reemerging as a base for textile manufacturing, including fashion design. We have considerable technological, manufacturing, educational, and creative resources. We have fabric manufacturers, and cut and sew operations. North Carolina is also home to so many talented artists and designers. There is an enthusiasm for innovation and business development that you don’t see in NYC or LA.
Describe your routine on a typical day.
My routine varies from day to day but I spend much of my time preparing for and teaching classes at NC State and meeting with students. I also work year-round on NC State’s annual Art2Wear event, a student-run event that takes place in April.
On the weekend, I focus on creating! That includes sketching and making garments and experimenting with 3D printing. I also do what I can to support the community by appearing at events that focus on the arts, fashion, and recognizing the unlimited abilities of the disability community.
What’s a lesson you try to teach your design students that doesn’t necessarily have to do with sewing a seam or creating a silhouette that will help them be creative professionals?
Fashion is not black and white; there is a lot of grey area in fashion. This grey area is where students should be flourishing because it is an opportunity to be able to express themselves as designers. The biggest thing that I encourage my students to do is to find their identity and be able to put their identity into their work.
If you could have lunch with any designer dead or alive, who would it be, what would you order and would you pick up the bill?
I would LOVE to dine with Alexander McQueen because I am a huge fan of his work. He was a master of storytelling and of continuously challenging peoples’ assumptions about fashion and art; and in life for that matter. I had the opportunity to intern with him but he passed away before I arrived in London. It was a very somber time but it was incredible to see how the McQueen fashion house held together and continued to respect and keep his visions alive.
Food-wise, I would have invited him to Raleigh, North Carolina and we would feast at Poole’s. I think he would LOVE the food there, and yes…I would have picked up the bill.
The above interview is an excerpt from Justin’s interview in STYLE: The Winter Book 2014