Describe your family?
I have a very close-knit family. However, each member is very independent and provides me different perspectives on life. They are all very supportive and are always there whenever I need them.
I’m an assistant professor in the College of Design at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. (Go Wolfpack!) I also co-faculty-advised the “Art2Wear” runway show at NC State University.
I interned for Alexander McQueen and Nick Cave.
When did you realize you had designer potential?
While growing up, I always knew that I was a designer, although I didn’t realize that fashion design was my calling until college. Being deaf has made me a more visual person. This naturally drew me to finely crafted designs. I began my formal training in architectural design but soon realized that fashion design provided me greater opportunities to express my creativity.
First garment you ever made?
The first garment I made was a simple black cocktail dress. I made it using cotton/chiffon with plexiglass. It was part of my collection prepared for NC State University’s "Art2Wear" fashion show. My collection was titled “The 7 Deadly Sins.”
What's your design training/schooling, etc.?
I have a BA in Architecture from North Carolina State University and a Masters of Design in Fashion, Body, and Garment from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Have you won any awards for your designs?
I won Best of Show in NC State University’s 2008 "Art2 Wear" fashion show. I also was awarded a Louis Vuitton Scholarship while studying for my master's degree.
Strengths as a designer?
I enjoy exploring the use of exotic materials in my designs. I have considerable skills in fabric manipulation. I have the ability to direct my team (models, photographers, etc.) to attain the final product that I am after.
Weaknesses as a designer?
I sometimes spend too much time trying to attain perfection on minor details of my designs. This can sometimes cost me valuable time, with only minor improvements to the garments.
What are your influences?
My greatest influences are from some of my favorite artists and designers, including Lucy McRae, Bart Hess and Alexander McQueen. My training in architecture also heavily influences my design aesthetic. My deafness has always influenced my design aesthetic, as I strive to provide a full visual experience in my designs.
What's playing on your iPod when you're designing?
Good question. Now that I have recently acquired hearing through my cochlear Implant, I love listening to anyone who has a powerful voice, such as Adele or Etta James.
Favorite material or fabric to work with?
I enjoy working with felts and wools.
Item you're most proud of designing?
I designed a pink dress with a ton of ruffles that was really outrageous but fully captured the visual experience that I was seeking.
Iris van Herpen, Alexander McQueen and Rick Owens.
Sketch or drape?
Patterns or solids?
Biggest fear as a designer?
My biggest fear as a designer is producing work that does not inspire the imagination.
A stylish hat.
Fashion faux pas that drives you crazy?
UGG BOOTS- not a big fan.
Ugliest item of clothing/accessory you've worn?
A turtleneck sweater…
Favorite style icon?
What would you design for the First Lady?
I love Michelle Obama and her style! I would design a structural garment with textile manipulation throughout the garments and, of course, a cut-off sleeve to showcase her amazing arms!
Celebrity you wish you could design for?
I would love to design for Angelina Jolie and Marlee Matlin. They’re both amazing actresses. I would love to create a red-carpet look for them. I would design Angelina a simple black and gray architectural, one-shoulder gown. As for Marlee, I would design a blush color empire-waist gown with a full but flowing skirt to give it a whimsical feel to it.
Favorite supermodel muse?
Heidi Klum is fabulous. Coco Rocha and Tilda Swinton are pretty amazing.
If you had to name your label, you'd call it...?
Heidi Klum is fabulous. Coco Rocha and Tilda Swinton are pretty amazing.
If you weren't designing, you'd be...?
Places/cultures you wish you could design for?
I’d love to design for any European country.
Dream place to set up your business?
Websites that feature your work?|www.JLeBlancDesign.com, http://fnewsmagazine.com/2011/07/art-fashion-or-both/, http://www.newraleigh.com/articles/archive/art-to-wear-2008-recap/
How were you described as a kid?
I was a typical all-American kid. I was viewed as the artsy kid throughout grade school. I got along well with my peers even though I didn’t play sports much and I was deaf. The bullies left me alone because I was a big (tall) kid.
How are you described by your family and friends?
I think that most family members and friends consider me to be kind, thoughtful and a high achiever. Those who have seen my dark side may also consider me to be moody, impatient and easily frustrated.
Why do you think you're easy to live with?
My answer to the previous questions fits here as well.
I enjoy hanging out at independent coffeehouses (e.g., Cup of Joe, Helios, The Morning Times in Raleigh, NC). The clientele tends to be interesting, and I enjoy trying new coffees.
I enjoy water activities, mostly kayaking and swimming. I like to go art-gallery hopping and exploring vintage-clothing stores. Of course, I love trying out new restaurants and foods.
Favorite movies and TV shows?
My favorite movies are “The Motorcycle Diaries” and “Ever After.” As for the TV shows, I love “The Walking Dead,” “American Horror Story” and of course, “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
One of my favorite authors is Chuck Palahniuk.
Your Twitter handle?
Favorite Twitter accounts?
@Sartorialist and @Bryanboy
Fast food or gourmet?
Cooking or takeout?
I love anything that is pasta-based, especially linguini with clams or spaghetti with spicy sausage.
Beer or wine?
Milkshake with hot fudge.
Biggest pet peeve?
Disrespectful and close-minded people.
How did you end up auditioning for PR?
This was my first time auditioning. My family and friends often said that I should apply. Finally, one of my best friends' parents sent the application to me. I’m forever thankful to them for giving me the application!
Favorite past PR designer?
I LOVED MONDO. I had the opportunity to meet him one time and I almost fainted.
Challenge you wish they'd bring back?
The flower challenge.
Challenge you hope they don't?
The Thunder Down Under Challenge--great eye candy, not so much garment-wise.
Your take on team challenges:?
Love them, because it really showcases the reality of today’s design world. Design collaboration is often a necessity, and it’s important to see the ability of the contestants to collaborate successfully. However, I do think there need to be more “single” challenges toward the end of the show, so the audience can better recognize the design identity of the contestants.
What do you look for in a model?
I like androgynous (men/women) models. I select models that will present the garment without detracting from it.
Do you think you can win "Project Runway"?
I KNOW that I can win "Project Runway." I have the skill, the passion, the drive and the knowledge needed to win. I think that I also have the personality to enamor the audience and judges. I do believe that I have the ability to inspire others; that’s a big thing in my book as a designer.