My wife, Danielle, and I just got finished watching the most recent, 12th, season of Project Runway. When you take away the product placement and Heidi Klum, the show displays some great fashion and the great minds that create it, one of which is 27-year-old Justin LeBlanc from Raleigh, North Carolina. Justin proved to be one of the season’s most popular designers, with his kind demeanor and innovative clothing. At the season’s end, Justin made use of 3D printing to develop stunning accessories to represent his transition from deafness to hearing, with the aid of a cochlear implant (more on that here). After seeing our favourite contestant utilize our favourite technology for his final runway show at New York Fashion Week, Danielle and I wrote up a series of questions, hoping that he’d respond. Guess what! He did! All photos in this article are courtesy of Lifetime.
3DPI: How were you first introduced to 3D printing?
Justin: I was first introduced to 3D printing when I was attending North Carolina State University in Architecture in 2008, I saw the process and I found it to be very fascinating. That was also the period where I started to make my transition to Fashion. I didn’t have the opportunity to personally use 3D printing because at the time it was a very expensive process and my budget simply wouldn’t allow it.
Project Runway provided me a budget of $9,000 dollars to prepare my collection for New York Fashion Week. I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to explore 3D printing to tie together two concepts of the collection, sound waves and technology. The effort was very successful and I plan to use more 3D printing in future collections.
3DPI: Can you tell us a bit about the process of creating your 3D printed pieces? What material are they made from and what type of machine were they printed on? What can or can’t you do with the technology compared with traditional methods of making clothing?
Justin: I used a Dimension SST 1200es with ABS plastic. 3D printing allowed me to convey my ideas in a way that was not possible using other methods and it allowed me to create pieces that exactly replicated what I was envisioning for the collection. 3D printing is a technology that I am still familiarizing myself with. It seems that the only restrictions that come with 3D printing are the scale of the print and the time that it takes to print.
3DPI: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Justin: I am a very textural designer and I strive to translate what I see and feel into a sensory experience for other people. My design aesthetic has many architectural features and clean lines to it to give my designs a modern classic feel.
3DPI: Who (or what) are some of your biggest design influences?
Justin: Some of my biggest design influences include artists like Bart Hess, Iris Van Herpen and Alexander McQueen. Each of these designers is unique in their own ways. They experiment and approach art and design from different angles which is very inspiring to me.
3DPI: Do you own or are you thinking about getting a personal 3D printer?
Justin: I don’t own a 3D printer but I hope to get one in the near future to continue my exploration with 3D printing and fashion. It’s a very exciting technology and it has only become accessible to the public in recent years.
3DPI: Has using 3D printing attracted more attention to your work or opened up any new opportunities for you as a designer?
Justin: Using 3D printing in my collection certainly has raised awareness of the technology. I intentionally wanted to use 3D printing to show the general public the possibilities that exist with this technology. The technology certainly has helped me develop my Brand. I am an experimental designer and 3D printing allowed me to experiment with a new technology, new methods and new designs.
3DPI: Do you have any future plans for 3D printed fashion?
Justin: Oh yes, what you saw is only the start, keep an eye out!
3DPI: Are you working on any new collections (regardless of their relationship to 3D printing)… We want to see more of your cool clothes!
Justin: I am currently working on my Fall/Winter collection 2014 that will be presented in the spring. It will be an extension of what you saw at New York Fashion Week. I’ve just visited Mood Fabric in NYC over the weekend gathering swatches fabric for the collection, I’m pretty excited about it!
3DPI: Time for a truly hard-hitting question: Is Tim Gunn as nice in person as he seems to be on TV?
Justin: He is an incredibly nice person, I even tell people that he is nicer off camera.
3DPI: I always ask my interview subjects this last question, even though it doesn’t always make it into the final cut: What is the meaning of life and/or what is reality?
Justin: The meaning of life is to inspire and motivate others and reality is the challenges that we face on a daily basis and how we approach them.
Spoiler Alert: While Danielle and I were bummed that Justin didn’t ultimately win the show (*screams at the TV: “HE WAS ROBBED!!!!”*) we’re looking forward to what he’ll bring to the catwalk in the near future. If he doesn’t post his accessories to Thingiverse, we’d at least love to be able to buy some in his shop someday. Visit Justin’s website here!