Working out of the Box is a series of features presenting architects who have applied their architecture backgrounds to alternative career paths.
In this installment, we're talking with architect-turned-fashion designer (and Project Runway season 12 finalist) Justin LeBlanc.
Are you an architect working out of the box? Do you know of someone that has changed careers and has an interesting story to share? If you would like to suggest an (ex-)architect, please send us a message.
Archinect: Where did you study architecture?
Justin LeBlanc: I studied and received my BA in Architecture at North Carolina State University from 2004-2009.
At what point in your life did you decide to pursue architecture?
I’ve always known that I was a designer. My love for design grew out of my deafness, which made me a very visual person. For most of my life, I relied on vision as a means of communication and interaction. From this, I developed an appreciation, and ultimately, a passion for design. I chose architecture as a means of merging my interests and talents in art, math and science. The architecture program at North Carolina State University was the perfect program for me.
To me, architecture and fashion are quite similar since both involve drafting and building an aesthetically pleasing product that protects people. They mainly differ in the materials used and scale.When did you decide to stop pursuing architecture? Why?
It was during my final years as an undergraduate, studying in architecture where I realized my passion for fashion. We were given the opportunity to take a “swing studio” where, for one semester, we could study anything in the field of design. I decided to take a fashion studio course with no consideration that it might be career changing. The professor in this course, Lope Diaz, saw the potential that I had in fashion and he encouraged me to pursue fashion even though I was about to graduate in architecture. He suggested that I compete in NC State runway event called Art2Wear. I designed and created seven garments fashioned on the theme of the “seven deadly sins” and was awarded “Best of Show”. At that point, I realized that fashion and not architecture was my passion. After graduating in architecture, I enrolled in The School of Art Institute of Chicago to pursue a Masters degree in fashion.
Describe your current profession.
I am currently an Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University where I teach in the Art and Design Department with a concentration in Fashion. I am also the Faculty Advisor for NCState’s Art2Wear program. It’s an amazing show where new innovative designs in fashion are showcased and we have students ranging from product design, architecture, and fashion who get involved in this show. I am also currently working toward to my post-Project Runway Fall/Winter 2014 line.
What skills did you gain from architecture school, or working in the architecture industry, that have contributed to your success in your current career?
I gained many skills from my training in architecture that have influenced me in my chosen career. Most important is the strong work ethic that I learned from my long hours in architecture studios. To me, architecture and fashion are quite similar since both involve drafting and building an aesthetically pleasing product that protects people. They mainly differ in the materials used and scale. To me, the transition from architecture to fashion was very smooth and I am thankful that I am able to contribute in the world of design.
My training in fashion has given me a broader understanding of form and I am very eager to apply that to architecture.Do you have an interest in returning to architecture?
I still love architecture and I still fantasize that one day I will design some sort of architectural jewel. My training in fashion has given me a broader understanding of form and I am very eager to apply that to architecture. Ideally, I would explore the landscape of large-scale installation works where I could apply my skills from both architecture and fashion.
Justin LeBlanc's website: jleblancdesign.com