Project Runway: What Mondo Guerra, Dom Streater and Justin LeBlanc are up to these days

Raleigh designer Justin LeBlanc is a NC State professor and “Project Runway” alum. He will be joined by other "Project Runway" designers for the Art2Wear Gala.Curtis Brown

Five years ago, Justin LeBlanc and Dom Streater faced off before millions on television as competitors on the Emmy-winning reality fashion design competition show, “Project Runway.”

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Though vying for the same prize, the two became fast friends, and their relationship has endured long after the cameras stopped rolling. The designers will team up with fellow “Project Runway” alum Mondo Guerra this week for an event that’s close to LeBlanc’s heart — the Art2Wear Gala: A Benefit for N.C. State Art2Wear.

The event on April 19 at NC State’s Gregg Museum of Art & Design features the debut of mini-collections from the “Project Runway” alumni with garments inspired by a piece of work in the museum. Proceeds from the event benefit the Art2Wear program, a student-run fashion show held each spring for which LeBlanc serves as faculty advisor.

LeBlanc is as an alum of Art2Wear himself, and in his role working with students on the show each year, he recognized the need for an event to support the show.

“Art2Wear is a student-run event that cannot succeed without the support of the community,” he says. “Art2Wear has been a launching pad for many designers. In fact, it was my turning point in becoming a fashion designer and an artist.”

NC State College of Design’s Art2Wear celebrates its 16th year

He turned to some of his friends to help out with the show. Both Streater and Guerra are winners of the reality TV design competition. Streater won the season she appeared on with LeBlanc and Season 4 of the “All Stars” edition. Guerra won the first season of “Project Runway All Stars.”

We caught up with the designers to get a preview of their collections and find out what they’ve been up to post-“Runway.”

Justin LeBlanc

“Project Runway” Season 12 (3rd place), “Project Runway All Stars” Season 4 (7th place)

Post Runway life: In addition to serving on the design school faculty at N.C. State and as faculty advisor for Art2Wear, LeBlanc designs for his eponymous label, Justin LeBlanc Design at jleblancdesign.com.

What museum piece inspired your collection?

I chose a piece by Rick Beck who is based in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. He focuses on “large-scale cast glass sculpture depicting industrial, everyday objects and the human figure.” His sculpture at the Gregg Museum depicts a large star-like cast of multiple screwdriver heads and tools fused together. I took the elements of the sculpture — geometry, scale and playfulness and translated them into my collection. I added a storytelling element from my personal experience, capturing the excitement and celebration of my wedding this past spring. I cannot wait to share my designs with our guests at the Gregg Museum.

What’s it like working with Dom and Mondo again?

It has been amazing! I’m thrilled to be able to work with members of my “Project Runway” family, and I look forward seeing their collections. I think they will put on quite a show!

How does your experience on “Project Runway” help you with the task of creating a collection inspired by a museum piece?

“Project Runway” honed my skills as storyteller, using art to express ideas and emotion. Many of the challenges on “Project Runway” tasked the designers with using an object or theme to create a garment. For each garment there was a story to tell. As a deaf man, I have always relied on art to communicate my story and express my feelings. In many ways art, including fashion, is a much better means of expression.

As with “Project Runway,” the fashion designs to be shown at the gala are the designer’s interpretation of the Gregg museum pieces. The designers are expanding upon the story told by the creator of each museum piece. But I am very thankful that we had more than 24 hours to create the mini-collection.

Dom Streater

“Project Runway” Season 12 winner, “Project Runway All Stars” Season 5 winner

Post-Runway life: Philadelphia-based Streater says she’s gotten into the “slow fashion” movement, creating limited-edition pieces and capsule collections for her eponymous label, Dom Streater at domstreater.com.

Why is it important to you to be involved in this benefit event?

I remember how important it was to have as many eyes on my work as possible when I was in school, so it is such a pleasure and an honor to be able to do that for these students. Also art and the way it has become so ingrained in the world of fashion, and how the two work hand-in-hand to drive the industry, really is something that I always love to be a part of.

What piece did you choose from the museum collection to inspire your work? How did it inform your design process?

I chose the Untitled painting by Rick Horton. When I first encountered the image of it in the collection of artifacts, the first thing that struck me was the process of it. Meaning, it is such a complex piece it could take a long time to dissect, which sparked the thought of what the process was like to create a painting as layered and worked on as this one. I approached the pieces I designed for this with the same thought process. I kept saying to myself, “process, process,” over and over again until each garment started to build upon the next, creating this beautiful smattering of print, color and layering.

What’s it like working with Mondo and Justin on this event?

I love these guys. But really, it’s always such a pleasure working with two of my favorite people. They always have a way of making you laugh, and their point of view on fashion could not be more different and yet so relevant. They are both so inspirational to me from both a personal and professional point of view and I would work with them anytime.

How does your experience on “Project Runway” help you with the task of creating a collection inspired by a museum piece?

I think the key takeaway from “Project Runway” for me has always been looking at your work both subjectively and objectively at the same time, all the time. It taught me to understand process as well as perception, which to me are what make fashion so meditative and fulfilling.

Mondo Guerra

“Project Runway” Season 8 (Runner-up), “Project Runway All Stars” Season 1 winner

Post-Runway life: As the first openly HIV-positive designer on the show, Denver-based Guerra found himself in the position to be an advocate for those living with HIV. He was commissioned to create a custom World AIDS Day design for the 2015 Subaru Legacy that was revealed during Art Basel, Miami, and he serves as a spokesperson for Merck’s iDesign HIV/AIDS educational initiative. In 2013, Guerra became a national spokesperson for Dining Out For Life, an annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser hosted by Subaru.

Guerra also has served as a mentor on the “Project Runway” spinoff “Under the Gunn,” and he designs women’s clothing and accessories for his Mondo Guerra label mondoguerra.com.

The Fashion Show

For more than a decade, student designers at N.C. State have stretched the boundaries of fashion, creating fantastical garments that showcase their technical skill and artistic prowess for the annual Art2Wear Fashion Show, held April 20 this year.

This year’s crop of designers continues that tradition, with collections that range from a 1970s-inspired children’s line to handcrafted leather bags to avant garde architectural dresses inspired by Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen. Their pieces reflect the changing makeup of the show’s participants—no longer just a showcase for textile design, this year’s show includes designers from such disciplines as architecture and industrial design.

Details

  • The Art2Wear Gala is April 19 from 7:30 to 10 p.m., at NC State’s Gregg Museum, 1903 Hillsborough St. Tickets are $75 and include drinks, hors d’oeuvres and admission to the after-party at Aloft Hotel.
  • The Art2Wear fashion show is April 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Talley Student Union on N.C. State’s campus. Tickets are $30. To purchase tickets to the gala or the fashion show, go to design.ncsu.edu/art2wear/ticketing or call 919-515-1100 or in person at the Talley Student Union box office. All proceeds benefit the Art2Wear Fashion Show fund.

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