Project Runway 5: Meet the Designer - Leanne Marshall
Last week, we learned that – as most had suspected – the modern collection Leanne Marshall showed at Bryant Park would officially be part of the competition to be named winner of Project Runway 5. The public announcement of this success was an early birthday present for the designer; her birthday was Friday, October 10.

Now 28, Leanne is still a young designer in the early stages of her developing career, but she's demonstrated throughout the season that she has a strong vision and the skills to execute it. We'll take a look at her background, and what helped her develop those skills and how she came to be a competitor on Project Runway 5.

The California native noted to Tim Gunn when he visited her in her current hometown of Portland, OR, she actually started out in dance, but at age 12, started transitioning to fashion as she began designing ballet costumes.

She attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco, where she received a Levis/Dockers Fashion Designer of Tomorrow scholarship.

She clearly had the skills, but had to pay the bills, so had been making her living mainly in graphic design. She did, however, sell her fashions as the line “Leanimal” on the side through shops in Portland and New York. She also is another designer to use the handmade marketplace as a venue for making her work available to a wider audience. She built the line over time and about a year ago, was able to quit her graphic designer job.

Despite her lack of success in the green challenge on this season of Project Runway, she has focused on using eco-friendly materials like hemp, organic cotton and bamboo. She concedes, though, she's not completely there yet as a designer, saying, “Everything I do is not all sustainable; it's about 50/50. I will mix a hemp material up with a luxurious silk. And they can always be lined with sustainable textiles. And I love recycling old garments into new ones.”

While she's been supporting herself through her fashions, she admits it's been the challenges of doing that all solo that helped inspire her to try out for Project Runway 5.

"It's just me right now doing everything. I do my graphic design, the pattern making, the sewing, the shipping off packages . . . it's insane! I'm working 14 hours a day and not quite getting ahead," she said. "That was one of my main reason to do the show -- the exposure. It's hard to get backers and investors being one person without that."

While we won't know until Wednesday if she'll win the big prize, she's already got big plans in the works, starting with a name change for her line.

“I'm just doing my line as Leanne Marshall now; no Leanimal. I don't really think [that name] fits my design aesthetic so much. It sounds rich in animal-prints, and well, it definitely isn't!” she said. As to what's next for that line, she says, “I'm looking to create a production team and make it into a real viable line. More product, more sizes, more options.”

And regardless of the outcome, Leanne has already seen the benefit of making it as far as she did, saying, “"The exposure is incredible, and the opportunity to do a runway show at New York fashion week is amazing.”

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist,,,,,
(Images courtesy of and