Our next season 4 Project Runway profile might, at first glance, seem to be a Parisian girl through and through. From her name – Simone LeBlanc – to the jaunty half-gloves she’s sporting in her photo, her education at Parson in Paris, and her work under a couturier in the same City of Lights…it all builds a picture of the quintessential stylish French woman.
However, unlike the subject of our first profile, Rami Kashou, 32-year-old Simone is actually from the States. And while her style might seem international, the underlying ethos of her work shows her roots as a California girl
Simone was born in Northern California, and although she has lived and studied abroad, returned to her native state to live in Los Angeles. She’s been designing since she was kid – could be eight years old, could be five, she’s not sure – due in part to the creative environment of her childhood. Her bio states that “artists, designers and musicians were an integral part of daily life” when she was young.
Although design can be primarily thought of as a visual medium, for Simone, it would appear the structural and tactile qualities are equally important. At a young age, she developed an “obsession” with fabric, and went on to study sculptural techniques at CCA in San Francisco.
She then headed to Paris, where she developed her appreciation for the tradition of handcrafting. After studying at Parsons, she worked for a couturier, and it would appear the rich history of Paris, and cultural appreciation for both exquisite craft and innovative high fashion, were all inspirational to Simone.
This is reflected in her pick for her favorite designer: Dries van Noten. Her appreciation of his career isn’t just aesthetic. She loves that he is connected to the history of his family – his father owned a menswear shop and his grandfather was a tailor – and that he, too, has an appreciation for detailed craftsmanship like hand-embroidery.
After Paris, she returned to the States, to do some styling and freelance work and, per her Bravo bio, to create “one-of-a-kind pieces for a select clientele.” Last year, her unique career led to the opportunity to research and create a custom collection based on the textile traditions on San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Her roots as a California girl also would seem to inform some of her design philosophy. While “being green” is certainly popular across the country now, the concept of being eco-friendly is something that has been associated with California for quite some time.
Simone’s focus on textiles extends to include how the textiles are originally produced. She lists her “fashion musts” as organic wool and cashmere, and she doesn’t just talk the talk. She is starting a textile company and is currently in partnership in a company called TS Bloom, which says it “is a collection of women’s clothing that uses organic, sustainable and end of run production fabrics.”
Of course, it’s still fashion, and the company says that their clothes are “fresh, easy, and oh so chic. [They are] pieces that take you from day to night and quickly become your favorites.”
But it’s a holistic look at fashion. Simone and her partner Tara Miko Grayless say they “want you to feel good about what you wear and also feel good about the choices that got you there.” The photo to the left is a TS Bloom design, although since it is a partnership, it’s hard to know if it was Simone’s design, her partner’s, or a collaboration between the two. But it certainly might be able to give us all an idea about what kind of aesthetic Simone might bring to the show.
Her business partner clearly feels good about Simone – she actually was the one to encourage Simone to apply for Project Runway.
Acting in line with her own ethics appears to be a cornerstone for Simone. She mentions that her largest influence is the poet Rumi, saying when she reads his poems, she feels inspired to act with honesty and integrity. She also says that the most important thing she wants to do in the competition is stay true to herself and her vision.
So how well will she do on Project Runway? Without more design ideas to view early on, it’s hard to say, but Tim Gunn gives us some early perspective. He said, “The real success or failure of the challenge happens [during fabric shopping] at Mood. Simone’s textile aptitude is just especially well honed.”
What do you think about Simone’s eco-friendly ethos?
– Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
Sources: BloggingProjectRunway.com, Entertainment Weekly, TSBloom.com
(Images courtesy of Entertainment Weekly, Bravo and TSBloom)