September 24, 2008
By Denise Tong
With just four episodes left in the fifth season of Project Runway, Leanne Marshall has emerged as a serious competitor with strong, sculptural designs that have helped her secure two challenge wins. Her first win involved making an outfit entirely out of the spare parts from a hybrid car; the second involved creating a look inspired by the movie classic A Foreign Affair for Diane von Furstenberg’s Fall 2008 collection—a look that will be manufactured and sold exclusively to American Express cardholders.
Marshall made it far enough to show in New York Fashion Week on September 12 alongside fellow contestants Kenley, Jerell, Korto, Suede, and Joe. (Only some of the six were finalists; others were eliminated contestants with “decoy” collections to keep the public from knowing who the finalists are until future episodes air.) Her collection of dresses and separates—in white, cream, and turquoise—seemed to be one of the favorites under the Project Runway tent, with enthusiastic reviews by attendees and media.
Born and raised in Yuba City, California, Marshall graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in San Francisco. She initially worked as a graphic designer while putting together an eco-friendly clothing line, Leanimal, with hemp, bamboo, and organic cottons. Due to the line’s successful sales through online marketplace Etsy.com, she was eventually able to transition into full-time fashion design.
CV: Congrats on your Fashion Week collection! Did it turn out how you’d wanted it to, or were there things you would have changed?
LM: Thanks! I have a very discerning eye, so of course there were little things that I wish I could’ve tweaked, but overall I was really happy with it and the way it looked on the runway.
CV: Of your competitors, who did you think had done the best collection?
LM: I really liked both Jerell and Korto’s collections. Korto knows how to flatter a woman’s figure, and Jerell can certainly put on a great show.
CV: Who did you consider the biggest threat over the course of the season?
LM: My two biggest competitors were Jerell and Korto. They are both very strong designers.
CV: Have you had any particularly memorable fan encounters since the season began?
LM: Recently in New York, three teenage girls screamed my name. Haha! I also got free dessert at my favorite restaurant in Portland, Screen Door, because the chef was a big fan!
CV: What do you consider your most regrettable style choice?
LM: When I was in high school I was a skateboarder and wore baggy pants with a baggy old man’s polo shirt. My mom has some pictures that I hope she never shows anyone!
CV: Which current fashion trend you really into?
LM: Anything modern-looking. I’m digging on the big pants again, too, ironically. But more dressed up; not so “skateboarder.”
CV: What challenges do you face as an environmentally conscious designer?
LM: It’s a lot harder to do eveningwear in sustainable materials, but I like challenges. 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.
CV: What kind of easy transitions would you suggest to people who want to start living in a greener way?
LM: Buy used clothing. Buy quality pieces and don’t waste money on cheaply manufactured throw-away clothes.
CV: Is Leanimal undergoing any changes right now?
LM: 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!
CV: What do you see yourself branching out into?
LM: I would just love to be able to do much more than what I’m currently producing. I do everything at the moment, so I’m looking to create a production team and make it into a real viable line. More product, more sizes, more options.
Photos courtesy Bravo.