Remember the Little Show That Could called Project Runway? Before a bunch of legal drama between the Weinstein Co. and NBC threatened its very existence? Of course you do! Leanne Marshall, the most recent winner of the show, may not be at parties every night working the step and repeat like it’s her day job (because it’s not, don’t forget!), but she says her business has expanded “a thousandfold” since the show. “You don’t see me because I’m constantly in my studio working and sewing. You know, I make all my own samples — I experiment with these things. I don’t just sketch something and hand it off to somebody,” she said this afternoon at the photo shoot for her Bluefly collection, which is about to launch. Her Bluefly line has taken longer to produce than those of previous Runway winners. Leanne said designing on this scale is much different than designing one-of-a-kind pieces on her own in her apartment in Portland. She moved to New York earlier this year and spent months sorting out which manufacturers to use. “At first it was just incredibly overwhelming,” she told us. “I learned this stuff in school but when I’m actually doing it as opposed to ‘I’ll just whip this up myself,’ it’s an entirely different method. It was an incredible learning experience. You know, next time it’s going to be so much easier.”
With her Bluefly line pretty much done, Leanne’s working on producing the fall collection for her namesake label, Leanne Marshall, and designing the spring collection, which she plans to show during Fashion Week. She said response from buyers has been good, but she’s still waiting on purchase orders so she doesn’t know which boutiques will sell her fall line. Meanwhile, her custom-wedding-dress business has exploded since the show.
And yes, Leanne keeps in touch with her season-five cast mates, including Korto and Jarrell, but mostly Suede, who lives upstate. “Suede’s just become one of my really great friends since I’ve been here,” Leanne said. Tim Gunn still mentors her. She talked to him yesterday on the phone. What about? “Where I want to go as a designer. It’s really important for me to establish myself as just a designer. You know, I think the show’s been an incredible tool for getting my name out there and I don’t regret doing it for a minute. It’s rewarded me for so many different opportunities and the exposure alone has been incredible. But I really want to focus on my skills as a designer and get to a point when I can show at Bryant Park season after season. Well, I guess it will be Lincoln Center in the future,” she said. She also just designed her first maternity dress, for Heidi Klum, so she hopes the Klumster will wear it on the seventh season of Runway, currently shooting in New York.
See Leanne’s complete Bluefly collection in the slideshow.