The CFDA-approved designer shares an exclusive look at ØBLANC's summer 17 lookbook.
Olivia LeBlanc is not your average recent fashion school graduate. The born and raised New Orleanian received the CFDA's Geoffrey Beene Design Scholarship and was a finalist for the $10,000 Parsons x Kering Empowering Imagination Design Award during her time at Parsons. She also found time to launch ØBLANC, a genderfluid brand fit for the apocalypse with its oversized proportions, frayed edges, and workwear-influenced accessories (which include protective glasses and rubber gloves). She plays around with the function and practicality of clothing too, creating jeans made to be worn backwards and thigh-high boots constructed from reusable tote bags.
Now 22, LeBlanc is ready to put in the sweat and tears necessary to succeed as an emerging designer. She's used to working hard. She taught herself how to sew and she spent her high school years apprenticing at a garment factory. While in college, she interned for Hood by Air's design team, and cites the brand as a major inspiration "not just in fashion, but also in the way the team does their casting, art direction, and music." Turning her own line into a fully realized brand is an obvious next step.
In an i-D exclusive, LeBlanc shares a first look at ØBLANC's summer 17 lookbook and talks about the ins and outs of making it as a young designer in NYC today.
What's the first piece you remember making and being really proud of?
This coat I collaborated on with my friend and photographer, Sofia Colvin. I was a junior at Parsons and she was a senior developing her photography thesis. I created this massive cylindrical coat that weighed like 10 pounds that she then photographed in Death Valley desert. That coat and collaboration made me discover who I was as a designer and that my philosophy for designing would be oversized "masculinely feminine."
What was the inspiration behind this lookbook?
This lookbook is the beginning of many that will promote my webstore. It was my first time working with Dannah Gottlieb as a photographer and my friend Tanner Peterson as a model. We just decided on a Sunday to shoot a lookbook. I always mix male and female models to show that my clothes look the same on a female and male body. It's all about a new niche I am trying to create in the American fashion market that needs to happen now.
What do you draw from when you design?
I would say my biggest inspirations are sexuality and dominance. I describe ØBLANC as a brand that is filling the void that exists in American fashion between "too girly" or "too manly." There seems to be an issue with finding the middle ground for these two categories in the fit and design of clothing.
Explain the style of ØBLANC using NYC neighborhoods.
I would say it's Bed-Stuy —because [the neighborhood] is a scrap metal and auto-shop utopia — and mix that with the high-end lifestyle of SoHo.
What challenges are you currently facing as a young designer?
Finding a team to help me out and money (of course).
How do you think the fashion industry could better help emerging designers?
The fashion world has already reached out and helped me so much. The CFDA and Parsons — and various large companies — have been so generous to me just because I am a young designer that they believe in. In order to get this help though, you need to put your brand over anything else and work your ass off. I am just at the beginning of what is yet to come, which will be even harder. I know I am gonna struggle. But you just need to know that if you got what it takes, just fucking do it. You gotta take risks to get what you want most.
What can we expect next from ØBLANC? What do you hope to see the brand grow into?
My goal is to see ØBLANC become an established brand. I am launching my webstore by the end of the summer and I want ØBLANC to grow from there to online and retail stores. I am excited to see what will happen.
Text André-Naquian Wheeler
Photography Dannah Gottlieb