Designers from S.F. have quite the ‘Project’ ahead 

San Francisco might just trip over its Prada heels when Bravo’s "Project Runway" unveils its fourth season at 10 tonight. Two of the 15 contestants are from The City.

Chris March, 44, and Simone Leblanc, 32, pepper the reality show with San Francisco flair.

He’s got two decades of fashion experience and "Beach Blanket Babylon" under his belt. She studied at California College of the Arts.

While they give "Project Runway" a delicious Nor-Cal edge, they’re still competing against each other for a cash prize of $100,000, a spread in Elle magazine, the chance to launch their own clothing line and a new car.

"I think I am the oldest person there; I have been doing this for twentysomething years," says March, who worked on BBB’s trademark hats and wigs, then moved to New York where he nabbed a Drama Desk Award nomination for costume design and made the rounds designing styles that appeared on "Entertainment Tonight," "Tyra" and "Today."

He says, "For me, it’s all about staying focused and doing your best. That’s what clobbers the competition — not to freak out."

"It’s challenging," says Leblanc, who studied fashion in Paris after leaving The City, then relocated to Los Angeles, eventually funneling her energy into TS BLOOM, a collection of women’s clothing made with organic and surplus fabrics.

Leblanc says, "The lack of sleep and the competitive nature in the work group, and the time frame that they gave us — we were not in control of the situations at all. At any moment, somebody could jump in and pull us off a project."

Viewers like the premise. The show seems to feed reality TV addicts’ souls. Last season, the "Project Runway" finale attracted some 5 million viewers.

Both designers are intrigued with the nature of the show.

"There is always a certain amount of pressure when it comes to creation, but it is just compounded here," Leblanc says. "Everything is heightened because you have a camera on you."

"It’s television," says March, "and if it doesn’t happen on camera, it didn’t happen."

But Leblanc says she can’t shake her San Francisco influence.

"I think there is a subtle sophistication when it comes to San Francisco, which is very close to my heart," she says. "I think it’s a city of quality and refinement and it’s not garish. I appreciate that sensibility."

When it comes to design, March says, "I will use anything to make anything."

But any way you stitch it, hostess Heidi Klum, judges Gina Garcia, Michael Kors and fashion mentor Tim Gunn still deliver most of the creative punches.

"It does kind of feel like there is a master behind the curtain and we are marionettes," Leblanc says.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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