Lynne Bruning is, hands down, one of the most interesting people I've ever met. She's one of those brainiacs who seem to be thinking so fast that the words can't keep up. In truth, Lynne, a fashion designer who interweaves computer technology into "groovalicious" wearable artworks, camps out rather than lives in Denver; the rest of the time, she's working crew at Burning Man, teaching at the Make magazine-produced DIY paradise known as Maker Faire or hanging out in New York, among other things. And when she's here, she says, she holes up in her studio to work and doesn't come out, unless you count her time searching the global village she's cultivated on the Internet with other folks of her ilk.
Bruning is the inventor of such garments/assemblages as the DayGloWeave, a "handwoven blacklight reactive halter back evening gown;" Synaptic, a "Victorian raver blacklight evening coat from handmade custom embellished fabrics;" or Golden Webs, an Elvira-worthy floor-length uneven lace jacket of wool roving, gold metallic thread and yarns that falls off the body like Spanish moss.
One thing that sets these and other Bruning garments apart is the way they combine rootsy, anchored technique and style concepts -- such as handweaving, bias-cut sewing, quilting, Victorian layering, impeccable tailoring and embellishment -- with the shock of the new, from DayGlo colors to conductive fabric created from stainless steel or silver-coated fiber and controlled by Lilypads or other sewn-in microcontroller boards. Plus, as Bruning insists, they are designed with over-the-top style in mind. "As a textile person, I don't want the technology to show. I want it to be sexy."
That they are: Currently, Bruning is working on a conductive silvery train covered with ostrich feathers and several hundred LED lights for local burlesque queen Michelle Baldwin, aka Vivian VaVoom. "It's going to be wicked cool," she says, noting that when finished, Baldwin will be able to calculate how fast she's spinning the matching fans according to messages being radioed from the skirt. Without a doubt, Bruning predicts, it will go ballistic once it debuts, taking her technological oeuvre light years past what she calls the "blink and bling" wave of computerized clothing. Like all technology, e-textiles and interactive garments are changing all the time, she notes. "Someday the Lilypad will disappear, and we'll be able to do everything using our phones. That's where it's going. Your coat could just vibrate when somebody in your social network is ten feet away."
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Not surprisingly, Bruning describes her personal sense of style with one word: "innovative."
"I was taught that you go and and explore the world, and that's how you learn. I got my first microscope at three and made my first quilt at four, sitting on my grandmother's lap as she guided my hands. My mom made all of my important dresses, and I still have them." Now, she'll wear the same thing for days on end when she's working, but her wardrobe for the outside world mixes her grandmother's vintage treasures, black t-shirts and leggings, her own comfortable bias-cut dresses and cowboy boots. Today, she's dressed in a luscious velour-ish green dress with an old piece of hers -- a roughly woven sweater coat of greens and golds. Her cowboy boots, a high contrast embellished pair, she says have sentimental roots: She was wearing them at Burning Man the year they burned the man down too early.
Bruning then tries on Golden Webs for me. As with all her garments, she calls it by name and uses the feminine pronoun. "She's my favorite of all," she says. But, you know, as we walk through the garments on display in the studio, she changes her mind again and again. She has a lot of favorites. You will, too. Learn more about Lynne Bruning at her website.