Wearable Electronics

Lynne Bruning ’87 fuses fashion and technology

by Christina Barber-Just

Bright green smockElectronic textiles (or e-textiles) have come a long way since 2003, when Burton Snowboards and Apple teamed up to create a snowboarding jacket with iPod controls built into the sleeve. While most of these “smart clothes” are technology focused, Lynne Bruning ’87 has found her niche at the intersection of high science and high fashion. As she says, “What’s very different about what I do is I make it look good.”

With titles like Hippiepunk Love and Synaptic, her clothes have been featured in art exhibitions as well as fashion shows. They incorporate light-reactive fabrics, conductive thread, and multicolored LED rhinestones.

But Bruning is also branching out to create smart clothing that helps those with physical impairments. Bats Have Feelings Too is a “sonar coat” for the visually impaired that boasts a bold bat design on the back and is outfitted with an ultrasonic range finder disguised as a button. When an object is in the wearer’s way, a vibration is set off. Bruning chose the bat motif because bats also use ultrasonic sound to “see.” Other such projects, some for the hearing impaired, are also in the works.

Bats is not for sale yet, but other one-of-a-kind creations by Bruning go for $10,000 and up, making them rock-star material. Which is fitting, since Bruning says it helps to be “incredibly flamboyant” to wear one of her designs. “You have to have the attitude to carry it.”

Summer ’09 SAQ