Raw power


POSTED: Thursday, January 14, 2010

Local designer Matt Bruening's latest collection, “;Raw Evolution,”; reflects a blending of two worlds, of tough and pretty, and what he describes as “;the evolution and coming of age of a woman accepting maturity in life and style.”;

“;Raw Evolution”; also happens to be an apt description of his place in the world, as a recent University of Hawaii graduate trying to navigate solo in one of the toughest economic environments new talent could face, as well as a consumer mindset more inclined toward conservatism and DIY than the exuberant spending of seasons past.

Although he said half of his May 2009 classmates have or will be moving from Hawaii to find work in fashion, he said, “;I thought I'd start here in Hawaii. I feel like I've built up a lot of connections here that work to my advantage, so why give up now?

“;A lot of people think Hawaii's a dead end because there's not much fashion out there. Everybody tends to wear the same thing, but the scene is slowly picking up. I would like to help support local talent because I don't think it's showcased as it should be.”;

Formal studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa gave him the skills to sew and theoretical knowledge of the business, but the raw reality encompasses all aspects of work in fashion from the ground up—everything from styling, which he has done for Hawaii Red magazine, to working the retail floor, which he is doing at Club Monaco—all in the name of learning how to run a business.

Designing outside the auspices of a big corporation allows for experimentation while he continues to develop his vision.

“;I've always been influenced by hip-hop culture, but this collection has a vintage, bohemian vibe and more classic silhouette.”;

Even so, he wouldn't submit to playing it safe.

“;I did finish these edges,”; he said, running his fingers through the straps of a tank top, “;but I went back to raw. I like that mix of masculinity and femininity. I'm inspired by the mix of hard and soft. I always want my clothes to be hard-edged and I didn't want to sacrifice my whole design aesthetic (for commercial appeal).”;

That's not to say he hasn't made some sacrifice, understanding that there isn't much demand here for the architectural design he favors. Designers he looks up to most are Alexander McQueen, Rei Kawakubo and Junya Watanabe.

“;It must be so amazing to be so innovative you're leaving the rest of the world behind,”; he said. “;Their creativity is on a whole different level, and a lot of people don't understand that.”;

What they do understand are slouchy styles that adapt to just about any figure, fabrics that breathe and silhouettes that allow ease of movement, and that is what Bruening is presenting, his way.

Keep up with Matt Bruening on Facebook.