You, Me, and MB

Matt Bruening. Heard the name? If you’ve been in or around the art scene at all, then you probably have. Or maybe you’ve just seen the clothes. Think high waisted pants, plaid jumpers, retro print headbands, leather obis, furry hats… ring a bell? Maybe you’ve seen him, then. A local boy in a simple, black V-neck, and a nice pair of jeans with a contagious smile, bubbly personality, and posse of beautiful models. If you still don’t know who I’m talking about, then don’t sweat it, because you will soon. Matt Bruening, Honolulu’s next up and coming fashion designer, is launching a new line in Spring 2010. From the sound of it, it’s going to be just like him: fierce yet accessible. Exactly what Hawaii loves.

The line is called Billie Young, named after Matt’s own grandmother, who encouraged his interst in fashion when he was young. Growing up in Makaha, the clothes that he wanted weren’t always available, so he taught himself how to sew and made them. “Plain and simple.” In picking a career, it was either science or fashion for him. He chose fashion because he wanted to express his creativity and, well, it sounded like more fun. Growing up in a town where alternative careers weren’t encouraged, he figured he would just have to show ’em how successful he could be doing what he loved. “A job is a job, and whatever your dreams are, just follow them.”  Matt’s clothes are like him in that way, he doesn’t just make what he knows people want. Instead, he shows them something new and pushes the boundaries on what they would wear. Matt may be homegrown but he’s not out there making muumuus. His goal is to bring high fashion to Hawaii in an accessible way, so that it’s just trendy enough to catch your eye but keep you looking classy. Billie Young specifically, will be a high quality, high fashion street line for older teens to middle aged women. Ranging from $60 to $300, his produced pieces for the line will be less exclusive than the hand made pieces he has now.  Matt also busies himself by styling for photo shoots with friends (professional photographer friends, of course) and magazines; even the mannequins at Club Monaco have felt his touch. Because  he looks at things from a stylist’s point of view, he understands wearability. Matt wants to make pieces that are transitional, that women can invest in. He says that the pieces in Billie Young will be a lot simpler than the ones he’s making now, realizing that Hawaii consumers are laid back and don’t want go “too out there.” Billie Young represents “that flirtatious yet edgy side that every woman has, that risk that you want to take, but don’t know if you should.”

photo by Brooke Dombroski,

Matt, who is a graduate of the University of Hawaii’s fashion program has been designing for years now and already made a name for himself on the island. He attributes his success to his own determination, and his luck in meeting the best people along the way. Right now he’s busy sketching, brainstorming, picking fabrics, and of course, sewing. He still found the time, however, to pull off a hit fashion show at Super CW‘s Party at Fresh Cafe a few weeks ago.  The favorite piece of the night was a black, high waisted skirt with metallic gold applique. The skirt bunched around the otherwise sleek model’s silhouette like a “paper bag” as Matt calls it. Inspired by the rocky cliffs at Makapu’u for the show, he’s not afraid to bring some structured pieces into Hawaii’s generally free flowing fashion scene. Aside from the skirt, velour harem pants and a volume filled black and white poncho (an MB fave) also went down the catwalk that night. Matt’s pieces can mostly be seen at fashion shows like that one, but he’s working on getting them into local boutiques to be sold.  Matt’s dreams for the future are to move to New York, start his own men’s line, and work as a designer for Diesel (probably not all at once, but hey who knows.) Right now, though, it’s all about Billie Young for him and I have no doubt that come Spring, it’ll be all about Billie Young for the rest of us too.

Photo by Willie Branlund

Right now, you can buy MB on myspace. You can also track his photo shoots and shows via his blog. If you’re interested in seeing footage of the show at CW’s party, Honolulu Advertiser was nice enough to post some on youtube. Check it!


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