Laura Bavrunka, who learned that fashion design was a career in high school, worked behind the scenes at fashion shows in Paris and landed corporate jobs in the industry. She then took the plunge and launched her own brand.
And in a world full of fast fashion, Bavlnka said he tries to run Bavlnka Brand as ethically and responsibly as possible.
From its North Avenue atelier, Bavlnka works on new clothing collections, crafts jewelery, and does elaborate alternative work, including the most important dresses a man wears, and naturally dyes accessories. She also hosts workshops teaching others how to make natural dyes.
“I make things that are really unique, that are really comfortable for me, and that meet people’s needs.”
A high school art teacher fostered her passion for fashion
Bavlnka has always been interested in fashion and entrepreneurship. At high school in Wauwatosa West, she started making her own tote bags out of her upholstery fabrics and selling them to her other students. She also manufactured and sold custom garters for proms.
Serena Maris, an art instructor at West for 20 years, was the first to tell Bawrinka that fashion design could be a career.
According to Marris, Bavlnka always stood out for asking lots of questions, appreciating feedback, and giving his all to the project. Maris still remembers the Bavrunka cocktail dress she made with wood chips in one of her classes.
That same day, when Maris asked Bawrinka if she had ever considered pursuing fashion as a career, she received a flyer from the Rhode Island School of Design about a pre-college summer program. Maris told Bavrinka, who was a junior at the time, about what her school had to offer and encouraged her to apply.
For six weeks that summer, Bavlnka lived in a RISD dormitory, took art classes, and got “a glimpse into what art school is like.”
When Bavrinka returned west, Maris said, “I had a spark in my eye.”
“I remember her saying, ‘I can really see myself doing this,'” Maris said.
“I was lucky to be 17 and knew what I wanted to pursue,” said Bawrinka. “The rest worked out from there.”
She decided to study apparel product development at Mount Mary College. This university had a program that allowed her to spend a month in Paris and work behind the scenes at a fashion show.
During the winter break of her junior year during Couture Fashion Week, Bavrunka studied at the American Academy of Paris, where she learned couture techniques such as hand sewing and working with special materials. She has also worked behind the scenes at fashion shows for Alexandre Vauthier, Clarisse Hieraix, Georges Hobeika, Songzio menswear, and at her house of couture, Didit Hediprasetyo, where she interned for a day.
After graduating in 2014, Bavlnka went freelance at Kohl’s and was soon hired as an assistant designer for the girls’ clothing team. She developed the concept and color her palette for each season, worked with artists on designs, and provided feedback to vendors.
But she longed for more creativity. After three years, she left the company “to see if she could make something herself and make it 100% completely creative.”
After launching Bavlnka Brand, which presented an apparel collection at Milwaukee Fashion Week in 2017, she focused on hand-dyed accessories, handcrafted jewelry, and alteration work.
For four and a half years, Bavlnka also worked as a barista for a living. In November, she was able to step away from her sideline and pursue art full-time.
Bavlnka specializes in natural dyeing with botanical materials and helps others master the craft.
Naturally dyed silk scarves and bandanas are on display in front of Bavlnka’s atelier.
Having first learned to dye with synthetic dyes at university, she stepped into the world of natural dyes nearly five years ago, which has become the pillar of her business.
One of the techniques she uses most is bundle dyeing. Bavlnka pre-treats natural fibers (usually silk or 100% cotton) so that they can absorb dyes. She sprinkles the fabric with plant material that produces permanent pigments. Petals of roses, ranunculus, marigolds, etc. onion skin; and eucalyptus.
Roses, both fresh and dried, come in many different colors. For example, fresh roses are purple and dried roses are more brown.
Bavlnka is the dough folded into small bundles, wrapped in string and steamed in a pot. This draws the dye out of the plant material and bonds it to the fabric.
“When you open it up, you get this really beautiful, speckled look from where the plant material used to touch the fabric,” said Bavrinka.
Over the years, Bavlnka says she has learned how to replicate items that work well in her business.
“What’s great is that even if you use the same materials in the same way, it’s a completely new piece,” she said.
Bavlnka teaches natural dyeing workshops at venues in the Milwaukee area, from Unordinary Omen Floristry to Orange and Blue Co.
After an overview of the science of natural dyeing and its thousands of years of history, participants are taught how to bundle the dyes and each participant dyes a silk scarf.
“It’s a relatively easy process, so anyone, artist or not, can get involved and get something unique,” said Bavrinka.
A new apparel collection of elevated everyday wear and matching jewelry
Bavlnka will soon launch a new collection of ‘feminine’ everyday wear. We will exhibit natural fiber textiles, naturally dyed fabrics, and hand-sewn accessories. She uses almost all deadstock fabrics. This is already produced material that would otherwise end up in a landfill, she said.
The collection includes at least one dress, romper, shawl jacket and other layered pieces. According to Bawrinka, the pieces will be made to order. That means people can order the piece they want in a specific size and it will be custom-made.
She also plans to release jewelry that complements her new designs.
“When I’m designing an outfit, I’m imagining the whole look,” she said. “That includes matching jewelry.”
Her specialty is earrings with a bohemian aesthetic, from simple and elegant to large and elaborate.
She creates most of her work from repurposed materials, disassembled used clothing and vintage jewelry, and locally sourced beads.
“I try to create a very sustainable approach to everything I do,” she said. You want to build a relationship with it, care for it, and use it for a long time.”
We also accept elaborate repairs such as old clothes and wedding dresses.
Bavlnka aims to help clients “fall in love with their clothes” through their remodeling work. She specializes in vintage and bridal clothing, and some of her favorite jobs are remodeling her dresses for vintage weddings.
Milwaukee resident Jessica Sheridan wanted to use her mother’s 80’s wedding dress for her wedding.
“Her dress was really beautiful, but it didn’t fit my style,” Sheridan said.
The original dress had sleeves, a lace turtleneck, sheer material on the chest, and a lace-trimmed V-neckline. While keeping the overall shape, Bavlnka removed her sleeves and turtleneck. She remade the bodice, created lace straps from her original dress, and gave her sweetheart neckline, which Sheridan wanted.
She also fixed the yellowing and staining, replaced the bottom part of the dress that had too much discoloration, and used the lace from the original dress to make Sheridan’s garter.
According to Sheridan, Bavlnka kept her updated throughout the process and had her come in for several fittings to make sure she liked how the dress turned out.
“Trusting someone with an heirloom like your mother’s wedding dress is really nerve-wracking,” Sheridan said.
When Sheridan’s wedding day arrived in April 2018, she said she felt incredible in her “elegant” and “airy” dress.
“It was an amazing experience for me and my mother,” Sheridan said.
inspire future generations
Bavlnka Brand naturally dyed accessories and jewelery bavlnkabrand.comIt’s also where people can contact Bavlnka about remodeling work, and where her new clothing line will be available.
While on vacation, Bavlnka also sells at her atelier at 5209 West North Avenue. one of her customers? Maris, a former teacher.
Maris said she will share Bavrinka’s journey with her current students to inspire them and show them what is possible.
“Sometimes when you’re in high school, you wonder, ‘Am I really me?'” Maris said. “Well, there’s someone sitting in your chair and making it happen.”