“What can we do to make you smile today?” Austin Bright Light Design founders, Gerry Gilligan and Jason Balcauski, asked themselves. The answer? Firefly Cloaks. These brightly lit garments bring smiles to faces, curiosity followed by intrigue, chased with a shot of glee. Austin loves its dance floors, festivals, and moments of abandonment. So what makes this local company so special?
Firefly Cloaks are a metaphor for Austin: they are festive and lively. I’ve seen this effect when someone first spots the cloak. There’s a widening of the eyes, followed by a huge smile. Within the first minute of my wearing one in public, someone delightedly demands to know, “Where did you get that?!”
When I first caught a glimpse of the Firefly Cloak on Instagram, I had to reach out to the creator, Austin Bright Light Design. This is the ultimate shiny object. I had visions of feasting my eyes on it in person and even wearing one. My dancing diva dreams came true last week at The Sahara Lounge Ladies’ Night, when co-founders Gilligan and Balcauski brought several of their shimmery wonders for a night of disco, funk, and soul sweating on the dance floor.
The Cloak Effect
We had a blast! Ms. Mack of soul band Ms. Mack and the Daddies loved dancing in a Firefly Cloak, exclaiming, “I feel like I can dance better in this cloak!” Another wearer simply beamed and smiled, then declared she felt like a queen. At each utterance of wonder and appreciation, Gilligan and Balcauski’s smiles grew wider. Seeing everyone love their cloaks brought them a lot of joy.
Local fans and early adopters include several EDM shufflers because Firefly Cloaks make dancing so fun. Gilligan noted several times that Firefly Cloaks are also perfect for the socially awkward or introverts among us. Even the shyest cloak wearer will have no problem meeting people, as the cloak works double time as a people magnet and conversation starter.
Back in 2013, Gilligan was playing around with making a brightly lighted outfit for Burning Man. Back then, there was barely anything on the market that would stand out in such an over-stimulated, wildly decorated gathering like Burning Man. The inventor never stopped thinking about this type of costume. He and Balcauski, a fellow frequent festival participant, kept talking about the concept. They knew they wanted the wildest, most fun, most “obnoxious” (their words) outfits ever.
Fast forward to Voodoo Fest in New Orleans, and the prototype for Firefly Cloak was ready!
Find Your Inner Diva With Firefly Cloak
If you can’t let your hair down at a festival and channel your inner dance diva, then why even go? As Gilligan and Balcauski walked into Voodoo Fest, throngs of people ran up to them, wanting to ogle, touch, and wear the cloaks. Several people offered to buy them right off the guys’ backs. This was their “Aha!” moment.
So the duo launched a Kickstarter campaign to test the waters. They hit their goal and were off to the production line, ready to craft a super technical yet safe product for customers.
In 2017, Shinyribs lead singer and all-around Austin icon, Kevin Russell, wore a gold Firefly Cloak on stage at Blues on the Green. The Austin City Limits TV team caught the show and invited Shinyribs to a taping. ACL requested he bring his dancers, The Riblets, as well as the fabulous Firefly Cloak. Russell wore his cloak during the taping, boosting awareness for Austin Bright Light Design and the Firefly Cloak.
Gilligan and Balcauski spent the better part of three years tinkering, testing (live at festivals), and updating the cloaks. The lights don’t simply blink in a repeated motion. Gilligan sought out the most advanced, smart LED lights out there. These have an inline controller and 115 pixels in each cloak. (In non-techie terms, this means the cloaks are extra rad.)
Each Firefly Cloak has more than 300 light programs in it, so you can choose your favorite color scenario. You can choose one base color, a color scheme, or stick with the brightest option: white. Another unique coolness factor is that several cloaks can synchronize to run on the same lighting program. Firefly Cloaks within a 40-50 foot radius of each other can sync up. Plus, they have dance handles!
Gilligan and Balcauski officially launched the glittery, fest-worthy Firefly Cloak for public consumption in March 2018.
Gilligan and I gave the cloaks a whirl at C-Boy’s Heart & Soul, as he animatedly showed me all of the features. Before we moved inside with our cloaks on, we dimmed them to the lowest setting and put them on the lowest speed, so as not to be too distracting to the band or other clubgoers. “Cloak responsibly,” he said.
The cloaks are thoroughly tested for safety and wearability, and each one can be worn for around three hardcore days of fests. The battery pack (that fits in a small pocket in the back of the cape) can also charge your phone!
The cloaks have a zip-out liner, pockets, and come with their own baby backpack. The holographic sequins add to the over-the-topness, with current colors including pink, turquoise, silver, gold, and a dark purple.
Due to all of the comfort, safety, and fashion features, production costs are high. The cloaks currently run around $300. However, if you stalk them on Instagram, you’ll likely see a discount code come up via Austin Bright Light Design or Firefly Cloak. The team recently shipped out its first large production order, another step forward.
If you need to test drive one before you buy, Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds has partnered with Austin Bright Light Designs to rent out Firefly Cloaks. Plan in advance if you want to rent for a special occasion because they ran out within a single day as soon as the cloaks hit the floor.
Future’s So Bright
Keep your eye on Austin Bright Light Design. With Gilligan and Balcauski’s bottomless curiosity, constant experimenting, dedication to building the perfect experience, and commitment to making us all smile more, the Austin community can expect truly brilliant things from them!
@theAustinot wants to know:
Where would you twirl in a Firefly Cloak?