Since setting up his namesake label in 2008, British designer Christopher Raeburn has become a leader in sustainable design, leading the grassroots movement that now influences the global fashion industry from the luxury sector right through to the mass market.
Designer Christopher Raeburn photographed by Paul Scala.
Although, he says, the description as an ethical designer is a happy accident. “I was, and still am, very interested in the functionality of fabrics as well as their history,” explains Raeburn from his base in East London, where as part of his REMADE project, he constructs contemporary clothing by reappropriating historic military garments and fabrics. Often, he works with British battledress jackets of the 1950s, lending his work the sort of utilitarian functionality for which he has become known. “I like to think there’s a certain amount of archaeology to the work I do and I’ve always been intrigued by using existing items as opposed to always buying new.” Coupled with local manufacturing, REMADE – which makes up part of his seasonal collections, regularly shown as part of London Fashion Week – puts a new spin on the concept of sustainable fashion.
For his fall/winter 2016 collection, currently in stores, Raeburn collaborated with The Woolmark Company to celebrate the natural versatility of Merino wool. Drawing both on Raeburn’s respect and admiration for iconic pieces of utility clothing, the collection re-imagines ceremonial military jackets, taking inspiration from the splendour and functionality of the garments. The collection is designed for the modern woman whose lifestyle demands a wardrobe that is both utilitarian and in keeping with contemporary style.
“Feeding into the designer’s commitment to sustainability in fashion, each piece is crafted in a pure or blended form of Merino wool.”
Each piece in the collection is inspired by elements of assorted ceremonial jackets – drummer, bandsman, trooper and officer tunics – or is repurposed from originals carefully sourced or pulled from the Raeburn archives. Feeding into the designer’s commitment to sustainability in fashion, each piece is crafted in a pure or blended form of Merino wool. The looks emphasise not only the fibre’s unique functional qualities – temperature regulation, moisture vapour absorption, fire resistance and natural stretch – but also its natural renewable and biodegradable elements.
A Merino wool look from Christopher Raeburn’s fall/winter 2016 collection.
“Wool has been worn by some of the bravest and most inspirational men and women in history,” says Raeburn. “This collaboration using Merino wool has allowed us to look into the fibre’s incredibly rich heritage – which has always been driven by innovation and change – in order to deliver a thoroughly forward-looking collection showcasing Merino wool’s outstanding physical and emotional benefits.” As well as being a continuation of the Raeburn ethos of repurposing the seemingly obsolete, the collection is a display of Merino wool’s suitability for all layers of dress within the apparel spectrum – from the softness of base layers, all the way through to the protection of outerwear. “A fibre such as Merino wool resonates with contemporary consumers, who have an increasing expectation that their purchases are environmentally friendly and are insisting on greater integrity and authenticity in the products they buy.”
Every piece of outerwear references archetypal Raeburn silhouettes. With its rope tape detailing taken from a traditional ceremonial tunic, a classic duffle coat crafted in pure, springy Hainsworth Merino wool nods to the military tradition. A pair of bomber jackets feature placement hand-worked embroidery – made in collaboration with British embroidery designer Jenny King – replicating that adorning a historic officer’s frock coat. These garments exemplify Raeburn’s aptitude for marrying the old with the new and asserting the enduring relevance of uniform detail and design.