Christopher Raeburn x The Woolmark Company

The British designer shows a collection of military inspired Merino wool at London Fashion Week

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Presented as part of London Fashion Week, Christopher Raeburn unveiled his autumn/winter 2016 collection, created in collaboration with The Woolmark Company as a celebration of the natural versatility of Merino wool. Drawing both on Raeburn’s respect and admiration for iconic pieces of utility clothing – their history, construction and form – 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.

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 and its fashion credentials and versatility.

“Wool has been worn by some of the bravest and most inspirational men and women in history,” says Raeburn. “This collaboration with The Woolmark Company 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. A patchwork Merino wool parka made entirely from repurposed wool also alludes to a military frock coat – this time in shape rather than detail. Elsewhere, a classic ceremonial tunic is fully remade into a motorcycle jacket, complete with decorative original detail on the sleeves and fastenings.

Artfully showing the versatility of Merino wool, a puffa jacket, again inspired by decorative taping on a military frock coat, is made from bespoke wool jacquard crafted by the independent British weaving company Vanners. Wool filled, the jacket is exemplary of the collection’s complete use of wool and the fibre’s versatility. A fact further enhanced by a mini range of pop-out liners constructed in Sherpa Merino fleece with counterpart-quilted versions each offering an additional layer of comfort and breathability through the use of Merino wool.

Layering is central to the collection with lightweight outerwear designed to fit underneath the heavier protection pieces for varying the levels of warmth that suit the modern wearer’s needs. A mesh hoody delivers a relaxed sports aesthetic to the collection and further showcases the technical advances of Merino wool. Conventional base layers are rethought and recast as a roll neck dress with decorative taping, a crew neck sweater and matching pants.

The Raeburn Autumn/Winter knitwear is produced in collaboration with knitwear designer Sarah Sweeney and is an insight into the varying iterations in which wool can be cast. Here a jumper features combed, fluffy wool that gives 3D relief to the design; there's a jumper dress using the same technique to create a chunky skirt panel. Everywhere, in tasseling and ornate detail, military references are found. The collection adopts a muted autumnal colour palette but true to ceremonial form is accented by colour pops from the bright reds of remade tunics. Bespoke jacquard fabrics contrast with predominantly single tone creations to vibrant effect.

While the starting point to the collection is historical, Christopher Raeburn’s take on it is timeless. His specialist knowledge of disruptive pattern material and military silhouettes talks to customers in a thoroughly modern way. This is further underpinned by the ceremonial uniform references – from embroidery, badges, epaulettes and buttons – used throughout to create visual interest and a synergy with the originals. The collaboration is a perfect partnership: Merino wool is natural, biodegradable and renewable; while Raeburn’s signature re-appropriation of clothes and consistent sourcing of renewable fabrics typify his dedication to sustainability in fashion. 

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