Menswear Friday – An audience with Christopher Raeburn at the V&A

posted in: Designing | 6

Last Friday my husband suggested a date night! This consisted of a cycle across the Park (Hyde Park), a melamine plate of rice and duck with a side of broccoli at Oriental Kitchen, then an evening talk by Christopher Raeburn, one of the UK’s most exciting young designers. It was 22 degrees, and cycling home at dusk we could smell the daffodils, the blossoming trees, and it felt like we were in Southern Spain. But the clothes we saw were largely Made in Britain. Or rather Re-made in Britain. Because what Raeburn is known for is his recycling of interesting, generally military weather-proof materials, into modern outdoor clothing.

Born and brought up by what he referred to as eccentric parents in Kent, he and his two older brothers were encouraged to draw things, make things, repair old cars and survive in the countryside. These Swallow and Amazon type influences lay behind his interest in designing clothes rather than swooning over elegant ladies wear or reading Vogue magazine in the lounge.

I found him a self-effacing and interesting young man. His commitment to re-invention – which goes so much further than recycling – was inspirational. He seeks out “utility and beauty in that which appears to be obsolete”. His current collection is inspired by The Desert Boneyard in Arizona where 4000 military aircraft rest until they are reintegrated or re-appropriated.

Arizona Desert Boneyard
Arizona Desert Boneyard

His “REMADE” collection this year takes apart original MIG fighter pilot flightsuits and makes them into new garments. The styles retain original details such as the all over contouring draw strings.

He used Swiss military rain capes to clear outerwear; the original identification labelling is included. He also recycles parachute fabric – like they did in the war. He reused Lifeboat fabrics to make a patchwork orange coat, and (my favourite) he remodelled Russian military sheepskins into gorgeous coats. Christopher said with only 50 of each of these items made they are a “labour of love” (ie not a commercial success).

He takes a lot of inspiration from military garments.

“If I come back to my inspirations and think military functionality, everything has a reason. Generally speaking I try to consider what’s ultimately going in those pockets. For me it’s about validation in design and knowing a design has been considered all the way through. I don’t profess to be an archetypal high-fashion designer. Having a product that really works is at the centre of what we do.” (Style)

6 Responses

  1. mrsmole

    WOW! Now that is real recycling!!!! And so wearable and cool that it really makes you sit up and take notice. It certainly was worth a bike ride for that! Lucky girl out on a mystery date!

  2. Stephanie

    Mrs. Mole said it perfectly. This is fascinating and what a great date night. The sheepskin coats are particularly striking. For some reason his work makes me think of the photographs of Ed Burtynsky – maybe because of finding beauty in the abandoned (e.g. environmentally devastated areas).

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