For all the poor members of the press and buyers trying to navigate through the higgledy-piggledy BFC venue of Somerset House, the calm and collected helpers whose sole purpose was to direct crowds to the right place were a welcome sight indeed. And their "uniforms"—no-nonsense anoraks—were amazingly chic yet thoroughly practical affairs. Lined in wool and weather-ready, they were a hit, especially with the photo bloggers who were tripping over themselves to get pictures. Oh, and this is worth mentioning because the coats' designer was none other than Christopher Raeburn, who showed his Fall 2014 collection today at Somerset.
Raeburn is a thoroughbred English designer in that he truly understands the elements unique to old Blighty. His garments are rain- and sleet-ready, with all the latest technical fabrics and survival gizmos: backpacks with spaces for energy bars; flaps for water bottles; hoods, so no fiddling with hats. For Raeburn, unlike various British brands, a simple trenchcoat to guard against the kind of storms we are getting now simply won't do—polar vortex, take that. His readiness for the weather also makes him like a Boy Scout of designers: Raeburn is always prepared for that unexpected storm, that hitch on the mountain, the muddiest of trails—which is probably why he was recently named artistic director of the Swiss Army Knife company Victorinox.
The designer is also focused on sustainability-meets-chic, demonstrated by his first look, a beige "teddy bear" faux-fur gilet. He used what are termed "cabbages" in the schmatta business (meaning, remaining cloth scraps from original pattern cuttings) to refit and remake this instantly desirable piece. The process is called up-cycling, in which high-end garments are fashioned from reused materials without compromising on desirability. (Incidentally, that gilet was born out of Siberian military coats that otherwise would have been on the scrap heap. And this tells you all you need to know about Raeburn.)
Later on there were culottes paired with military jackets with neoprene shoulder detailing, a retina-damaging orange peacoat (the color emanates from Raeburn's love of recycled parachute fabrics), and iridescent blue and black printed separates. The designer also ended his experiment with last season's body con—shapes were forgiving and back to the original Raeburn, where utility rules. But a rummage in the woods or mountains doesn't mean not having fun; polar-bear-motif jumpers and dresses and snowy landscapes of Russian mountains on fur-trimmed anoraks were very Sochi chic. Raeburn is peerless in his niche, and if you ever need a mountain guide, he's your man.