There are very few fashion designers you meet and think, Wow—that guy could be president. He could build rocket ships that go to Mars, or invent some paradigm-shifting green technology. No, in the course of the average fashion week, these thoughts do not often come along.
But you do think those kinds of things about Christopher Raeburn. Watching him develop his brand over the past four years, it's been impossible not to catch on to his diligent, creative intelligence. And the way he operates as a designer—cautiously mapping out new territory, and then, with a breathtaking leap, demonstrating total mastery—marks him out as someone who could thrive in virtually any field. But every other industry's loss is fashion's gain, and this season it's women in particular who ought to be thankful. Raeburn's first two women's collections saw him in studious mapping mode; this time out, he made his breathtaking leap.
Raeburn launched his brand in 2008 with a capsule collection of parkas made from upcycled British Army parachute nylon. Though much has evolved since then, it was remarkable to see, in this new collection, how assiduously he continues to follow the principles he laid down back then. The show opener, a sleek white shirtdress, was made of an iridescent nylon that recalled his parachute nylons. Details and finishes reinforced his elementally utilitarian point of view: The lace, for instance, was laminated and water-resistant, and therefore a fit material for outerwear. His military interests continue to thrive and were elaborated here by a print developed from the escape maps given to pilots in the fifties, and a white burnout pattern inspired by camouflage. And he still makes tremendously effective use of his articulating grosgrain ribbon, a brand signature from day one. This season, the ribbon turned up, among other places, on a terrific pair of tapered track pants, which Raeburn paired with a sharp little laminated-lace jacket. The look was feminine and chic, and miles away from men's oversize parachute-nylon parkas, but you could see the family relationship clearly.
For the record, Christopher Raeburn could not be president. For one thing, he's English. And beyond that, he's not much of a glad-hander, which may explain why his presentation this morning was a petite one, in a deathly time slot. It's about time for Raeburn to test himself on a bigger stage.