Christopher Raeburn's creative repurposing of surplus military garb has quietly produced one of contemporary British menswear's most striking statements, made even more so by the polish that has steadily crept into the collection, along with—impossible to miss this season—a peculiar kind of poetry. That was one way to read pieces tailored from army mesh colored an unlikely shade of mint green, or a pink derived from desert camouflage.
Of course, the desert has always had its own romance. Here, Raeburn was inspired by a WWII unit called the Long Range Desert Group, which meant that the show title, Sandstorm, also tweaked associations with Desert Storm, particularly when the designer explained that his remade items were remodeled from original rubberized cotton tents that would once have been used in the Middle East. Raeburn used the camo-patterned material in a fully reversible parka (its other side featured a hunting mesh). That was a standout.
The foundation of the collection was a water-resistant stretch fabric called Schoeller. Strictly utilitarian though it may have been in its original form, Raeburn printed it with satellite imagery of the desert to give it an almost exotic feel. He's getting better at that kind of alchemy. Or maybe he's just more conscious of being a fashion designer. For example, Raeburn personalizes each season with a creature of some kind—rabbit, badger, and so on. This time it was, logically enough, the desert lizard. But Raeburn printed it as an elegant mosaiclike pattern on a gabardine mac. The same elevation of the functional shaped his new "remade" initiative with the Japanese bag company Porter. He ships out the surplus; Porter transmogrifies the materials into backpacks; they fly off the shelves. Everyone's happy.