After several seasons showing via presentation, Christopher Raeburn
made his debut on the big stage at London fashion week today. He's taken an unusual route to the runway, having started out primarily as a designer of unisex parkas and anoraks made from upcycled military dead stock, then expanding his offering and elaborating the brand's point of view. Raeburn is manifestly talented, and he's earned his right to a catwalk. But is that where his clothes belong? Today's show raised that question. This was Raeburn's most elevated and polished-looking womenswear collection by a long shot, and piece for piece there wasn't a bad look. His fabric selection was particularly savvy this time and included luxe textiles like a lizard-patterned jacquard and textured indigo-dyed linen, both from Italy, and technical materials like a squishy turquoise mesh from the Swiss manufacturer Schoeller. His prints, based on antique Ordnance Survey maps and super-new satellite photography of the desert, worked aesthetically and as storytelling. The designer's silhouettes have never before come off so feminine and refined. But when viewed as a whole, too few of these items really announced themselves, and too many of them seemed like showroom pieces thrust into an unforgiving spotlight.
There was something missing here that was hard to define, but for lack of the correct word let's call it fantasy. Raeburn is very much a form-meets-function kind of guy; you get the sense that he's at his most geeked-out when thinking about the utilitarian aspects of his clothes. And utility, for better or worse, doesn't translate easily to a runway. Raeburn is nothing if not a quick study, though; perhaps by next season he'll have made that last statement untrue.