LFW Preview: Christopher Raeburn-------
New York fashion week is barely over, but the fashion set has flown on to the next: London fashion week begins today. In a new series, Style.com drops in on a few of London’s hottest young talents to find out what’s in store. First up, Christopher Raeburn, who presents his men’s and women’s collections tomorrow.
“The sourcing process for us is not a case of going to Premiere Vision in Paris, by any means!” says Christopher Raeburn over a mug of tea in his studio, a stone throw away from the site of the new Olympic Stadium in East London. He’s just finished inflating a giant, six-foot bunny, made—just like the parkas that established him as a designer to watch—from recycled parachute fabric. The bunny, alongside other animals, will feature in his presentation tomorrow at the disused Aldwych tube station—a presentation that will incorporate film as well as sound installations.
So while his fellow designers hit the fabric shows, like Premiere Vision, in search of their materials, Raeburn’s process is a little more complicated. “It’s a case of going to different military warehouses, looking on the Internet, delving into my own research bank,” he explains of finding the deadstock materials, often military-issued, out of which he creates his men’s and women’s lines. For Fall, 40-year-old Danish wool and beautifully mottled military transit blankets are among the salvage. Fabric sitting in moldering warehouses doesn’t excite some, but Raeburn waxes poetic. The blankets, he says, “literally have every color you can imagine within them, and they’re not even in any way designed. It’s really exciting taking something that was never meant to be a garment and giving it a completely new life.”
The blankets are reborn as surprisingly soft bomber jackets. Unused ends of parachute rolls that never passed the flying test (“pre-consumer waste that might’ve gone into landfills,” Raeburn says) become printed parkas. (In days past, original parachutes were deconstructed.) A terrific duffel coat is made of Swedish military wool from the fifties; its toggles are antique horn from vintage garments. And new for the season, there will be outerwear made from British fabrics like a scarlet wool from Hainsworth in the north of England—which also happens to make the material for the Queen’s Guards uniforms at Buckingham Palace.
Raeburn is clearly on the rise: He’s got a big supporter in the U.S. in Barneys, and can boast 800 percent growth in production over last year. “The growing pains are incredible, but also, you grow up a bit and you make less mistakes,” he says. “Although with my design process, happy accidents are really exciting!”