Interview: Christopher Raeburn
On Archives and Fashion Shows

Christopher Raeburn
Christopher Raeburn

 

Christopher Raeburn launched his eponymous label in 2008. Since then the Royal College of Art graduate has quietly redefined what ethical fashion can be. Produced in England, Raeburn’s collections often use what otherwise may have been discarded. He finds beauty in weathered uniforms and vintage military fabrics. After more than twenty collections, the Victoria & Albert museum invited the designer to celebrate in one its historic galleries. Raeburn was also the first NEWGEN winner to receive sponsorship for both his womens and menswear collections in 2010, . As part of the public ‘Fashion in Motion’ series, Christopher Raeburn joined a list of previous designers as diverse as Peter Pilotto, Kansai Yamamoto and Alexander McQueen. “They are really interested in moving things forward”, the Kent born designer told us after the event of his collaboration with the historic London museum. “To have this opportunity, to show at the Raphael Gallery where so many designer have shown before. It’s a big deal and I am really very proud”.

Something About In Conversation with Christopher Raeburn

How did you decide what to include in this show?

Christopher Raeburn : “We have been putting the show together for about four to five months. It’s taken quite a long time because there are twenty-four collections that we edited. I wanted it to be very different. Things that people hadn’t seen together in one place. To find the right balance and having the right narrative through the collection is really important. The 30 looks are only remade pieces. Everything has come from something else. You have 1950s battalion jackets, parachute and guardsmen jackets, Tyvek, sheepskin, life rafts, Russian sailor Breton jumpers. It goes on. I really wanted to elevate what is unique about our business. The opportunity here is to speak to a whole new audience. The public will hopefully like what they see but also look at design in a whole new way. For me it’s really important to challenge myself.”

Recently, there has been much talk about the value of fashion shows, compared to presentations.

Christopher Raeburn : “I think it depends a lot on the product. For AW16 menswear we did a catwalk show, for our womenswear we shifted the process and did a presentation at the ICA. It was really interesting to gauge the two things. At the presentation we had that opportunity to really explain the product and what we had done, the depth of the materials and the techniques behind it. It was that much more immersive, and I think important for that collection. I think because our menswear is perhaps better known within the market. Sometimes conceptually its clearer because the re-made thing resonates a little bit better in menswear. That works for us quite well. But for sure it’s something that we are continuing to analyse and see where we fit within it. When I think back to the beginnings of the company, we were doing our first shows at these tube stations and the Museum of London. Everything was about doing things really differently. I want to move back to that and have a bit more fun as well!”

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You are known for your parkas; what makes a good coat?

Christopher Raeburn : “Ultimately, it has to be about the fit, the material and the quality. The other thing for me is actually that each of these things then need to have a story behind them as well. When I think about the re-made items we do, the reason they sometimes end up oversized or in a cape silhouette is because actually the original fabric lends itself to that. So we often have quite a different way of designing garments. The grosgrain taping on our parkas for example is because they are made from parachutes. Sometimes it’s certainly a non-traditional way of designing and creating garments but I hope its what keeps us fresh.”

Where do you source those materials?

Christopher Raeburn : “We have done everything. Importing from Russia, the USA, Germany, Spain. We have taken things from all over the world. Wherever we can we try to source locally but it’s about the fabric, the material and the functionality first.”

What’s it like looking back on your archive?

Christopher Raeburn : “It makes me very proud. It’s important to remind yourself once in a while that what you are creating on a daily basis is hopefully important. I am really proud that we have kept one of everything we ever made for our archive from the beginning. I know a lot of designers didn’t do that. It’s good to see the progress of the business. It’s really nice for us because the designs have always evolved. It was never about a concept every season; it’s about evolving with each season.”

STORY BY: Felix Bischof

IMAGES: Courtesy of Christopher Raeburn