Reconstructing Function

Designer Christopher Raeburn recycles fabrics from the Ministry of Defence to reconfigure outerwear.

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Designing uber-stylish but functional outerwear, Christopher Raeburn makes his pieces entirely out of old military uniforms and parachute fabrics meaning each piece is a ‘one-off', celebrating attention to detail. Awarded Best Emerging Designer in this year’s Hospital Club’s Top 100 in association with The Independent, his recent projects have also included making Richard Branson and his team jackets from his hot-air balloons.

Selling his menswear exclusively at Liberty alongside a parachute installation by Christopher in-store, his lines also include collaborations each season with Tim Soar on a capsule collection sold at B-Store, a Selfridges pop-up shop and soon, ASOS whilst his womenswear is available at Browns Focus.

DD: When and why did you start designing?
Christopher Raeburn: Design has always been an instinctive thing; for as long as I can remember I would draw and make things. What I enjoy most about the world of fashion design is that it presents an opportunity for a complete process; taking an idea, researching, building on that idea, refining it and eventually constructing a final garment actually combines many different areas of design.

DD: Tell us about your collection?
Christopher Raeburn: Both collections (for men and women) are outerwear constructed from re-appropriated military parachute fabric; we either physically deconstruct original parachutes and up-cycle them or we are able to use dead stock fabrics direct from the Ministry of Defence. The pieces range from Pop-Out Parkas (our most complex 3-in-1 coat), through anoraks, bombers and hoodies; we take special care with functional detailing and last process is to shower-proof them.

DD: Why did you decide to reconstruct military uniforms and fabrics rather than use new materials?
Christopher Raeburn: My fascination for military fabrics stretches back to when I was a young; I always collected different coats, jerseys, tents, sleeping bags and pretty much anything I could get my hands on. What really grabbed me was the functional detailing of the garments and also the fabrics themselves; they often lent themselves to my personal design aesthetic; for example a lot of military fabrics are waterproof, hard-wearing or windproof. I was keep to adopt some of these features in the work that I was doing and the next step was actually to use the garments themselves.
I quickly became aware that with the military in particular the inherent thing is they have to overproduce (they can't have to little of certain things) and so a lot of the items barely get used and then end up in warehouses or landfill; for me part of the satisfying thing in my work come from giving something a new life.

DD: Do you hope for other designers to follow suit in future?
Christopher Raeburn: I think there is already a move towards a more intelligent thought process among designers concerning fabrication choices; re-appropriating fabrics wouldn't be the right course for every designer or company; I think it's important you have the right fabric for the job.

DD: Are there any designers you take inspiration from?
Christopher Raeburn: Growing up and studying I always took inspiration from companies like Vexed Generation, Diesel Style Lab and Griffin as well as British heritage brands like Barbour. Today my inspiration and respect for fellow designers has moved into many different areas; for example it's interesting to see the way that bands like Radiohead operate.

DD: What are your future plans?
Christopher Raeburn: 2010 will see the introduction of a new range; again with parachute fabric at its core but this time utilizing laser cutting, a vibrant colour wheel and an ever evolving design direction. I am also looking forward to some exciting collaborations.
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