Christopher Raeburn, the crack of green fashion

Ⓒ AFP – TOLGA AKMEN – | Designer Christopher Raeburn at his London studio in Hackney, March 16, 2018

He transforms parachutes into tulle dresses, military blankets into winter parkas: in the hands of British designer Christopher Raeburn, forgotten fabrics and improbable materials find a second wind … and the podiums of Fashion Week.

At first glance, there are two striking things about the 35-year-old creator: his height (1.97 m, “almost a giant,” he says) and his good mood.

Ⓒ AFP – TOLGA AKMEN – | Employees make clothes and accessories in Christopher Raeburn’s fashion studio in Hackney, East London, March 16, 2018

“We live in difficult times, politically and socially speaking,” he says, citing the “uncertainty” of Brexit. “But if you try to do good, to be optimistic, then good things happen.”

Present on the London scene for a decade, this graduate of the prestigious Royal College of Art has quickly distinguished himself in the new British guard with a vitamin streetwear, modern and green.

The Christopher Raeburn brand, he summarizes for AFP, “does only three things: rebuild, recycle or reduce (waste)”.

No wonder that the designer has installed his studio in the former premises of Burberry, in the middle of a former industrial district of East London.

The place is a comfortable and bright open-space populated with sewing machines, ironing boards, spools of threads and rolls of fabrics. That day, a handful of seamstresses, tape measure around the neck, make cloth animals, a specialty of the stylist.

– A raft, coats –

Under cover in large white cabinets are items from past collections, such as this “deconstructed and reworked” military jacket from a Buckingham palace guard uniform.

Because rather than contributing to this “immeasurable waste” of the materials he denounces, Christopher Raeburn prefers to “redo” by breathing new life into clothes or abandoned objects.

Ⓒ AFP – TOLGA AKMEN – | British designer Christopher Raeburn presents one of his creations made from recycled materials in his London studio, March 16, 2018

“We can not continue to consume as we do,” he says: designers have a duty to offer “better choices” to consumers.

His raw materials, he finds them by hiding, exploring the meanders of the web, importing from abroad, rummaging in the military surplus, but also by activating mysterious sectors which he jealously guard the “secret”.

“I’m often asked if I’m not afraid of being short of materials, but there are so many things available that it’s scary,” says the designer.

An example? The survival suits used for his latest collection, presented in January at London Fashion Week: “There are thousands who take the dust on shelves and end up in the trash,” he says.

Or this life raft half a ton, transformed into coats, bags and jackets.

Opening a drawer, Christopher Raeburn pulls out a thin square of carefully folded light cloth: “It’s a 50s silk card” designed for the Royal Air Force pilots, he says.

“They were printed on silk, rather than on paper, which is easily damaged.” Half a century and a few scissors later, Christopher Raeburn made shirt dresses, anoraks, T-shirts and harem pants.

– An “interesting life” –

This art of working the material, the creator keeps it from his childhood, spent “in the middle of nowhere” in the south-east of England, not far from the place that inspired the “Forest of blue dreams”, the country of Winnie the Pooh.

“During the week, my father (…) asked us to make plans for an object, a robot, a hut, that we build then the weekend”.

Ⓒ AFP – TOLGA AKMEN – | Clothing and accessories displayed in the studio of designer Christopher Raeburn in Hackney, March 16, 2018, made from recycled materials

Convinced that we must “put into practice what we preach”, the creator goes to work by bike, but refuses to endorse the cloak of “activist” ecologist.

“I see myself more as a pragmatic entrepreneur,” concerned about the world he will leave for future generations, he says.

Admittedly, he admits, this operation does not go without some pecuniary complications: the ecological virtue has a cost. “Every day is a challenge,” he says. “But that’s what makes life interesting.”

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