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Christopher Raeburn’s New Capsule Is an Existential Challenge to the Fashion System

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London designer Christopher Raeburn will tomorrow launch a collection of fabulous old clothes. Entitled Raefound, the collection consists of 43 pieces of unissued military surplus items available in a full range of sizes that were originally produced for ‘agencies’—shall we say—across Europe, and which have been sourced by Raeburn. There is a gorgeous British pilot’s vest with leather looking pocket features and precision-tooled zips that will retail at £195 and should make any hypebeast swoon. There are desert camo and woodland camo issue pieces created on the highest spec—the price a government is willing to pay to maximize the survivability of its employees—and which, oh yes, just happen to look cool AF.

This collection is also, as per the intro, a provocation intended to arouse a philosophical reshuffle. Ever since he launched his brand out of a disused peanut factory squat/rave space in East London 11 years ago, Raeburn has been a force of intensely polite but forensically focused criticism of the manner in which this fashion system of ours operates. Way before it was cool—which is really cool—Raeburn was thinking deeply about the environmental (mis)practice of that system. Factor in a yompiness nurtured in his gung-ho youth, and a geeky fascination for military surplus that has seen him repurpose everything from parachutes to dinghies in his past collections, and Raeburn is serendipitously positioned as a designer long-ahead of a time that is just now, at last, catching up with him.

Basically what you are buying here—should you choose to—is not Raeburn’s design but his curation. Unlike his past Raeused (repurposed military pieces, cut and pasted) or the work of Andrea Rosso at MYAR (also excellent), the only intervention in these pieces is their selection, the addition of Raefound patches as a mark of provenance, and the quality of the garments themselves. The world is drowning in old clothes. The production of new clothes hurts the world. The maths should be simple. Over the phone I caught up with Raeburn, and here are a few of his observations.

“I was reading a Google Trends article which showed that people actually actively searching for “how to live a more sustainable life” have gone up by 45, 50 times since early May. So we’re all becoming a lot more aware of our impact. And yeah, I think you’re right to say, philosophically, there’s a conversation here about not just making more stuff. Because making more stuff isn’t the answer to the environmental crisis that we’re in at the moment. I think we need to be doing a much better job of considering the production, our relationship to waste.”

“What we’re trying to design here is not new clothes, but a system change… it’s responsible design. What we’re talking about is actually a systems solution, rather than a design solution. And we hope it will provoke a very valuable and legitimate conversation.”

Christopher Raeburn is that rare beast, a designer who is questioning answers from a profound perspective rather than answering questions shallowly. His increasingly accurate excavations into the what and why of what we do deserve the exegesis of a brain like that of Barthes rather than mine. He is right—so get behind him.


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