Q&A with Sustainable Designer Chris Raeburn

During New York Fashion Week, I popped by the Chris Raeburn for Victorinox presentation. Chris is one of my favorite designers for three reasons: He reuses military gear that is no longer being used by the military to make outerwear (a very ethical practice of upcycling), his designs are very wearable and chic, and he's a really nice guy!

I interviewed him about his creative process and his sustainable collaboration with Victorinox, and I took some photos of my absolute favorite pieces.

What inspired you to go into fashion — ethical fashion specifically?

I'd always had a fascination for collecting military garments and one thing led to another. I love the functionality and the reasoning for each piece. I never made an active decision to move into ethical fashion — it was more of a happy accident as I was really interested in working with re-appropriated fabrics and because I wanted to do all of my own production. The result was an inherently sustainable company.

What was the inspiration for this collection? What sorts of things were on your mood board?

For "Remade in Switzerland," I took inspiration from my research trips to Switzerland. I uncovered so many amazing Swiss military garments, and they had incredible textile qualities that I was able to experiment with.

How did this collaboration come about?

The collaboration happened when I was contacted by a brand consultant for Victorinox. I was immediately enthused by the idea of working with such a well-respected brand. For me, Victorinox spurred memories of my childhood and I couldn't wait to be involved.

Tell me about "Remade in England" — what does that mean exactly?

"Remade in England" helps to explain the backbone of my business in the U.K. We will completely deconstruct the old garments and then "remake" them into new, contemporary outerwear garments. My studio is in an old, converted peanut factory. We work a lot with people from the local community so my business is sustainable on a number of different levels.

Tell me about the models for this line. They were factory workers, correct?

We made the decision to work with workers from the Victorinox factory because we really wanted to represent an amazing company and a fantastic project with the help of the people who actually work there. We advertised and did a casting, we really wanted to represent a broad range of characters and also show how long many of the staff have been with Victorinox.

What challenges do you face as a sustainable designer?

Fabric sourcing can be a real issue when you're in our line of business, but the inherent point with the military is that they have to overproduce garments and materials. The good news is that often the pieces we can reuse have never been worn. There is something really exciting about giving a piece of clothing a completely new life. I've found that worldwide customers have really understood the work that I do, and I'm incredibly proud.

Me and Chris. He is a foot taller than me. I look like an elf in this picture!

The exhibit space at Eyebeam Studios.

This was Chris' favorite model. He is a factory worker for Victorinox and just a 'good guy,' according to Chris.

These are my two favorite jackets from the collection.

This is the swiss army knife Chris designed that's made of melted-down horseshoe nails (horse shoe nails were the inspiration for the collection!).

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