The blackness of Christopher Raeburn’s AW16 presentation was a stark contrast to the dazzling sunlight this morning at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. When I’d received the invitation, I’d been surprised to see that it wasn’t his usual catwalk show in the BFC showspace, but as my eyes adjusted to the dark room and the flashing neon structure in the middle of it, I suddenly understood that this is, in fact, the best way to see his collection.
Raeburn is perhaps most well-known for his innovative work with fabrics, having become a pioneer in his adaptation of different materials into his designs and promoting sustainability within the fashion world. This season, he has collaborated with The Woolmark Company to celebrate the versatility of Merino Wool, creating a varied collection showcasing each of its unique qualities. Temperature-regulating base layers sit underneath fluffy wool jumpers, topped with lightweight outerwear that can fit underneath heavier duty pieces to suit the wearer.
Military jackets were the starting point for the collection, with elements from all kinds of ceremonial outerwear, from officer tunics to drummer jackets, inspiring each design. Lapels adorn jackets and roll-necks, repurposed from shoulders to add unusual decoration. Rope detailing provides texture on a classic duffle coat, and sheer embroidery adds delicate femininity to a military jumpsuit. The colours of the range speak of this military influence too, based upon autumnal greens, blacks and greys, with flashes of red nodding to its ceremonial side.
As if collaborations with not only The Woolmark Company but also embroidery designer Jenny King and knitwear designer Sarah Sweeney weren’t enough for one collection, shoemaker Clarks continue to play a significant role in Raeburn’s designs. Practical yet stylish suede boots finish off each look, featuring wood panelling and rounded soles.
Raeburn’s work is so hugely multi-faceted that it deserves to be enjoyed slowly, savouring each aspect as you move around the square of models and hear the man himself enthusing about his design processes. As enjoyable as his previous shows have been, it is only now that I really understand the sheer depth of each piece and their collective importance within the modern fashion landscape. Underpinning this significance, there remains a beautifully versatile and aesthetically pleasing collection, disproving the common myth that fashion can’t be functional. Quite simply, Christopher Raeburn has knocked it out of the park this season, leaving us looking on to see what genius awaits us in September.
Images: Mel Williams | Fashion Week Photographer