Interview & B+W photos by Joe Hall
The Rapha & Ræburn capsule for Autumn Winter 13 is a continuation of the collaboration between Graeme and Christopher Raeburn. Having both followed a path into clothing design, the two brothers carved their individual signatures: Graeme designing for Rapha and Christopher with his eponymous label. The latter has developed a reputation for using functional fabrics and ethical methods and, like his older brother, works to make products with longevity and attention to detail. We paid him a visit at his studio in east London.
Your studio has always been based in industrial east London; do you think this influences your work?
I enjoy the robustness and the heritage of the area, it’s fantastic that there is still garment manufacturing happening here as well. And it’s not hard to see that the bike is king in East London, so that all undeniably affects my mindset and work.
Obviously your archive catalogues the garments Ræburn and Christopher Ræburn has created, but tell me about some of the non-Ræburn pieces in there.
Over the years I’ve collected everything from Royal Air Force Immersion suits to Russian Winter Coats. Sometimes they’re used for inspiration for new collections and at other points they’re the steppingstone into a whole ‘Remade in England’ story. Remade is the part of the company that deconstructs original military garments and remakes them into contemporary pieces, we make each of these garments in our own studio and they’re always limited to a maximum of fifty.
How important is the influence of the military on your designs?
It’s not so much the military per se, more function and utility. Graeme [Raeburn] and I hold similar philosophies on certain things and what’s interesting with military kit is that ‘everything has a reason’. Pure functionality is an important concept.
The Insulated Jacket – the main piece for this season – has a zigzag stitched style that has been a feature in previous collections of yours.
Yes, the zigzag–stitched quilting has become something of a signature in our mainline collections. Originally the reference came from a German quilting style used through the 1970s and 80s – I really liked the stitch and had never seen it adopted commercially so we updated it and used it across a number of garments. We use a recycled material taken from plastic bottles for the fill in the Christopher Ræburn pieces [but not currently in the Rapha & Raeburn jacket].
Could you distil what the approach is for the Rapha & Raeburn collection.
I’m proud to have worked with Graeme again on the project; we have a very good understanding of the way each other works. The approach was very much about taking the core elements of Rapha and Ræburn and combining them to make a series of unique products, made at home in England.
I noticed a lot of mood boards around the place, is this a starting point for you with any collection, picture research?
Mood boards are always important but we also try to take research trips where possible. We investigate garments from all kinds of places, conduct library research and ultimately strive to make each style distinctive. I’m very proud of the team that I have now at Christopher Ræburn and it’s important to choose clear concepts that really inspire and underpin the collections.
Have your influences changed or are you still obsessed with aircraft, fortifications and Radiohead?
Ha, yes, I still enjoy those subjects but have now done a lot more collections around the notion of protection – such as fire retardant outerwear – and have also focused a lot of attention on fabric developments so that each collection has depth and provenance. Over the years music festivals, extreme environments and even animal influences have all impacted on the collections.
What can people expect from your forthcoming collections for men and women?
Our Spring / Summer 2014 menswear collection ‘Sandstorm’ is an exploration of all things arid and focuses a lot around fabric development and layering. Our womenswear collection ‘Mirage’ explores the same narrative but sees a much more complete vision for the first time; we’ve developed a lot more accessories also and I’m proud of the way the collections are growing. We now work with around seventy stores globally.
You have been very successful in Japan, why do you think this is the case?
I’ve travelled to Japan many times now to get a better understanding of the market. Provenance of fabric and manufacturing is very important in the area; combined with the quality and sustainability of our products, I believe this is part of the reason that we’ve had success there.
Like your older brother, you like to travel across the city by bike, do you have any favourite routes?
I’m fortunate to live by the canals of Hackney Wick, which means my routes into central London or even across town start in this way. I enjoy this time of year travelling to the studio in the crisp air as the sun is rising.
Photography below by Wig Worland
Rapha & Raeburn Quilted Jacket
This limited edition jacket has been created in collaboration with Christopher Raeburn and is designed for urban cyclists. Using the same fit and fabric as the Rapha Transfer Jacket, it is a three-season outer layer for city riding conditions.
Rapha & Raeburn Long Sleeve Henley
Rapha & Raeburn Jeans
Limited to 500 pieces. Cycling jeans made in collaboration with Christopher Raeburn milled in Italy and constructed in England. 32 inch inside leg only.
Rapha & Raeburn Winter Hat
Limited edition reworking of a Belgian classic. Designed to keep your head protected from the winter elements, features include quilted front panel and debossed Rapha & Raeburn leather logo tab. Made in England.
Rapha & Raeburn Leather Town Gloves
Special edition leather gloves for winter riding designed in collaboration with Christopher Raeburn. The gloves are handmade in England from African hair sheep leather.