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Fancy wearing a parachute dress?

Designer Christopher Raeburn transforms the unexpected with a flair for recycling

Christopher Raeburn, turning a MiG jet fighter jumpsuit into hand bags. Photo: AFP
Christopher Raeburn, turning a MiG jet fighter jumpsuit into hand bags. Photo: AFP

British designer Christopher Raeburn has made a career out of transforming unusual materials—including parachutes—into clothes ready for the catwalk.

“We only do three things. We either remake, we recycle or we reduce," the 35-year-old told AFP.

“Ultimately I think as humans we cannot continue consuming in the way that we are, and not just clothing—everything from product design to food, are incredibly wasteful," he added.

Such an attitude has been at the heart of Raeburn’s work throughout, including his first show at the London Fashion Week. “I bought one parachute on eBay, I think it cost me £30 (around Rs2,800 now), and from that one parachute I made eight garments.... And things have just grown step by step from there," he said.

Raeburn has numerous sources for his materials, including foreign imports, hunting through military surplus, as well as other channels which are closely guarded secrets.

“I get asked a lot, you’re not worried that things are going to run out?" he said, commenting it is “scary" just how much excess material is available.

His most recent collection, presented at the London Fashion Week in January, used protective immersion suits to create men’s and women’s coats.

“(There are) hundred of thousands of these items that have never been used," said the designer, explaining that the suits are often thrown away after a certain period to abide by health and safety rules.

His environmental conscience has also made its mark on the studio, with the use of green energy and his decision to cycle to work.

“I don’t see myself as an activist but I do see myself as a pragmatic entrepreneur," he said.

Despite the obstacles to Raeburn’s business model—trying to source unusual materials while working in a hugely competitive sector—he is determined to continue making it a success.

“Every day is a challenge...but then that’s the exciting thing, who wants a boring life?"

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