Before the holiday season, we attended an intimate dinner to toast Christopher Raeburn Global Creative Director of Timberland. We have been a fan of this designer since her collaborated with Victorinox years ago and he is constantly working with brands as well as his namesake with the vision of producing pieces that are sustainable and also speak back to its origins. We took some time to chat with him about his passion for design, the importance of sustainable fashion and more.
ATHLEISURE MAG: What was the moment that you knew that you wanted to be a designer?
CHRISTOPHER RAEBURN: Design has been part of my life from a very young age -- I’d say 5 or 6. My dad was very technically-minded, and he constantly challenged me and my two big brothers to think creatively. In fact, if we drew something, he would build it – anything from a treehouse to a robot. As you can imagine, it became somewhat of a competition among the brothers, but it got us all in the mindset of how things start as an idea and ultimately get made.
AM: Can you tell us about your fashion journey from where you went to school as well as other brands that you have collaborated with as we became obsessed with your designs when you collaborated with Victorinox?
CR: My journey began at Middlesex University in North London, where I earned a degree in fashion design. From there, I went on to the Royal College of Art in London, where I focused my craft on womenswear. And this really marked the the embryonic beginnings of the notion of Remade. Three years later, I showed eight pieces at London Fashion Week – all made from a single military parachute. This was before social media had really caught hold, and I decided to do something a little different by photographing pieces against lightboxes. This made a really strong visual impact, and drew quite a bit of attention in the fashion world. It ultimately earned me a British Fashion Award and GQ Man of the Year – for which I remain incredibly grateful and honored. And then, we were off to the races.
AM: Tell us about your namesake collection Christopher Raeburn?
CR: The Christopher RÆBURN brand was born from a desire to create truly responsible and intelligent fashion design for a global audience. At the center is a design ethos of REMADE -- where we seek to find and repurpose surplus fabrics and garments to create distinctive and functional pieces. Alongside our REMADE pieces is a slightly broader – though still quite curated – assortment of items that reflect the two other tenets of the RÆBURN brand – REDUCED and RECYCLED.
In terms of product, our collections span menswear, womenswear, luggage and accessories.
Equally as important as the product itself is our collaborative approach to design, which comes to life in our REMADE studio in East London. We regularly invite the community into our space to truly engage them in the world of responsible design. Having this direct connection with the local community is a big part of what energizes me to keep innovating.
AM: What is your fashion aesthetic and what inspires you when you design?
CR: Functionality, authenticity, longevity are all words that jump to mind. It’s an archeology of sorts, but through a modern lens. I have a real passion for the past… for how things began, but also how they’ve evolved. And my designs reflect that… they’re original yet contemporary at the same time.
AM: We love your position on sustainability and reusing materials. Has this always been a cornerstone of your brand and why is this so important to you?
CR: Yes, responsible design has been part of my ethos since my earliest days at the Royal College of Art and my first shows at London Fashion Week. In some ways it was a happy accident – for those earliest looks, I simply fell in love with the surplus military materials. I bought yards and yards of fabric and got to work. The rest is history.
In terms of why it’s important to me now, you only need to read the news to know that we need to be more thoughtful -- as a global community – about what we’re making and what we’re consuming. We only have so many resources on this planet, and if can be part of the solution by putting responsible design at the center of my brand, then I’m proud to do just that.
AM: As the first Global Creative Director of Timberland, how did this come about and what is it about the brand that made you want to work with them?
CR: Our partnership has, in a way, been a long time in the making. Back when I was at the Royal College of Art, Timberland introduced its now famous Earthkeepers boot. It immediately caught my attention as something fresh and new and responsible, and I’ve had my eye on them ever since. More recently, I was doing some work with Timberland’s sister brand Eastpak, and we decided to take a meeting. And so our story began. We introduced our first collaboration capsule in Fall 2018, and shortly thereafter I took on the role of global creative director for the Timberland brand.
My design philosophy revolves around responsible design, which is right in line with Timberland’s commitment to make products responsibly and steadily increase its use of recycled, organic and renewable materials over time. Timberland also has a long heritage of about craftsmanship and utility – again, a good match for my own design sensibility.
As Timberland looks to the future, they intend to build the brand through the lens of elevated design, and a Creative Vision that harnesses the power of nature and the energy of fashion. Together, I think we can really push the boundaries of where Timberland can go as a brand. I’m incredibly excited to be part of bringing this vision to life.
AM: We know that there are portions of the collection out that you designed for the brand, but what is the timeline in terms of menswear and womenswear that we will see your mark on the brand?
CR: In FW 2018, we introduced our first Timberland x Christopher RÆBURNcapsule collection of apparel. For FW 2019, we will expand our collaboration to include footwear and bags, in addition to apparel.
In terms of the core Timberland brand, the first full collection designed under my leadership will be FW 2020. The process is well underway and we’re all incredibly excited about the direction thus far!
AM: At the dinner, we were able to see a number of stuffed animals from the large squirrel that greeted us, the mid-sized stuffed animals and even the leather little animals - can you tell us more about how these accessories became a part of your brand?
CR: I think it’s important to be a little playful sometimes, and not take ourselves too seriously. And that’s exactly what these animals stand for. But they’re also practical, and right in line with our commitment to reduce waste, as they’re all made from surplus materials.
These mascots have really grown to be part of our DNA, and something I’ve personally come to love. We give them to our partner stores as a thank you; we gift them to community members who participate in our workshops (and donate all workshop proceeds to the Worldwide Fund for Nature); and we place the inflatables in shop windows as a whimsical, yet meaningful attraction -- even the giant inflatables are made of surplus material.
It’s a funny coincidence that Timberland had already been doing the little leather animals on their own for years, using scrap leather from boots. So we’re again aligned on the notion of re-purposing materials, but this time in a fun and engaging way.
AM: How do you make time for yourself in the midst of all of the projects that you are a part?
CR: Haha who says I do?! In all seriousness, as I get older, I’m getting more disciplined and better about setting parameters. It also helps that I now have my brother Graeme on board, and a strong team surrounding us to free up some of my head space.
What’s also interesting is that I’m finding I’m in this unique and wonderful position where my personal passions and my work life are in balance. They don’t conflict but instead fuel and feed off each other. I’m definitely finding this in my work with Timberland. I’ll be totally energized working on a Timberland project for a few days; then I bring that energy back with me to the RÆBURN studio. And vice versa. And at every turn I am learning something new, which for me is a huge inspiration and motivator. So right now, there’s so much going on, but it’s an amazing experience.
AM: Tell us where you are based and where we can find you grabbing a drink/meal, working out and shopping?
CR: Our REMADE Lab is in the heart of East London, but I live in South London, in East Dulwich. I love the energy of East London, but I equally cherish my quieter time in Dulwich, where you’ll find some of the oldest woodlands, parks, and footpaths in the city. I grew up in the country, so this is where I feel most at home, and truly find my inspiration for the great outdoors – naturally, I prefer running outdoors whenever I can. South London is also home to my favorite museum, the Horniman Museum which is packed full of curiosities and well worth a visit.
In terms of shopping, I’m quite excited about the new retail venture, the Coal Drops Yard, which opened in late 2018. It’s an amazing development based in an area with real history, where trains used to bring coal from around the country to Kings Cross, North London, before the coal was dropped into canal boats to be transported to feed the cities’ industry. The whole area has been sympathetically restored and hosts some incredible independent stores.
AM: Who are 3 people that have been sources of inspiration for you in monumental areas of your life?
CR: Well, I've already credited my father but I’ve also been fortunate to have two older brothers who have been amazing pathfinders through life. Graeme, my (middle) older brother also went to the Royal College of Art and recently left Rapha (where he was lead designer) and now we’re working together at RÆBURN.
For other inspirations I look a little further afield and have always been inspired by the natural historian David Attenborough, who has done such an incredible job of highlighting the plight of nature to a global audience.
Finally, (and this is cheating a little), I’d recommend the BBC show “Desert Island Disks” as inspiration – different guests are interviewed each week and they select their favourite music, whilst essentially talking through their life learnings, and I always glean some great insights!
AM: With the end of the year behind us, what have been the good things have happened that you're really excited about, what are things that you thought that would take place in 2018 that you are moving into 2019 to accomplish, and what are things that are coming out in 2019 that you can share with us that we should keep an eye out for?
CR: Wow, that’s a good question – the truth is that there’s so much upcoming for both Timberland and RÆBURN it would be tricky to write everything down; what I can guarantee is we’ll be acting with real purpose, making great, meaningful products and really working to push ourselves and the industry to make things better…
PHOTOS COURTESY | Christopher Raeburn, left Christopher is standing next to Timberland's Global Brand President, Jim Pisani.