Christopher Raeburn runs no risk of ever being accused of “all talk and no action” in the sustainability stakes. Though he’s never created too much fanfare about it, he’s championed a laudable  “remade, reused, recycled” approach since his student days at the Royal College of Art. A decade on, he continues to explore – and implement – ways of working in planet-friendly ways. Participating in Fashion Revolution Week (24-30 April 2017) – a global campaign raising awareness about the impacts of our clothes on the people who make them – the designer organized ‘Remade Totes’, a series of tote customization workshops. On Thursday evening last week, an impressive smorgasbord of textile cuts and woven badges, courtesy of Avery Dennison and made from recycled yarn, was laid out for guests to choose from in Raeburn’s London studio. Before letting guests loose on the sewing machines, Raeburn sat down with SI to tell us about the project and his ongoing efforts to help re-wire consumers’ shopping habits.


How did the Remade Totes project come about?


Since opening our new Hackney studio last June in Burberry’s old textile factory, we’ve been keen to use the space for more than a clothes-making facility, rather seeing it as a creative community hub. Our partnership with Avery Dennison is longstanding and they’ve helped us with so much, not only branding and labeling, for which they’re known, but also incredible textile innovations such as a recycled blend that’s basically a giant label that we’ve used as an actual fabric. We thought it would be interesting to see how we could push the partnership, creating an intimate experience for our consumers to take part in. Remade Totes also links with my personal passion to teach people how to make stuff again – we’re definitely loosing skills in this country. We’ve recently held animal-making workshops, inviting fans and consumers to make their own Christopher Raeburn soft-toy mascot from scratch. First up was the Easter rabbit and it’ll be the tortoise’s turn next. You choose your fabric and make the creature yourself, with help on hand from us for the tricky bits.  At the end of the session, you’ll leave with your own uniquely designed animal, or, as will be the case this evening – a tote bag.


What other steps are you taking to inform and inspire consumers to go greener? What works and what doesn’t?  


Much of what we do is to try to engage people, inspiring them to establish an emotional connection to their clothes so that they’ll hang on to them for longer. By inviting fans and customers into our space, they’ll see what we’re about. The truth is, it’s not easy for any fashion company at the moment, and by explaining why we’re so unique and conveying our ethos in a very natural and honest way, I hope people will be willing to support us. One thing I wouldn’t do is to stand on a soapbox preaching, telling people what they have to do in order to save the planet. If you, as a designer or business owner, are able to provide people with a better choice then you’ve done the hard work for them.  As for the FW17 collection, we feel that it had the right balance, displaying what we’re all about. The range centers on our Remade, Reduced, Recycled ethos and each piece fits into one, if not all three, of those categories. We’re now clearer than ever about how we like to work, and we’re ready to push on.


You’ve always been at the forefront of sustainable production, breaking into the market with a collection of pieces made from military surplus in 2009. Do you feel the industry’s done enough to catch up with you?


I’d like to be very honest here, although you could say we were ahead of some in the remake stakes, we were behind many others. My grandmother got married in 1941 in a dress she’d made from a parachute. The make-do-and-mend philosophy isn’t in any way new – it’s something I grew up with. Today, things have to change and people realize they have to re-think how they produce and consume – not only fashion, but food and everything else as well. I guess it’s nice to be considered a pioneer within this movement, but my excitement lies in working in partnership with other, bigger companies determined to improve but sometimes struggling to do so quickly due to the size of their operations. As a small business, we have agility and a cohesive way of communicating; we can change things for the better very fast. We’ve been fortunate to collaborate with the likes of Disney, Moncler and Nike – and on this scale, you can really make a massive difference.