With its 1970s futuristic design conceived by Powell and Moya Architects, the Museum of London narrates the British capital's past while simultaneously attempting to straddle visions of times to come. This effort to marry tradition and expectation is evidenced in its location in the City of London, framed by the historical importance of the city and the country, and by being at the heart of one of the world's financial centres. As such, hosting the presentation for Christopher Raeburn's spring/summer 2012 collection on 16 September 2011 seemed fitting for an institution that strives to stage the past and constructs the future.
A graduate from London's Royal College of Art, Raeburn is fast becoming known for his work in ethical design while promoting garments made in England. Launching in 2008, Raeburn's work was handpicked for 'Camouflage', an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London. In the same year, he showcased a capsule collection of reversible garments titled 'Inverted' at London Design Week, and featured in Hywel Davies' publication 100 New Designers.
In 2009, Raeburn produced a menswear collaboration with British designer Tim Soar, which was shown at Paris Men's Fashion Week. Winning the International Ethical Fashion Forum's Innovation competition secured a place at London Fashion Week autumn/winter 2009. This led to womenswear orders from Browns Focus and a collaboration with upcycling company Worn Again, producing capsule collections incorporating Virgin and Eurostar fabrics.
For spring/summer 2012, Raeburn produced 'Spectral Line', an ambitious and focussed collection that is successfully literal and faithful to its title. At the Museum of London's Linbury Gallery and Sackler Hall, Raeburn worked the notions of colours, lines, blocks, as well as fabric exploration in a range of men's and womenswear inspired by sportswear and military designs. In the Linbury Gallery, turned into a space where large colourful stripes extended from wall to wall and across the floor, casting director Sarah Bunter lined up male and female models with professional backgrounds very diverse, including electricians and explorers. Each model wore garments of bright or muted colours in plain or asymmetric shapes that matched the large stripe on which they stood. By being positioned at viewer level, this staging generated a very intimate feel for a collection proud of explosions of colour blocks and shades of olive green and grey, often delineated by black trims, in bomber jackets, parkas, macs, hoodies, t-shirts, gilets, dresses, and anoraks.
After observing how clothes looked as worn on models, viewers were invited to make their way to the Sackler Hall, where an installation begged interaction with the clothes. In this vast area, garments hung on tent-like structures supported by enigmatic fabric squirrels (Raeburn's chosen animal this season that also welcomed guests at the entrance to the venue in large scale dimensions). The concept was based on research into the emotional relationship between garment and wearer, and between colour and sound: when viewers touched the garments, a sound could be heard across the room and coloured graphics could be seen on a large overhanging LED ellipse. This creative action cleverly questioned the notion of fashion presentation as interaction, and the idea that garment-wearing is, in fact, not a two-dimensional process but part of a holistic sensorial and multi-dimensional process, like most things and actions in daily life.