Community over commerce: Can it work?
By Bella Webb
His business philosophy sounds utopian, but mainstream fashion might learn from London designer Christopher Raeburn, who has collaborated widely, from Moncler to Timberland.
Ræburn plays down consumption, engaging fans through learning opportunities. The brand shares free patterns, sells affordable fabrics and runs workshops on remaking and repairing. The goal is to democratise responsible design, shifting the relationship between brand and customer from seller-buyer to long-term collaborators. This may seem counterintuitive for a fashion brand, but it invites loyalty, says Andrew Groves, professor of fashion design at London’s University of Westminster and curator of “Invisible Men”, a menswear exhibition staged in 2019.
“Menswear works when it’s a dialogue. On Savile Row, you’re not buying a suit, you’re buying a relationship with the designer. People wear those clothes for decades; Christopher understands that.”
The approaching holiday season will demonstrate this. “Black Friday can only be a race to the bottom,” says Raeburn. “Last year, we said ‘buy nothing, repair something’, inviting people to come and learn how to repair their clothes, whichever brand they were from. A lot of our range has a lifetime guarantee, so it never goes on sale.” McIntosh, now sustainability consultant to Selfridges and Net-a-Porter, says Ræburn is a more accessibly priced competitor to Stone Island or CP Company, while Groves positions the brand creatively next to Paul Smith or Massimo Osti —
“menswear designers grounded in solving problems and generating ideas rather than imposing a vision on people”.