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New York Fashion Week: Christopher Raeburn nails it with Victorinox collaboration

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For fall-winter 2011, U.K. designer Christopher Raeburn has created an eight-piece, limited-edition collection for Swiss Army knife maker Victorinox that's such a natural fit for both parties, it's hard to see how it wouldn't continue for many seasons to come.

The 28-year-old Raeburn's stock in trade is to design new, high-end garments using reappropriated military fabrics (parachutes, uniforms and the like) sold under the Remade in England label, and he took that approach with the Victorinox capsule collection, which is called Remade in Switzerland. It was inspired by -- and created from -- items the designer had found in the Swiss equivalent of army surplus stores.

At the Thursday presentation during New York Fashion Week, Raeburn told me he's been particularly inspired by one item in particular that he'd discovered.

"I found a box of these horseshoe nails," Raeburn said, holding up a tapered, metal square-headed nail. "And I just fell in love with them. They're simple, straightforward and iconic-looking. And each one of them has this little Swiss flag emblem [stamped] into them."

Knife Raeburn used the horseshoe nail motif as an allover print that appears on the lining of some pieces (printed on overdyed surplus Swiss Army cotton bed sheets) and even convinced Victorinox to melt some of the nails down and use them on the exterior scales (the part that's usually made of red plastic) in a limited production of Swiss Army knives.

The knife is one of the eight pieces in the collection, which also includes a sentry's scarf (made from surplus military blankets), a recruit's cap with fold-down ear flaps (made from repurposed surplus Swiss military jackets), a duffle backpack (made from military tarpaulins), a hoodie made from parachute material, a captain's coat (made from repurposed wool military coats -- some of which date back half a century), an officer's parka made from sleeping bag fabric and a cocoon blouson that Raeburn said was his favorite piece.

"It's made from surplus Swiss military sleeping bags" Raeburn said,"and has this waterproof sleeping bag outer [shell] and some of the original buckles so it can be rolled right up and stored just like a sleeping bag."

Each item in the collection is limited to just 100 pieces each, which will be sold through Victorinox boutiques as well as 25 boutiques worldwide starting in September. But if Raeburn's praise for his collaborative partners is any indication, the chances for future seasons looks good.

"I give them credit because I'm a relatively quirky and fastidious designer," he said. "I've been approached by kinds of big brands [to collaborate], but as a young designer you can kind of get taken advantage of. They really understood where I was going and fully embraced it. "

"I think what you see here is just the beginning of this brand."

-- Adam Tschorn, reporting from New York

Top photos: From left, a captain's coat, parachute hoodie and sentry's scarf are part of the eight-piece Remade in Switzerland fall-winter 2011 collection, a collaboration between Christopher Raeburn and Victorinox. Bottom photo: Horseshoe nails were melted down and used on the exterior of a limited number of Swiss Army knives. Credit: Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times.

 
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