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Christopher Ræburn’s archaeology

2024-05-13

Christopher Raeburn's Archaeology

Backpacks

What remaining traces will there be of us in two hundred years’ time? The seats of power, possibly, and major roads in our cities, museums and ancient ruins. Many people are certain that the archaeology of the future will explore our consumerist lifestyle through what remains of shopping malls, the enormous “non-places” of Marc Augé, just as today we see in cathedrals the symbol of ecclesiastic power and in the in great boulevards of Baron Haussmann the expression of Napoleonic grandeur. Yet alongside the architecture there will be another type of archaeology with which to study our age - that of waste. We are submerged in waste and most of it will not disappear within the next thousand years.

The idea that waste constitutes interesting archaeological materials comes from a group of anthropologists from the University of Arizona led by William Rathje who in the Seventies started to excavate urban dumps and skips to seek out the most authentic document of our lives on this planet. The project is based on the idea that the objects people have owned and thrown out are able to narrate their lives much more completely, eloquently and sincerely than the people themselves could ever do. Nowadays museums all over the world display daily use objects from ancient civilisations. In fact they are items of refuse recovered by archaeologists and transformed into precious artistic artefacts to be displayed in a glass case.

Christopher Ræburn is, in his own way, a postmodern archaeologist, able to transform waste into artwork. He began his “digs” by drawing on some of the waste most difficult to dispose of, that of the textiles industry. Fascinated by military clothing and a utilitarian style, in 2010 Ræburn created the REMADE line and made his debut in his London with the first AW10 PREPARE collection, produced using stocks of items from the army, deconstructed and made up again. Every REMADE item is a limited edition piece, cut and sewn in England according to very high sustainability standards. Alongside REMADE, Ræburn produces another two lines with reduced carbon footprint: REDUCED, which uses surplus materials processed by local manufacturers in small quantities, and RECYCLED, which uses outsourced resources which observe the same sustainable standards as Ræburn.

In 1973, before Ræburn was even born, a small outdoor footwear firm was opened in Boston in 1952 by Nathan Swartz. Now headed by his son Sidney, it created a waterproof leather ankle boot in the distinctive yellow colour. With the work boot Timberland officially came into being and is still today one of the best loved and popular urban outdoor brands in the world. Timberland boots are made to last a lifetime and to be used outdoors and as an integral part of nature, as demonstrated by the tree-shaped company logo. More than 270 million recycled plastic bottles are currently used in the work boots production. In 2016 Timberland achieved a waste diversion rate of 75% and the goal is to achieve 95% by 2020, so as to no longer produce any kind of waste. It was inevitable that sooner or later the two roads would cross.

Christopher Raeburn

Christopher Raeburn

The two worlds merged to create the collection Timberland x Christopher RÆBURN. The designer has retained his keystones - REMADE, REDUCED, RECYCLED - creating with Timberland three different lines sharing the same environmentalist imprint. REMADE debuted in June in London during fashion week. Ræburn put into practice his archaeological method in order to dig out vintage Timberland brand items at markets and in the city’s second-hand shops. He then deconstructed and reconstructed each archive piece according to a contemporary aesthetic which gives a nod to the beloved utilitarian style with pockets, comfort and ultra-technological style. The collection spans archetypal icons of the urban and contemporary lifestyle, such as parkas, anoraks, cargo pants and joggers, short and long-sleeved t-shirts and crew neck sweaters.

The collection originals were then replicated for the REDUCED line, presented at the Berlin hub Bread & Butter by Zalando. For REDUCED too, which can be purchased in a limited edition, there is maximum focus on sustainability and the goal is still that of reducing the quantity of waste produced as far as possible. The wider range RECYCLE is to be launched next autumn in stores worldwide. Timberland x Christopher RÆBURN is a capsule collection with very low environmental impact, created with recycled and recyclable materials and with a timeless design, able to survive much longer than a season.

Every year, in England alone, 1.13 million tonnes of clothes are purchased. At the start of each season more than 200 million items are dumped. These figures do not take account of the vastness and complexity of the global textiles system, which doesn’t include just clothes but also furnishings, vehicles and industry. The volume of waste produced each year by this sector is uncontrolled and fashion, its main driving force, does not appear to have taken the decisive step in order to reverse the trend. It’s not enough to sign environmentalist manifestos or use recycled cotton here and there to patch up the damage to the environment caused by the fashion industry. We need to embrace a global vision which ranges from responsible product design to its end after use. As Timberland x Christopher RÆBURN have done and will always do.