Recycling Goes High Fashion

"Remade in England" - that's how the clothing label reads on the original fashions designed by upstart British designer Christopher Raeburn. His men's and women's wear collections have captured the young designer's energy as well as his passion for recycling.

A recent story in The New York Times highlights his unique recycling approach. Remanufactured from old military clothing - Swiss military raincoats, East German infantry uniforms, and desert camouflage gear from the Gulf Wars - Raeburn deconstructs and remakes the sturdy and waterproof fabrics into upscale couture. Putting a new twist on the Biblical passage "they shall beat swords into plowshares" Raeburn is turning garments designed for combat into everyday wear that has won him a growing list of customers and international accolades.

This "up-cycling" as he calls his repurposed fashion, gives decommissioned military surplus, including tents, ponchos, and parachutes, a new life as award-winning outerwear. Much of the material is decades old and can be found stored in military warehouses and army surplus stores around the world. This is yet another example of the transformation of recycling, as it extends its reach to include unique materials, and in the process, harnesses the creativity of those from diverse industries.

Designers like Raeburn are pushing the outer edge of fashion while simultaneously raising environmental awareness. It's become increasingly fashionable to be environmentally aware. Trend setters from all areas of our culture have become advocates for environmental activism and many have lent their support to numerous recycling programs. This type of support is key to the recycling movement for several reasons. Younger generations are growing up watching their pop culture icons embrace the movement. The image of recycling has evolved from stodgy and routine - flashback to elderly person collecting aluminum cans in grocery cart - to a hip activity with a desirable cachet. People want to identify with and be part of something global that makes a statement about who they are as individuals - that they care about the planet and each other.

~ Ruben Valdillez