‘Ultimately, this is this is a companion for your adventure,’ explains fashion designer Christopher Raeburn about his new collaboration with Aesop, a portable product pouch called the Adventurer Roll-Up. Raeburn is telling me this over Zoom from his eponymous brand’s East London production studio, a converted Burberry textile factory that, at the time of our conversation late last year, stood nearly empty apart from Raeburn himself. The relative quiet of the Raeburn Lab, an open studio typically buzzing with workshops for the public and busy Raeburn employees, makes it clear that lockdowns in the UK and around the world have created an entirely new environment, one in which the word ‘adventure’ has had to take on a new meaning. 

Having an adventure when there’s nowhere to go might seem like an oxymoron but Raeburn is used to making something out of nothing. Raeburn was a pioneer of sustainable fashion long before it was fashionable, championing a ‘remake, reduce, recycle’ ethos that saw disused military parachutes, dinghies, and other fabrics repurposed into streetwear. His ‘Raefound’ collection last year took the philosophy one step further, by creating nothing new at all and instead relabelling pre-existing military surplus items.

aesop and raeburn roll-up next to aesop products in brown bottles
The standard edition Adventure Roll-Up and Aesop products

Like Raeburn, Aesop has always placed a premium on sustainability, offering a fully vegan product range of skin, hair, and body care in reusable and recyclable packaging. For their first-ever collaboration together, Raeburn designed a portable pouch for Aesop hand care products, such as hand sanitiser, lotion, and mist. 

The pouch comes in three variations. The first is a limited-edition run of 300 roll-ups made out of 1960s aeronautical navigation maps. ‘They were used by the Royal Air Force and we have them for all different parts of the world,’ explains Reaburn about the maps used for the project.

aesop and raeburn roll-up with aesop hand sanitiser and hand soap
Aesop x Raeburn limited-edition Roll-Up

‘But what’s really significant about them is that they all [depict] areas of environmental concern. So, we’ve got one which is of Borneo (an island in Southeast Asia) which, unfortunately, is an area of real deforestation. And we have one based around the Aral Sea (a lake between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan) where the local cotton manufacturing has meant that the water has been completely depleted. These maps were made 70 years ago and if you look at the Goggle maps for these places now, they’re completely different.’

The standard roll-up is made of recycled cotton and available to purchase through the Aesop store. While the third variation is a DIY roll-up that can be made at home by anyone with a sewing machine. The pattern is available for free download on Aesop’s website with a how-to video offering additional tips for putting it together.

aesop raeburn image of Christopher raeburn cutting maps in his studio

Vintage map being transformed into a Roll-Up at the Raeburn Labs

So what kind of adventure can the Roll-Up be taken on? A walk in the park perhaps. Maybe, one day soon, something a little more far-flung. Or maybe the adventure doesn’t involve traveling at all, and instead, it’s the new experience of making old fabric into a Roll-Up on your own, right from home. It’s all about adapting and adjusting things to work for your particular situation. Common themes of the past year and, in Raeburn’s view, themes that will come to dominate the future of fashion. 

‘I think that’s what’s really exciting to me is that, if we can keep things simple and work towards three streams – making things that are remade, that are then infinitely repairable, and that are natural and can go back into the earth – if you keep things in those three areas you immediately have a really good opportunity to make the right decisions upstream, to ensure that whatever happens downstream, you’re going to be able to manage that product lifecycle. And I think that’s really key [for a sustainable future].’ §