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Prince Charles on Sustainable Luxury Fashion: ‘Buy Once’ and ‘Buy Well’

Prince Charles knows he’s an unlikely style icon. “I thought I was like a stopped clock—I’m right twice every 24 hours,” he told Edward Enninful, editor of British Vogue in a video call last week. “But…I’m very glad you think it has style. I mind about detail and color and things like that—and color combinations.”

Britain’s king-in-waiting, it seems, cannot bear to throw anything away. He even wore a 36-year-old Anderson & Sheppard morning coat to his son Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle in 2018.

The Duke of Cornwall credits the longevity of his wardrobe to his wherewithal to “buy once [and] buy well,” which allows him to repair rather than replace favorite items of clothing. “I’m lucky because I can find marvelous people who are brilliant makers of the things that I appreciate, and because of that, I try to keep them going for longer,” he said.

Textile skills are another thing Prince Charles plans to keep going. In 2019, his charity, The Prince’s Foundation, launched a training program to bring together students from Italy and the United Kingdom to explore what it means to be a “modern artisan” today by marrying “artisanal and data-driven design expertise with high-end sustainable manufacturing at its heart.”

Later this month, Modern Artisan’s first “graduates” will unveil the inaugural Yoox Net-a-Porter for The Prince’s Foundation collection, available for purchase across the Yoox Net-a-Porter suite of websites. All profits from the range will go back to fund The Prince’s Foundation.

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“I felt very proud indeed of what they’ve been able to produce,” Prince Charles said. “There are some very beautiful pieces, and I will be interested to see how this collection goes and what the reaction is.”

Modern Artisan evolved, in part, from The Prince’s Foundation’s Future Textiles program, which provides students and those seeking reemployment with no-cost workshops in sewing, pattern drafting and textile weaving at Scotland’s Dumfries House. Since 2014, the initiative has equipped 4,000 participants with skills that can fill existing gaps in Britain’s textile industry.

It was Future Textiles’ mastermind, Jacqueline Farrell, education director of The Prince’s Foundation, who was asked to oversee Modern Artisan and create a proof of concept that small-batch runs of high-end fashion can be commercially and sustainably produced in the United Kingdom.

Much of the Yoox Net-a-Porter for The Prince’s Foundation collection comprises Scottish luxury overstock cloth. Other materials, such as cashmere and wool from Johnstons of Elgin and eco-silk from Centro Seta in Italy, were chosen for their natural origins, traceability and, most important, durability.

Prince Charles’s desire to pass on traditional skills to the next generation dovetails with his yen for promoting environmentalism. Indeed, he stressed to Enninful that a sustainable approach to fashion is vital to tackling climate change. (More evidence of his sartorial bonafides: he donated nettles from his estate at Highgrove to help create Vin + Omi’s spring/summer 2020 collection.)

“It seems to me there are huge opportunities, particularly now, within the whole sustainable fashion sector, to counter this extraordinary trend of throwaway clothing—or throwaway everything, frankly,” he told Enninful. “I’m one of those people who hate throwing anything away. Hence, I’d rather have them repaired and maintained, even patched if necessary, rather than have to abandon them.”

He pause, then chuckled. “The difficulty is, as you get older, you tend to change shape, and it’s not so easy to fit into the clothes,” he added.