The Prince of Wales’ decades-long dedication to sustainability has a measurable impact on the fashion industry.
The sleek and sexy jumpsuits, dresses and tops that Nicole Christie creates for her luxury start-up, Ellipsis, wouldn’t exist without HRH The Prince of Wales. Christie launched her business during the pandemic after completing an intensive training program called The Modern Artisan, which was developed by the Prince’s Foundation in Scotland to focus on small runs of designer clothing that can be made with textiles sourced from of luxury factories in Britain and Europe. “Coming from The Modern Artisan has totally shaped my business,” she says, noting that she’s embraced the ethos of sustainability that runs through all of Prince’s endeavors.
The 73-year-old heir to the thrones of the UK, Canada and 13 other kingdoms has been a vocal advocate in the fight against climate change for decades. he was just 21 when he warned of the effects of plastic pollution in 1970. Since then, his efforts have evolved to include everything from preserving traditional craftsmanship to transforming royal farmland from organic farms to a sustainable future.
Along the way, Prince Charles has become fashion’s most unusual influencer. His social media accounts focus on his projects and charities rather than fashion-forward images of him, and he’s more likely to wear neatly mended suits and mended shoes than the latest runway designs. . “If you look at the way the Prince of Wales dresses, you’ll see a lot of things that are renewable, a lot that’s been repaired, a lot that’s been recycled and a lot that’s been kept and maintained,” says Peter Ackroyd. , COO of The Campaign for Wool, another Prince Charles style initiative. “And that’s a key part of his message: ‘Don’t throw things away, buy things to keep, buy things to maintain.'”
Indeed, a dive into the growing issue of sustainability within the fashion industry reveals that, through his own style choices and efforts in the industry, Prince Charles is making an impact measurable. Both are an extension of her passion for architecture, heritage and craftsmanship, says Jacqueline Farrell, director of education for the Prince’s Foundation at Dumfries House, including its Future Textiles programme. (Dumfries House, about 45 minutes from Glasgow, is in one of Scotland’s most deprived areas.)
When it comes to his fashion endeavors, that not only means he’s a proponent of using natural, ethically sourced fabrics, such as wool or linen, but he also makes sure they’re made in local textile mills and manufacturing sites and by skilled workers who thus maintain their often rural communities. “It’s the skill set that he wants to preserve – the idea that these forms of craftsmanship, whether for the heritage environment or luxury fashion, don’t get lost,” Farrell notes. . “And it’s easy to lose them in mass production, but we can’t lose them forever because these things are actually invaluable to the future security of the planet.”
In 2013, conversations with fashion and textile stakeholders led Prince Charles to “realize that there was a technical textile skills gap in the UK”, says Farrell. It has created a series of education and training programs under the Future Textiles umbrella brand that raise awareness not only for these technical jobs, but also for graduate students ready to “sit down on a production line and make products from luxury”. Each year, more than 1,400 people, from school children to retirees, attend Future Textiles courses and programs, which range from basic sewing and embroidery courses to The Modern Artisan and six- to 12-week industrial sewing courses. Most of them are offered at Dumfries House. Its programs are free to students to “enable people who wouldn’t normally have access to this type of education to participate,” says Farrell. Classes are also offered in London, and later this year they will be held at Highgrove, Prince Charles’ private estate in Gloucestershire, England.
Skills are central to the program, but sustainability issues are also integrated into the programs, says Farrell. So while Modern Artisan students spend six months sitting in front of sewing machines learning how to handle luxury fabrics and develop the skills – like a perfect centimeter seam allowance – needed to create high-end garments range, they also collect any scraps, which are then used by other students for things like appliqué. (Buttons and zippers are also reused.)
Through a partnership between the Prince’s Foundation and Yoox Net-a-Porter, Modern Artisan students spent time in Milan learning about e-commerce, marketing, merchandising and warehousing. Christie, who also has a degree in fashion design, has incorporated these lessons into her business: she uses detailed analytics to determine her clients’ interests, pays attention to her fabric sourcing, and turns scraps into headbands and the like. items.
For their graduation exam, Christie and her classmates created a capsule collection for sale on Net-a-Porter in November 2020 that embodied The Modern Artisan’s sustainability goals. Prince Charles met them at key points in the program, such as for a review of finished fashion items. (“It was the highlight of my career,” says Christie.) One of the items was an £895 pair of women’s trousers, described as being “designed from a Prince of Wales checked cashmere fabric at the end of the roll, then doubled by hand in GOTS certified organic and 100% traceable silk”, half of the sales being donated to the Prince’s Foundation.
On February 3, Christie showed off her Ellipsis clothes to more royals when Prince Charles took his wife and daughter-in-law to the Prince’s Foundation London training site. “It was the most surreal and incredible experience,” Christie says. Then she presented handmade silk bags to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, and a pink scrunchie made from recycled scraps to Kate’s six-year-old daughter, Princess Charlotte . The Scottish designer may have landed a royal client in the process: Kate was reportedly very interested in Christie’s evening gowns.
Prince Charles’ interest in sustainability extends beyond training efforts to his own wardrobe choices. He has long promoted British fashion, including famous bespoke luxury companies such as those that make his double-breasted suits, blazers, shirts and casual countrywear, all designed to be worn for decades. In London’s St. James district, where his Clarence House residence is located, shop after shop has received a royal warrant from the prince, including John Lobb, whose handmade shoes can be repeatedly repaired, and Anderson & Sheppard, whose double-breasted suits are iconic princely garments. Indeed, Prince Charles donned a formal 34-year-old jacket to walk Meghan Markle down the aisle to marry Prince Harry in 2018.
“I think he has an incredible sense of style,” Farrell said, noting that the Prince of Wales has appeared on many best-dressed lists in recent years. “What we’re defining and redefining as fashion now is that there’s fast fashion, which is incredibly disposable, and then there’s classic fashion,” she says, adding that the prince definitely belongs in this. last category. “I would say he’s incredibly fashionable.” Even so, perhaps the future king’s next fashion move will be to wear something of the sustainability projects he’s worked so hard to create.
This article first appeared in THE FASHION April issue. Learn more here.