by Stephen Garner
Photo by Mike Wilkinson

Prince Charles is now a fashion mogul. Britain’s 71-year-old heir-to-the-throne has debuted a new capsule collection through his organization, The Prince’s Foundation, as part of The Modern Artist Project with Italian fashion company Yoox Net-A-Porter Group, parent of Mr Porter.

The new project aims to strengthen textile skills training and equip trainee artisans in the UK and Italy with the skills and confidence needed to produce luxury apparel collections to the highest standards.

An evolution of the relationship between HRH The Prince of Wales, president of The Prince’s Foundation, and Federico Marchetti, chairman and CEO of Yoox Net-A-Porter Group, the collection celebrates both the rich heritage and future of British and Italian textile craftsmanship. The new 18-piece collection consists of 10 women’s items and eight menswear items.

Six Italian students from leading design school Politecnico di Milano’s Fashion in Process (FiP) research laboratory led the design of the Yoox Net-A-Porter for The Prince’s Foundation collection. Meanwhile, British artisans undertook training in small batch production skills at Dumfries House, the headquarters of The Prince’s Foundation in Ayrshire, Scotland, allowing them to craft the majority of the collection by hand in the estate’s Textile Training Centre.

Photo by Mike Wilkinson

During the manufacturing process, the artisans learned advanced technical production skills such as industrial sewing, pattern drafting, and quality control, while also developing the expertise to handle wool, cashmere, and silk fabrics to ensure garment finishes meet the requirements of the luxury market. These skills have been formally recognized with the manufacturing artisans completing a Modern Apprenticeship Award in Heritage Textiles in partnership with Glasgow Clyde College.

The knitwear was designed by the Italian artisans and manufactured at Johnstons of Elgin’s knitwear mill in Hawick, Scotland, where all of the artisans learned about the British knitwear development process. Throughout the project, the British and Italian artisans collaborated across borders to share knowledge, cultures, and experiences to enrich the collection.

In the womenswear collection, details from the wide legs and midi lengths to the cinched-in waists and pussy bows were design choices informed by customer preferences. Similarly, data informed the choice of colors in the menswear, from the camel coat to the navy trousers, and influenced defining features such as the drawstring detail at the waist of the casual trousers.

The collection design, carried out during the 500th anniversary year of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, took inspiration from the convergence of art and science in da Vinci’s work. The result is a sophisticated collection that marries formal lines and simple construction. Da Vinci’s knots are a feature throughout the collection. His studies of drapery inspired the womenswear, realized through folds, pleats, smocking, ties and bows. The menswear references da Vinci’s technical studies of engineering and anatomy, and his fascination with architectural details.

“The Modern Artisan project is a unique collaboration that champions sustainability and prepares trainees with the skills and confidence needed to gain employment in the fashion and textile industry, or start their own business,” said Jacqueline Farrell, education director at The Prince’s Foundation at Dumfries House. “Managing the project on behalf of The Prince’s Foundation at Dumfries House and overseeing our skilled tutors teach the trainees artisanal skills and traditional methods of production to a new generation of makers has, for me, been a dream come true. I am very much looking forward to seeing what the artisans do next and am confident that each and every one of them will use the skills they have developed throughout The Modern Artisan project to make a positive impact on the fashion and textile industry and help preserve these invaluable heritage craft skills.”

“I’ve long been inspired by uniting seemingly opposing worlds,” added Marchetti. “The Modern Artisan project harnesses Big Data and Artificial Intelligence to transform the ancient profession of craftsmanship into a contemporary career: we have equipped the next generation of artisans with the digital tools of the trade to navigate an ever-evolving landscape. Designed in Italy and crafted in the UK, this truly sustainable luxury collection illustrates the vast possibilities of cross-border collaborations to tackle environmental challenges and train creative talents in these uncertain times and beyond.”

All profits from the sale of the collection will be donated to The Prince’s Foundation to enable the charity to develop and deliver training programs that will help preserve traditional textile skills. The Modern Artisan project is a long-term partnership between Yoox Net-A-Porter Group and The Prince’s Foundation, which will be showcased at Michelangelo Foundation’s Homo Faber in 2021.