HRH The Prince Of Wales Speaks To Edward Enninful
About His Lifelong Commitment To Sustainable Fashion
A passionate champion of the craft tradition, HRH The
Prince of Wales talks to British Vogue Editor-in-Chief about The Modern
Artisan, a training programme co-founded by The Prince’s Foundation, whose
students are about to launch a fashion collection with sustainability at its
core. Photographed by Nick Knight for the December 2020 issue.
Enninful: Your Royal Highness, I am delighted and honoured to be talking to you
today. I wanted to begin by asking you about your own commitment to sustainable
fashion. Your mantra is, “Buy once, buy well.” Have you always taken this
approach to your own wardrobe?
Prince of Wales: Well, I’m one of those people who hate throwing anything away.
Hence, I’d rather have them maintained, even patched if necessary, than to
abandon them. The difficulty is, as you get older, you tend to change shape,
and it’s not so easy to fit into the clothes. I can’t bear any waste, including
food waste; I’d much rather find another use. Which is why I’ve been going on
for so long about the need for a circular economy, rather than a linear one
where you just make, take and throw away – which is a tragedy, because
inevitably we over-exploit natural resources that are rapidly depleting.
So tell me,
where did the idea for The Modern Artisan come from? And why did it appeal to
years or three years ago, we went – my wife and I – to visit the Yoox
Net-a-Porter headquarters. And that was when I met Federico Marchetti.
remember? Who I found very enjoyable. I said to him at one point, “You ought to
come and see what we’re doing at Dumfries House,” because we’d started a
textile training project in high-end fashion and sewing skills. As you know
better than I, these things are in shorter and shorter supply, because the
older generation are coming to the end of their working lives, and not enough
attention has been paid – sadly, I’ve always felt – to vocational education. So
I was talking to him about it. He came to Dumfries House, saw what we’re doing,
we talked further – and that was where the idea came from, to link Italian
design students at the Politecnico di Milano with students here in Scotland;
that link with Italy is so critical, I think.
Artisan trainees will soon launch their first mens- and womenswear collection,
called Yoox Net-a-Porter for The Prince’s Foundation, online. Have you managed
to see their designs?
just seen them today with Federico. And having not seen them since the
beginning of the year, it was fascinating to see the full collection. And it
was fascinating to see what they’ve been able to do and how their skills have
improved; because what was so difficult for them at the beginning has now
become almost second nature. I felt very proud indeed of what they’ve been able
to produce. There are some very beautiful pieces, and I will be interested to
see how this collection goes and what the reaction is. But the great thing is
that now they’re all either setting up their own businesses or going on in
different ways. And this is why we need to help develop these skills, because
they go on to be really valuable members of the fashion community.
important is it to you personally, and to Britain, to maintain, promote and
protect our fashion and textile skills?
absolutely critical, because the British fashion textile sector is of enormous
importance. But the trouble is, it requires constant investment in young people
and in the development of real skills. We were told when we first came to
Dumfries House that nobody was interested in anything like textiles. And of
course, when we contacted colleges and we got people together, it transpired
that in fact there was huge interest; so we developed our atelier system to
promote the traditional skills that are so vital – whether it’s embroidery or
sewing or cutting or tailoring, all these things are in short supply. And a lot
of the students we train here are snapped up by local firms – the ones that are
left in the textile sector. But 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.
us to the importance of a sustainable approach to fashion within the overall
climate change agenda.
absolutely vital, because of, apart from anything else, the amount of money
generated by the clothing sector – what is it now, $1.9 trillion globally? And
they’re projecting $3.3 trillion by 2030. At the same time, the textile
industry contributes something like 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas, which
horrendously – and surprisingly – is more than the entire aviation and shipping
sectors. So it is critical that we address the whole issue around how we
produce clothes. So many of the processes in textile-making involve toxic
chemicals that damage the environment in a huge way. Then there’s all the waste
and throwing away of clothes into landfill sites, which is why it matters so
much if we’re going to tackle these huge global challenges around global
warming and climate change. We have to decarbonise and improve the impact we
have in terms of pollution on the world. There are interesting developments
going on, as you know, in innovative materials. I had an interesting
conversation with Vin & Omi, the two fashion characters I met at a tea for
the Positive Fashion initiative, who have been making textiles out of nettles
that they collected at Highgrove. That turns out to be an ancient system of
using nettles. But the problem always is the processes involved in making these
things. How do we reduce the impact they have on the environment and life
generally? That’s the critical issue here.
Right. So tell
me about the Sustainable Markets Council, which you launched earlier this year.
that’s designed to tackle the issue of how we develop the solutions that exist,
but have never been brought to the fore, because it’s always been considered
uneconomic and nobody was very interested. But now, after years of trying in
this area – nearly 40 years in my case – suddenly, the interest has become
enormous, at the last minute, when it’s almost too late. We only have a very
short window of opportunity to tackle each sector of the economy, to
decarbonise those sectors. But we need to bring our ambitions forward, which is
what I’m trying to do with the Sustainable Markets Initiative – from net zero
by 2050, to net zero by 2035. Because otherwise we will lose this battle
completely. And now suddenly, big investors and asset managers are all much
keener to engage on these issues. So what we’re trying to do is develop round
tables of companies from different sectors of the economy – whether it’s
aviation, shipping, agriculture, whatever – to brainstorm and develop task
forward to seeing more on that. I’ve always admired the way you dress, tell me
about your sense of style. Where does it come from?
I thought I
was like a stopped clock – I’m right twice every 24 hours. But no, I mean, I’m
very glad you think it has style. I mind about detail and colour and things
like that – and colour combinations. I’m lucky because I can find marvellous
people who are brilliant makers of the things that I appreciate, and because of
that, I try to keep them going for longer.
suit you wore to The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding – I think it dates
back to 1984 by Anderson & Sheppard. Did you ever consider wearing
considered it. But in the case of that particular morning coat, as long as I
can go on getting into it, I only wear it a few times a year, in the summer, so
obviously you want to keep those sorts of things going. But if I can’t fit into
them, then I just have to have something new made. But I’m not sure quite how
radically different they can be at my age.
Do you have
any advice for good wardrobe maintenance?
lucky, because there are kind people who help with these things. But yes, I
happen to be one of those people who’d get shoes – or any item of clothing –
repaired if I can, rather than just throw it away. And that’s why I think, from
an economic point of view, there are huge opportunities for people to set up
small businesses involved with repair, maintenance and reuse. Which is one of
the reasons I’ve tried here, at Dumfries House, to start a kind of thrift market
for precisely that purpose, where you can bring things in – whether it’s
electrical appliances or anything – to be mended. When I was a child, we used
to take our shoes down to the cobbler in Scotland and would watch with
fascination as he ripped the soles off and then put new soles on.
pandemic has been a chance for all of us to reflect and find a new normal. What
does this new normal look like to you? Is there anything you’d do differently
rather hope it will accelerate awareness of what we need to do in order to
rescue our world from disaster. We need to understand that nature and
everything on this planet is interconnected; you cannot do one thing without
having an impact somewhere else. We don’t realise half the time that what we’re
eating has been produced in a way that is causing mammoth pollution, which ends
up in the sea. It’s all out of sight and out of mind, but it’s creating dead
zones in the ocean. So therefore, we have to clean up our act. But it can be
done. There are wonderful things going on, but we need to scale up. This is why
I’ve got the Sustainable Markets Initiative going – to try to build a global
alliance between business and banking and investment and consumers. Because the
consumer has immense power in deciding where to buy from, and the best
companies will lead the way, we hope, in demonstrating that if you follow the
right principles of operation, not only are you moving more and more towards
net zero but also you’re removing pollution and emissions from supply chains.
Thirty years or so ago, I decided to look at those companies that apply for my
warrant, where they put “By Appointment To” up outside their shop with a coat
of arms. And I said, you’re not going to get my warrant anymore unless you conform
to the following – in those days, pretty basic – environmental requirements.
And there were howls of protest and anguish and gnashing of teeth and they all
said, “It’ll ruin our businesses.” I said, “Sorry, we have to do it.” So of
course, they went away, looked at their supply chains, looked at the way they
did things. Lo and behold, they came back and said, “Well, actually, it’s saved
us money and made us money – to do it in a better way.”
pandemic has allowed the natural world to heal a little. As someone who
contracted Covid, are you at least grateful for that silver lining?
absolutely. But the tragedy, as we’ve heard recently, is that despite that, and
despite lockdown, the rate of global warming is still accelerating. And we
still haven’t been able to tackle this issue, which is so utterly crucial if
we’re to avoid total catastrophe. Which is why, it seems to me, that the vital
thing now is to buy more time in the battle to make the transition to an
infinitely more sustainable, decarbonised economy. Because, again, there are
extraordinary new developments in capturing carbon and finding new uses for the
carbon you capture. But unless we take more of the emissions out of the
atmosphere, particularly through coal-fired power plants and so on, we will
never win this battle. We need to put nature back at the centre of everything
we do in a circular bio-economy. Species are becoming extinct at a rapid rate.
We can’t go on like this, but there are solutions, we just need to act – and
Highness, thank you so much.
Not at all, really.