Charles discusses ‘throw-away clothing’ as he champions sustainable fashion

The Prince of Wales has spoken about the “extraordinary trend of throw-away clothing” in an interview with fashion bible British Vogue.

With recycling and reusing items becoming more popular, Charles said there were now opportunities for sustainable fashion.

The heir to the throne is famed for his double-breasted suits and joked about his timeless dress sense, saying he was like a stopped clock – “right twice every 24 hours”.

Prince of Wales in British Vogue
A new photograph of the prince, taken by Nick Knight, accompanies the British Vogue interview (Nick Knight/Vogue)

A new photograph of the prince accompanies the interview in the December issue of the magazine, taken by fashion photographer Nick Knight, who was commissioned to take the Queen’s official 90th birthday picture which featured Charles.

Students from the Modern Artisan Project – a fashion training programme co-founded by the Prince’s Foundation – are about to launch a clothing collection with commercially viable sustainability at its core.

Interviewed by British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, Charles said the “British fashion textile sector is of enormous importance” and many of the students trained in high-end fashion and sewing skills by the foundation were “snapped up” by firms working in the textile sector.

He added: “But it seems to me there are huge opportunities, particularly now, within the whole sustainable fashion sector, to counter this extraordinary trend of throw-away clothing or throw-away everything, frankly.”

Charles with Modern Artisan students. Mike Wilkinson/PA Wire
Charles with Modern Artisan students (Mike Wilkinson/PA)

Asked what the “new normal” looked like for him during the pandemic, Charles went on to say: “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 from supply chains.”

The prince gave the example of how around 30 years ago he set firms who have a royal warrant to supply him goods the ultimatum to conform to a set of environmental requirements, or lose their special status.

He said there were “howls of protest” but he remained firm: “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 to do it in a better way’.”

Upcycling items and giving them a new lease of life is seen as a way of protecting the environment and is particularly relevant in the world of fashion.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, clothing production has approximately doubled in the last 15 years – in part due to the rise of fast fashion, where companies mass produce high street versions of catwalk trends at a low cost.

The prince is known for his love of double-breasted suits. Matt Keeble/PA Wire
The prince is known for his love of double-breasted suits (Matt Keeble/PA)

This is having a huge impact on the environment, as the textiles industry uses 98 million tonnes of non-renewable resources a year.

Mr Enninful, who supported the Duchess of Sussex when she guest-edited British Vogue’s September edition last year, asked Charles where his own “sense of style” came from.

The prince replied: “I thought I was like a stopped clock – I’m right twice every 24 hours. But… I’m very glad you think it has style. I mind about detail and colour combinations.”

He added: “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.”

Charles said he believed there were “huge opportunities” for people to set up businesses involved with “repair, maintenance and reuse”, and revealed how he has tried to start a “thrift market” at his educational centre Dumfries House, where things could be brought to be mended.

He said: “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.”

The December issue of British Vogue is available via digital download and on newsstands on Friday.

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