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Art of Style

The Modern Artisan: a covetable capsule collection of wear-forever luxury pieces

Models wearing pieces from the YOOX NET-A-PORTER for The Prince’s Foundation Modern Artisan collection

Designed by students and made by trainee manufacturers, The Modern Artisan is the culmination of a visionary collaboration between YOOX NET-A-PORTER and Prince Charles’s educational charity, the Prince’s Foundation, with far-reaching ambitions for sustainability, craftsmanship and communities. SARAH BAILEY talks to those involved in the project to find out more…

Fashion

If there was a eureka moment for Federico Marchetti, chairman and CEO of YOOX NET-A-PORTER, when he was devising fashion initiative The Modern Artisan – to create a sustainable luxury collection, designed by students and manufactured by trainee artisans – it was during a conversation he had with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales about Italy.

Marchetti, along with British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful and other British fashion luminaries, had been invited to Dumfries House in 2018, the storied Scottish estate now home to The Prince’s Foundation, to discuss ecology, craft and the preservation of artisanal skills in the textile industry under threat from the behemoth of fast fashion.

“When I went to Dumfries House and spoke with the Prince, he definitely showed me his strong appreciation of Italy,” recalls Marchetti. “He told me about his travels through the Italian countryside, the paintings he’d seen as a child… So, when he asked me to come up with something to do together, that was the spark – the starting point to invent something that connects Italy with the UK. I was also inspired by the work Prince Charles does to help young people, and everything he has been doing at Dumfries House, and I wanted to do the same. So at that point, I just connected all the dots.”

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and Federico Marchetti at a final review of The Modern Artisan collection at Dumfries House

SHOP THE MODERN ARTISAN COLLECTION

I have always been fascinated by putting things together that are distant from one another – but when they come together are fantastic. When you see all the pieces together, the collection is so beautiful, like a perfect mosaic
Federico Marchetti, chairman and CEO of YOOX NET-A-PORTER
Prince Charles and Federico Marchetti pictured with six of the Modern Artisans in the grounds of Dumfries House
Italian Modern Artisans creating moodboards in Milan

Fast-forward to fall 2020. The covetable, pin-sharp finished pieces from The Modern Artisan collection have been photographed in all their glory by the YOOX NET-A-PORTER creative teams. At Dumfries House, Jacqueline Farrell, the energetic leader of the Future Textiles program, who has guided the artisans through every aspect of the small-batch production process, is overseeing final details before the collection is shipped to YOOX NET-A-PORTER warehouses around the world, from London to Hong Kong, New York and Italy.

Even before the manufacturing challenges brought about by Covid-19, the ambition of the project – to produce an elevated, luxury collection designed and made by students – was immense, Farrell explains. “It’s been a learning curve for us all. The students had to be quite serious about their education. There was just a different sense of importance about what we were doing on a daily basis.”

Beyond the meticulous sourcing of environmentally sound fabrics and the revelations of data-driven design, Farrell speaks most passionately about the human side of sustainability. “We’ve seen what happens when we ignore nature, don’t pay attention to supply chains and don’t value people in manufacturing. To take things back to the purest craft form is really good for the individual maker, but it’s also good for people who are looking to buy things and appreciate them. Every piece in this collection is someone’s heart and soul. There is no justification for the idea of fast fashion, wearing something once and throwing it away. You can’t argue the business case or the moral case. Our project is the antithesis of all that. Fashion is a beautiful thing; it’s an art form, and the skills that go into it should not be lost.”