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Vanity Fair

“Nature Is the Source of Everything:” Inside Prince Charles’s Collaboration With YOOX Net-a-Porter

by Miles Pope


The sustainable capsule collection takes inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci as well as artificial intelligence, all with the future of life on earth in mind.

It all started with a passion for sustainability. Federico Marchetti, founder of YOOX and Chairman and CEO of YOOX NET-A-PORTER Group (YNAP) has always been ahead of his time when looking towards a more sustainable future. And Prince Charles has long been a passionate conservationist, telling Vanity Fair in 2018, “Over forty years ago I remember making a speech about the problems of plastic and other waste, but at that stage nobody was really interested and I was considered old-fashioned, out of touch and ‘anti-science’ for warning of such things. If we don’t engage with these issues, and many other related and critical problems that they inevitably compound, we will all be the victims. Nothing escapes.”

All of that makes the new partnership between The Prince’s Foundation and YNAP “the dream collaboration,” Marchetti said. “Prince Charles has always been an inspiration for sustainability. He’s spoken about it and has dedicated time, energy and money to it for over 50 years.”

During a visit to the YNAP Tech Hub in West London in 2018, the team showed the Prince their ongoing commitment to investing in London as well as their new efforts toward sustainability. “Technology can help the planet if you use it the right way.” Marchetti said. He and the Prince realized they shared not only a commitment to sustainability and environmental health but a passion for educating the next generation of craftsmen.

Inspired by that conversation, Marchetti developed The Modern Artisan, a first-of-its-kind project that harnesses “Big Data and Artificial Intelligence to transform the ancient profession of craftsmanship into a contemporary career,” Marchetti said. “We have equipped the next generation of artisans with the digital tools of the trade to navigate an ever evolving landscape.”

Ten students, six from Italy and four from the United Kingdom, were guided through the process and procedure of what it takes to create a sustainable luxury collection. The students were equipped with the latest digital tools and artificial intelligence, and given unprecedented access to five years of data and trend insights drawn from YNAP’s 4.3 million global customer base.

The collection, now available across the entire family of YNAP brands—Net-a-Porter, Mr. Porter, YOOX and The Outnet—contains a series of sustainable womenswear and menswear. Working in 2019, the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, the artisans used him as inspiration to create a sophisticated collection with ceremonious lines and effortless construction. “The approach to this collection has been of great enthusiasm and willingness to learn,” said artisan Andrea de Matteis. “The silhouettes of the collection are influenced by elements of inspiration such as Leonardo’s draperies and his studies on perspective and inventions. The volumes are often loose and relaxed, now draped, now characterized by details that highlight the sartorial structure.”

The sustainability of the collection comes not only from the materials, sourced from single fibers and organic fabrics, but the timeless silhouettes meaning the clothing will never go out of style. “Hopefully, they will take away a great deal of skill and understanding of sustainable approaches to design and manufacturing that they can apply to their own businesses or future careers,” Prince Charles said in a statement. “The key for me is to rediscover the importance that nature plays, understand where natural materials come from and how they can be used in exciting and innovative ways. After all, nature is the source of everything.”

The Modern Artisan project is the grand finale of the 20th Anniversary of Yoox and Net-A-Porter but “it is also the sum of everything I have been trying to do and instill over the last 20 years —it’s a personal project,” Marchetti said. All profits from the collection will go to support the continued work of The Prince’s Foundation and its Future Textiles Program.

Originally published in Vanity Fair

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