While Meghan Markle is putting the finishing touches on her upcoming capsule workwear collection, her father-in-law Prince Charles has been busy with a fashion project of his own.
The 70-year-old royal and heir to the British throne teamed up with sustainable fashion pioneers Vin + Omi to create an avant-garde collection of clothing made entirely from nettles (a common weed found around the world), all supplied from his private Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire.
“It was actually his idea to use nettles from his estate and turn them into clothes,” co-founder of the brand Omi tells PEOPLE from his London studio. “And what do you do with a suggestion like that? It was almost like a challenge for us!”
The conversation started last May over tea at an event hosted by the British Fashion Council to promote sustainability, equality, diversity and craftsmanship. It was at a time when the designers were experimenting with using cow parsley to make fabric. The duo, who go by their first names only, said they were excited when Charles offered to donate the weeds.
“He casually said that he had loads of nettles if we wanted them. We thought it was a nice gesture and then next thing we knew we were at Highgrove with his team harvesting nettles over two days!” says Omi, who co-founded his fashion brand 15 years ago with a science scholarship to look into sustainability and has since dressed Michelle Obama and Kate Moss.
Harvesting more than 3000 nettle plants with the help of eight students from Oxford Brookes University, the process has taken much of the designers’ summer. “It’s been really humbling, because at Highgrove they know so much,” says Omi. “It’s became a learning process for us both. The way his estate is run, it’s mind-blowing to think that these ideas were implemented 20-25 years ago. He really knows a lot about gardening and the environment.”
Charles has long been a champion for environmental causes, and his many initiatives include Campaign for Wool, which he established to raise awareness among consumers about the unique and biodegradable benefits of wool. The royal has also spearheaded awareness of deforestation, climate change and ocean pollution, and half of the energy used at his residences and office space comes from renewable sources.
From the unique nettle fabric, which Omi describes as “very light and airy,” the team have created 10 pieces to be shown at the Savoy Hotel during London Fashion Week on September 17. “The V&A museum have asked to acquire a piece for their permanent collection, and we have four other museums flying in for the show so there has been a lot of interest, which is great,” says Omi.
While Charles is not be expected to attend the show, he has sent letters of encouragement to the team along the way, which Omi admits has been “nice and also weird!.” He adds, “I think he will see the pieces at some point and I’m sure he will probably look at them and find it amusing!”