The thing with fashion influencers these days is that they show up in the unlikeliest of places. Sometimes they are on the front rows of fashion shows, other times mixing and matching on viral videos. Sometimes they are movie stars (despite poorly-styled borrowed feathers), other times rich society ladies just flown in from Paris or Milan. But the real influencers, I think, are real-life figures. Like Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal’s chief minister who wears undyed saris that cost Rs400 to empathise with her rural voters. Like the newly-crowned King Charles III who, at 74, is our most dogged advocate of fashion sustainability.
Charles seems to have instructed his palace to keep his coronation low-key. Despite his mother, the former queen, passing in September last year, Charles took seven months to get himself crowned, carefully sussing the cultural shifts toward him and toward royalty in general.
His team was determined to pay homage to tradition, but equally put its modern foot forward in a bid to assure his people he would be far simpler and more accessible than any royal had previously been. For starters, he wore his military uniform under those massive but respectful robes. Then, he asked several of his nobles to stay home, instead inviting citizens involved in public service. And finally, everyone was asked to dress for tea, and not a royal gala. Charles also invited religious leaders from different faiths and paid respect to Britain’s cosmopolitan nature.
King Charles III has been the most mindful of celebrities ever. He has had a longstanding commitment to protecting the environment and climate change. He discussed the harmful effects of plastic way back in 1970, when he was just 21.
Much of this is also a carefully cultivated perception project. Charles’s team began circulating pictures for the past few months, showing the soon-to-be monarch in just two coats—a camel hair coat and a tweed one—seemingly since 1988.
Charles is also known to mend and repair his clothes and shoes, instead of getting new ones at regular intervals. In some ways, he is a bit like Justin Bieber—when the ridiculously rich dress like homeless people to appear cooler than the rest of us.
Charles’s efforts seem sincere; he genuinely prefers to restore and recycle his clothes instead of showing off his country’s remarkable and remarkably expensive tailoring shops.
A 2020 article in GQ highlights Charles’s commitment to conscious living. He is a passionate gardener and grows organic vegetables. He also founded the Prince’s Foundation, headquartered in one of the poorest areas of Scotland, to co-design sustainable clothing with materials manufactured in Britain alone. A group of students from Italy’s Politecnico di Milano and the UK were asked to put together a collection that would be sold on Net-a-porter and Mr Porter in 2020.
The foundation has also famously developed The Modern Artisan, a training programme that promotes the use of high-quality textiles in Britain and Europe. Like a new-age Gandhian, Charles is quite committed to elevating rural textile crafts to luxury level. He also collaborates with others, like Future Textiles, to fill the gap in textile technical skills.
The new king’s approach to promoting slow fashion is a great example that will be followed, thanks to his celebrity. All this time, while all eyes focused on Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, this wise old man seems to have stolen the show.