From education to employment

Graduate among designers of carbon-neutral fashion line championed by the King

A University of Chester graduate is one of eight designers chosen by The Prince’s Foundation and a world-leading fashion retailer to create a carbon-neutral womenswear collection inspired by royal gardens and showcased to King Charles III.

Emma Rose Atherton, who studied a Master’s of Art in Design at the University, has designed and hand-crafted clothes for the responsible ready-to-wear, luxury womenswear capsule collection, recently launched by the charity and YOOX NET-A-PORTER.

The 13-piece capsule marks the culmination of the second edition of The Modern Artisan, YOOX NET-A-PORTER’s and The Prince’s Foundation’s pioneering flagship training programme – and the first time Highgrove Gardens in Gloucestershire, next to Their Majesties, the King and the Queen Consort’s private residence, has served as inspiration for a fashion collection. The Gardens are run by The Foundation, which was established and is presided over by the King. Half of the collection’s Recommended Retail Price is being donated to the charity, to support its innovative training programmes.

Emma, from the Wirral, runs her own size-inclusive label, EROSA, which was recently featured and won an award at Northern Fashion Week. The 29-year-old embarked on The Modern Artisan programme in 2021 after the designers were selected from a competitive international field of students and graduates.

During the programme, Emma and her fellow Artisans have been given the opportunity to present their work to His Majesty, then the Prince of Wales, at Dumfries House, headquarters of The Prince’s Foundation in East Ayrshire, Scotland.

The capsule reflects The Modern Artisan programme’s commitment to advancing sustainability in luxury fashion and preserving heritage textile skills. They both also demonstrate the shared ambition of YOOX NET-A-PORTER and The Prince’s Foundation to preserve the planet for future generations. The Modern Artisan aims to position artisanship as a viable and attractive career path for upcoming generations, equipping them with the skills to help shape a more circular industry. The 10-month paid programme supported eight British and Italian now-graduates through the end-to-end process of designing, handcrafting, and bringing a more sustainable luxury collection to a global market.

The Artisans were supported by industry experts from YOOX NET-A-PORTER, The Prince’s Foundation, and mentoring designer brands, including Gabriela Hearst, Nanushka and Stella Jean.

Natural and certified materials were carefully selected, with more than 50% repurposed from surplus textile production through partner supplier Maeba International, and the application of circular design principles such as zero waste and data-informed design.

The collection was crafted by the Artisans in the Textile Training Centre at Dumfries House, where they undertook six months of intensive training in luxury small batch production. Training focused on advanced technical production skills within sewing, pattern drafting and quality control, while also developing expertise to handle wool, cashmere, and silk to ensure garment finishes meet the luxury market standard. The Artisans also learned about the product development process at Fashion Enter in London, and luxury knitwear manufacturing, as they designed four knitwear pieces, the only styles to be produced off-site by UK-based Johnstons of Elgin and Corgi. 

Each piece is also embedded with a Digital ID through YOOX NET-A-PORTER’s partnership with EON, using innovative technology to unlock unique product insights as well as care and repair and resale services. The Digital ID also shares how YOOX NET-A-PORTER worked with environmental consultancy Carbonsink to minimise, calculate, and compensate for the carbon footprint of each garment. Carbon credits support the Artisans’ chosen certified offsetting project: Kariba Forest Protection, which protects forests and wildlife and supports community-based training and upskilling on the Zimbabwean-Zambian border.

The collection was displayed at a public exhibit at Dumfries House in November 2022 alongside a series of talks from project partners about sustainable fashion. The 2022 edition of The Modern Artisan was launched at a pre-COP 26 event hosted by the UK Government’s Department for International Trade in Milan in September 2021. The Artisans also showcased their skills in 2022 at international craftsmanship exhibit, Homo Faber in Venice, organised by the Michelangelo Foundation.

Emma said:

“I feel so privileged to have been a part of the Modern Artisan. I was encouraged to apply by Delphine Wilson, the Fashion Design Programme Leader at the University of Chester, and am so proud of everything the team achieved over the 10 months. I learned more than I can describe about myself as a designer and maker, and have enjoyed bringing these skills back into my own practice as well as sharing them with Chester students.”

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