King Charles III, who took the throne yesterday after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, aged 96, brings a wide range of priorities and interests to the job. As the Prince of Wales, Charles’ royal portfolio included tackling climate change, promoting the opera and theatre, and looking after his organic garden. More surprising, perhaps, has been his affinity for fashion: he has spent decades aligning his enthusiasm for clothes with the influence of his public position. You can call him the menswear monarch.
The late queen is credited invents fashion diplomacy, but her eldest son is more like a walking ambassador for a passionate and responsible personal style. He is known to claim that when it comes to fashion he is “like a stopped clock” and he is told British GQ in 2018 that he is in fashion “once every 25 years.” But few men look as deeply comfortable in clothes as Charles does when he wears low-buttoned double-breasted blazers, or brightly colored Scottish tartan kilts, or dusty safari jackets and dungarees tucked into knee-high riding boots. He makes elements of a wardrobe that don’t look very welcoming look beautiful and simple, just like him steps out in a pair of PJs rather than a traditional morning suit.
Of his many royal duties and areas of advocacy, the one that sounds most natural to Charles is his work on behalf of the British fashion industry. “I’m lucky,” he told British Vogue editor Edward Enninful in 2020, “because I can find amazing people who are brilliant creators of the things that I appreciate, and because of that I try to keep them in operation for a longer period of time.” In addition to Anderson & Sheppard, he has a long-standing relationship with Turnbull & Asser, who make his shirts, and John Lobb, who makes his shoes. His clothes may be expensive, but he embraces the traditionalists who underpin London’s status as a fashion capital, not because they scream luxury, but because he believes the work they do is important. Important for the national character, of course, but also because the work is honest and dignified. As the industry began to face a shortage of artisans in recent years, Charles helped establish a training program in traditional techniques for fashion students.
And long before ecological responsibility became a widespread concern among fashion designers and consumers, Charles exemplified an approach to clothing that minimizes waste. He has a tweed coat, made by Anderson & Sheppard, which he has worn for four separate decades. At the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, he donned a dressing gown, which he first wore in 1984. When Enninful asked him in 2020 if he intended to have anything new made for the obsessively documented wedding, the then prince coolly replied : “I’ve considered it,” before discussing the benefits of shoe repair. In 2018, his interest in a circular clothing economy culminated in a partnership with the British Fashion Council to officially promote sustainability in the industry. Two years later, his foundation, in collaboration with these fashion students, published a sustainable fashion capsule collection with Yoox Net-a-Porter.