Prince Charles is donating his garden waste in the name of fashion.
The eco-conscious royal is collaborating with Vin + Omi, a British fashion brand with punk roots, known for combining avant-garde fashion with sustainable innovation.
“We love working with Prince Charles and we have a lot of fun doing it,” co-founder of the brand Omi tells PEOPLE from his London studio, adding, “He has been very involved in terms of what we are doing, and it’s an ongoing relationship, which is really lovely.”
This will be their second collaboration with the royal household – the award-winning designers previously harvested more than 3000 nettle plants from his Highgrove estate in Gloucestershire for their Spring/Summer 2020 collection last September. Now their current collection which will show during London Fashion Week includes hydrangeas, nettles, willow, ash, wood chippings and horse hair clippings from the stables, all of which has been donated by the royal.
“He is very aware of the materials and it’s quite humbling – people call us pioneers of sustainability, and then you meet someone like Prince Charles and he knows so much,” says Omi, who along with Vin (the design duo go by their first names only) met Charles for dinner just two weeks ago at Dumfries House, the stately home in Scotland that serves as the headquarters of Charles’ charity The Prince’s Foundation.
“Sometimes I can’t believe I’m talking to the future King of England – even to be having conversations around sustainability is bizarre because you would think that someone so privileged wouldn’t be interested, but he is very learned.” With the duo’s punk ideology, the collaboration is not one that they could have predicted. “Our whole brand ethos is against everything that comes with establishment, but it’s amazing that something as simple as the environment can link different people together.”
The artists co-founded Vin + Omi 15 years ago with a science scholarship to look into sustainability. After many years focusing on sustainable approaches to business, design and textiles, the pair bumped into Charles at a fashion event in 2018. On hearing that they were trying to harvest various garden waste materials into innovative new fabrics in a bid to highlight sustainability, Charles suggested they use nettles and invited them to meet his head gardener at Highgrove.
In addition to the nettle, horse hair and hydrangea pieces, the designers have also recycled waste garden sacks to create secateur holders for the gardeners at Highgrove and tote bags that will be sold in the gift shop to raise funds for The Prince’s Foundation and The Prince’s Trust. “We are thinking of ways we can integrate within the foundation and help young people direct their careers towards sustainability,” says Omi, whose edgy designs has been worn by Kate Moss, Michelle Obama, Beyonce and Lady Gaga.
Working together for almost two years now, Omi says Charles often suggests new raw materials to harvest, such as his latest — the spicy root vegetable horseradish. “That came from him and his team and it’s brilliant! We are looking into that at the moment,” says Omi, who is currently putting the finishing touches to their collection. While it’s unlikely that Charles will be front row at Friday’s show at The Savoy Hotel, Omi says his support has been invaluable. “He’s always telling us that what we are doing is amazing, and it’s really nice because it gives us a little boost.”
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And according to the designer, Charles is not only passionate about his environmental causes, he’s good company too. “He has a great sense of humor, he’s very quick witted, so there is always banter between us all. I love our conversations with him. I never dreamt in my wildest dreams growing up that I would get invited to his house, that I would be having dinner or even having coffee with him — it’s just the weirdest experience in the world!”