The Prince’s Foundation and YOOX NET-A-PORTER present new intake of trainee artisans for second edition of The Modern Artisan at launch event in Milan

October 4, 2021

LONDON AND MILAN: The Prince’s Foundation and YOOX NET-A-PORTER unveil the new artisans in training for the second edition of the responsible luxury training programme, The Modern Artisan project.

Selected from a competitive pool of applications, this year’s programme will bring together eight artisans, four British fashion and textiles graduates, along with four Italian graduates from the leading Italian design school, Politecnico di Milano. The trainee artisans will embark on a collaborative ten-month paid training programme, with design training guided by experts from YOOX NET-A-PORTER and industry mentors, and training on small batch luxury production and heritage craftsmanship skills to help build capacity in the UK delivered by The Prince’s Foundation.

The eight trainee artisans are:

  • Emma Rose Atherton, 28, from the Wirral in North West England. Emma is a graduate of the University of Chester and launched her own size-inclusive label at London Fashion Week.
  • Adam Benbarek, 21 from Turin, a graduate of Politecnico di Milano. Adam is passionate about art and literature, where he finds most of the inspiration for his designs.
  • Emily Dey, 23, from Middlesbrough. Emily is a recent graduate of Teesside University, and since graduating put her sewing skills to good use volunteering at a local charity to upcycle clothes.
  • Francesca Garrone, 22 from Turin, a graduate of Politecnico di Milano. Francesca hopes to one day build her own brand using only discarded materials.
  • Merie Macdonald, 49, from South Lanarkshire in Scotland. Merie has recently retrained and completed a HND in Fashion Technology at Cardonald College in Glasgow, having previously held various positions across the fashion sector including accessories designing.
  • Isabelle Pennington-Edmead, 24, from Cheshire. Isabelle is a graduate of Nottingham Trent University and Manchester School of Art, and during the pandemic volunteered to sew PPE for the NHS in her spare time.
  • Arianna Safayi, 22 from Perugia, a graduate of Politecnico di Milano. Following the programme she hopes to be able to use fashion to spark conversation on themes she deeply cares about such as sustainability, diversity and inclusion.
  • Zhenqi Weng, 26, from Milan. Zhenqi studied pattern making at the Istituto di Moda

Burgo Milano and fashion design at Politecnico di Milano. He was born in China and moved to Italy at the age of 7, where he began to develop an interest in fashion and tailoring.

The training programme, which commenced in September, focuses on responsible design and sustainable luxury textile craftsmanship. Together, YOOX NET-A-PORTER and The Prince’s Foundation will support the eight trainee artisans through the end-to-end process of designing, handcrafting and bringing to a market on a global scale a luxury collection with sustainability at its heart. The resulting womenswear capsule collection will debut to customers on NET-A-PORTER and YOOX in late Summer 2022. Profits from the sale of the collection will be donated to The Prince’s Foundation to support the charity in developing and delivering training programmes that will help preserve traditional textile skills.

The artisans are starting the programme by undertaking a four-month period of immersive design training guided by industry experts at YOOX NET-A-PORTER headquarters in London and Milan for the British and Italian groups respectively. As they are supported through the design process, trainees will have the opportunity to explore designing for sustainability and circularity, including the application of data insights for customer relevance and to prioritise longevity of their final collection.

In January, the eight artisans will come together at The Prince’s Foundation’s Dumfries House headquarters in East Ayrshire, Scotland, where they will undertake six months of intensive training in luxury small batch production and gain the skills to handcraft the collection to the highest of standards.

Over the course of the programme, trainees will benefit from industry visits in the UK and Italy. Throughout the programme, they will receive ongoing mentorship from YOOX NET-A-PORTER, The Prince’s Foundation and brand partners, initial brand mentors include Gabriela Hearst, Giuliva Heritage, Nanushka, VIN + OMI, Johnstons of Elgin, Tiziano Guardini, Flavia La Rocca and ZEROBARRACENTO.

The artisans were officially introduced to the world at a pre-COP 26 event hosted by the UK Government’s Department for International Trade in Milan last week, which highlighted the project’s focus on sustainability in fashion. Speaking alongside Chris Barton, Trade Commissioner for Europe, and Jill Morris, UK Ambassador to Italy and San Marino; Geoffroy Lefebvre, YOOX NET-A-PORTER CEO; and Jacqueline Farrell, Education Director for The Prince’s Foundation; Andrea Parolini and Nicole Christie, two alumni of last year’s Modern Artisan programme discussed their experiences of taking part in such a unique project, and the impact this has had on their career opportunities and aspirations.

This week, artisans from both the first and current editions of the programme will speak about their experience at The Modern Artisan – One Year On, an event hosted by The Prince’s Foundation at The Garrison Chapel as part of London Craft Week. The event will bring together four of the artisans to discuss their journey as makers since training on the programme during an inspiring panel talk. The YOOX-NET-A-PORTER for The Prince’s Foundation collection, and wider project, will be showcased as part of Teaching Arts and Crafts at The Prince’s Foundation, a free exhibition at The Garrison Chapel in Chelsea which opens on today and celebrates the charity’s commitment to traditional arts, fashion and textiles, and building arts and craft.

The Modern Artisans shared a joint statement:

We were absolutely delighted to gain places on The Modern Artisan programme. Our whole team feels so privileged to be part of such an exciting project. The collaboration across borders has opened us up to so many fresh ideas and ways of working. We have learnt so much already and look forward to all the opportunities the programme will bring.

The future of our industry will be defined by the next generation of talent, so we are delighted to partner again with The Prince’s Foundation to support an ambitious group of graduates across Italy and the UK for the second edition of The Modern Artisan. The hands-on skills, experience, knowledge, perspectives and contacts that they are building will serve them well for years as they develop long-term careers and drive forward the sustainable solutions that will revolutionise fashion and luxury. Reflecting a shared heritage of innovation and craftsmanship in the UK and Italy, our YOOX NET-A-PORTER teams in Milan and London, in partnership with The Prince’s Foundation in Scotland, will support this group as together they define what it means to be a Modern Artisan in today’s evolving world. We cannot wait to see what they produce.

Geoffroy Lefebvre, YOOX NET-A-PORTER Chief Executive Officer

The first edition of The Modern Artisan project culminated with the launch of the YOOX NET-A-PORTER for The Prince’s Foundation collection in November 2020, which sold around the world and attracted global media attention for the artisans at the very beginning of their career. Since graduating from the programme, all the trainee artisans from the UK and Italy have used the experience as a springboard to secure employment in the industry or start their own fashion and manufacturing businesses. We are very much looking forward to working with this year’s intake of talented artisans and seeing where the project takes them.

Jacqueline Farrell, Education Director for The Prince’s Foundation

For more information about The Modern Artisan project please visit: www.ynap.com/pages/the-modern-artisan/