Prada, the brand story Featured

LUXOS looks at how Miuccia Prada turned a small family business into an international fashion empire
by 17 February 2012

Prada is a group and fashion brand helmed by Miuccia Prada that is known for producing impressive numbers. Of course, it is much more as well. It exudes intellectual and minimalist style. It is a phenomenon that extends to the futuristic design of its flagship stores. It includes the exciting challenge of Luna Rossa in the America's Cup regattas, and the provocative, contemporary art championed by the Prada Foundation. It is a brand that has succeeded in revolutionizing style, creating trends, and becoming a synonym for fashion brilliance in society at large. Its design influences go beyond fabric to creative areas such as cinema and architecture as well.

The beginning

It all began in 1913 with bags and suitcases. Mario Prada, a Milanese craftsman, set up shop in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and attracted a sophisticated clientele, people who were looking for accessories "that would not go out of fashion in the short span of a season," as he himself often pointed out.Almost a century later, this valuable heritage is safe in the hands of Mario's grand-daughter. Miuccia Prada Bianchi, ex high-society jeune fille rangée, whose personal history includes political commitment in the 1968 left-wing movements, theatre and mime that she studied at Piccolo Teatro in Milan, and on-the-road travelling through America that brought this aspect of counter-culture to widespread popularity. She has always had a unique combination of society style and youthful Italian eccentricity. As a fashion designer, Miuccia enchanted the world with her collections of accessories and garments, winning the hearts of buyers, fashionistas and one Patrizio Bertelli, whom she married in 1987, Prada Group’s Managing Director.

A cult-following

“Fashion can survive only if it has the courage to not seek widespread approval; only if it does not expect to be loved by everyone," Bertelli famously said. In the early 1980s, the maison introduced its bags and backpack made in Pocono, a patented nylon fabric with a silky sheen. The logo, printed on a triangular metal badge, is inspired by grandfather Mario's trunks and their locks. The bags quickly became cult objects. The first footwear collection was introduced in 1983, and in 1989, the brand took its next giant step into women's garments. The success story continued.

At that time, Prada already had two shops in Milan, the historic boutique founded by Mario Prada in the Galleria, and the new boutique in Via della Spiga. plus another in New York, all hallmarked by the brand's characteristic light green hue. The new line Miu Miu was introduced in 1993, specifically created for young people who are allergic to the brash and showy glitz of excessive high fashion. In the same year, the men's collection was launched. In 1997, Prada Sport immediately became a favourite for those who love informal, high-tech garments and shoes, ideal for wearing in whatever weather.

Critical acclaim

Meanwhile, Miuccia Prada won numerous recognitions. In 1994 she received the CFDA International Award in New York as best designer. The year after, she was given the VH1 Music and Fashion Award for the Prada collection, and the Neiman Marcus Award. Twelve months later, she received the VH1 Music and Fashion Award again, this time for a Miu Miu collection. In 1998, she won the same prize for the men's collection, Prada Uomo. In Italy, Miuccia received the 1998 Leonardo Prize for Quality in Italy. Meanwhile, her husband, a keen sailor, was moving into new waters with the company, sponsoring the 2000 America's Cup in New Zealand and taking an active part in the competition. This enterprise saw the team's unexpected success, and fuelled the meteoric success of the Prada Sport brand.

The art of the matter

Patrizio and Miuccia’s shared passion for contemporary art has seen their status as collectors develop into that of art patrons and event producers. The first exhibitions that they organized opened in 1993, with artists Eliseo Mattiacci and Nino Franchina. Fondazione Prada was created in 1995, and in 2000 their work in this field received recognition with an Honorary Award from the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, and an honorary degree from the Royal College of Art in London - namely, two of the most prestigious art and design colleges in the world.

The brand continued its global expansion. In 1999, it purchased 51% of Helmut Lang, and 75% of Jil Sander. It acquired complete ownership of historic London shoe brand Church & Co., and it launched a joint venture with De Rigo to manufacture eyewear for the brands Prada, Miu Miu, Helmut Lang and Jil Sander. The latest challenge is being listed on the stock exchange in Hong Kong, a part of the mission to conquer Asia and spreading a message of style that has an air that is pure, Italian style.

Prada boutiques worldwide

Prada women's spring/summer 2012

Prada men's fall/winter 2012-2013