Nobody imagined that this young girl with a regular everyday life would become the Empress of Italian fashion. At the beginning of 1970s, then a student of political science, supporter of the Italian Communist Party, a committed feminist and apprentice mime, Miuccia Prada worked in the family leather goods shop in Milan to secure her financial independence. In the late 1970s, she imagined a handbag that contrasted with the black patent leather models of the brand: a model woven in a military nylon thread, with a zip fastening that was extremely practical, very flexible and lightweight. It was a revolutionary model for a brand which was still very traditional at the time, and it immediately caught the eye of fashion editors. In 1978, Miuccia Prada finally took over the reins of the company with the help of her future husband, Patrizio Bertelli. They launched the first ready-to-wear collection in 1988, which brought the brand to the eyes of an international audience.
Although she once imagined herself as a political scientist, Miuccia Prada finally turned herself to the world of fashion, driven by an extraordinary creative process. She did not know how to sew or draw but was full of ideas which she entrusted her assistants to bring into fruition. It’s this imaginative dimension and absence of calibration that makes Prada so exceptional: always wearable but never ordinary, each piece is an endless manifestation of creative and interpretive freedom, a philosophy that Miuccia Prada also promotes through her contemporary art foundation, opened in Milan in 1993, through which she supports and helps young artists.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the Prada revolution has been under way. While fashion was still all about exuberance and brightly-coloured, frilly cocktail dresses of all kinds, Prada put forward minimalist styles, inspired by looks from the 1960s, combined with materials that had not yet been used in ready-to-wear fashion, along with new technology which made the clothing both practical and stylish. Magnetic buttonholes, waterproof nylon, aerodynamic soles, Prada and Bertelli invested in engineering to create a cutting-edge fashion which drew upon fashion codes from the past, to create those for the future. A blend of chic, elegance and subtle boldness, tinged with a touch of irony.
Since then, Prada has always been one step ahead. One of the strengths of its creator is that she always goes where nobody expects her to. So, collections that are ultra-feminine in style with delicate, pale colours and elegant details sometimes follow more sporty creations in a series of strong colours combined with somewhat repulsive-looking or unconventional accessories. Miuccia Prada doesn't shy away from anything. She will happily blend military references with retro lingerie, and 1950s looks with youthful fashion. The brand has expanded at lightning speed. In just a decade, it has developed ready-to-wear, footwear, menswear and sports lines as well as the Miu brand, which has established itself as Prada’s “little sister” and whose first collections have been a huge success. Boutiques have been opened all over the world, and Prada has established its status internationally as a cutting-edge, luxury brand.
It all started with a handbag; the famous nylon model, developed towards the end of the 1970s. In 1985, working to diversify the range created by her family’s company, Miuccia Prada issued a more fashionable model, featuring a golden chain and triangle logo. The new Pocono model was all the rage and became the brand’s best-seller, becoming available in different styles, as a backpack and purse. Since then, every bag sold by Prada has become a must-have: The Vachetta, Saffiano Lux, City Sport and more recently, the Elektra and Cahier tick all the boxes that make the perfect model: practical, spacious, with lots of luxurious details. Whether simple and eccentric, there’s something for everyone.
And let’s not forget the shoes. By blending traditional loafers, derbies and pumps with innovative materials and techniques, Prada has transformed footwear into ultra-sophisticated fashion pieces which adapt to both workwear and eveningwear.
The Prada Eyewear sunglasses line, released in 1999, is the latest addition to its accessory collections, and is a resounding success with its understated and slightly futuristic styles and retro sunglasses that play around with different materials and decorative rules.
Thanks to its international success, Prada accessories have been incorporated into Western pop culture; while various winks and references to the brand appear in the American series, Sex & The City, and in the film, The Devil Wears Prada, adapted from the novel of the same name, the brand has been forever established as the international symbol of intellectual chic.