Since it was founded in Milan in 1913, Prada has grown from a favourite of the Italian nobility to a global fashion empire worth €5.8 billion in January 2022. The current head designer is Miuccia Prada, who appointed Raf Simons as co-creative director in 2020. The house specialises in ready-to-wear clothing for men and women, leather goods and accessories from eyewear to jewellery.
“We offer an unconventional dialogue and interpretation of the contemporary, as expression of our way of doing business for planet, people and culture.”
“Be drivers of change.”
How did it all start? Prada was founded in 1913 when Mario Prada and his brother Martino opened a leather goods store in Milan to retail handbags, travel bags and accessories. In 1919, Prada obtained the titled of Official Supplier of The Italian Royal House. This allowed Prada to display the coat of arms and knotted rope design in its trademark logo.
Mario’s son had no interest in the business and his daughter Luisa helmed Prada as his successor for twenty odd years. Her daughter Miuccia Prada joined the company in 1970. With new creative blood at the helm, “Prada quietly became the go-to brand for the creative class and fashion intelligentsia”, writes Vogue archive editor Laird Borelli-Person. Miuccia’s first hit as a designer was a departure from her house’s classic leather goods: a backpack made of industrial nylon. It became a status symbol of the era and was a turning point in the history of the luxury brand which Miuccia Prada inherited in 1978 at a time when sales were reported U.S. $450,000.
At that time, Miuccia met her future husband Patrizio Bertelli who owned a leather goods business. He joined the company as business manager. There was no looking back. Prada expanded beyond luxury luggage, steamer trunks and handbags. In 1985 the anti-luxury accessories, i.e. the nylon handbag and backpack became it-bags. A footwear line was released in 1984. The following year the classic Prada handbag was unveiled. Miuccia Prada’s ready-to-wear line debuted in 1989 and then she launched the less expensive Miu Miu label inspired by her own wardrobe. In 1993 she and Bertelli founded Prada Foundation: a nonprofit organisation that supports up-and-coming designers including architects and artists. In the same year the fashion conglomerate debuted menswear and in 1997 released ‘Prada Sport’, later renamed Red Line.
Miuccia Prada challenges pre-established aesthetics- surrounded by artists and intellectuals. With her at the helm.. classics are taken apart and re-examined in her continual search for something fresh and creative and avant-garde. Her progressive ideals are reflected in iconic designs including intricately embellished cardigans- Geisha dresses- street-style corsets- bralettes worn over a shirt- silk turban- and the conceptual stiletto. Subsequently in 1993 and 2004 CFDA honoured Prada with CFDA International Award. In 1995, 1996, and 1998 she won the VH1 Fashion Award for Womenswear Designer of the Year.
Miuccia Prada and Bertelli merged their companies to create Prapar B.V. in 1996. This was later renamed Prada B.V. and Patrizio Bertelli was named CEO. The duo transformed it into a reported $11.4 billion enterprise and expanded into leather goods and footwear, fragrance and jewellery. Prolific acquisitions include Helmut Lang and Jil Sander which it was forced to sell a few years later at a loss. Prada also has a stake in fashion brands such as Fendi. There were rocky days ahead.
“We’re not interested in acquisitions at the moment,” Prada Chief Executive Patrizio Bertelli told shareholders at the luxury company’s annual general meeting. “We believe we have enough to do within our business as it is, so we absolutely do not want to distract ourselves and complicate things.”
As of March 2018, Prada’s sales were on an upward curve and stock reportedly jumped fourteen per cent. Stating Prada would be “focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design while meeting the demand for ethical products” the brand announced in 2019 that fur would be eliminated from all collections the following year. In February 2020 Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli named Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons co-creative director which essentially meant the two creative powerhouses would work together to reimagine the brand.
“Conceptually, it is also a new approach to the very definition of creative direction for a brand- a strong challenge to the idea of singularity of creative authorship- whilst also a bold reinforcement of the importance and power of creativity in a shifting cultural landscape. The union will no doubt result in an upward curve on the balance sheet.” A company statement.
A masterstroke for Prada.
However, according to the research data analyzed and gathered by Comprar Acciones, Prada Group swung to a reported $219 million loss in Q1 and Q2 2020. In order to minimise the losses, around seventy per cent of Prada’s stores closed. This led to a whopping seventy one per cent decrease in total wholesale sales in Q1 and Q2 2020. On the other hand, its sales in China sharply recovered since the end of March 2020 when its stores re-opened for the public. By the end of Q2 2020, Prada registered a sixty per cent sales growth in China.
Cut to present times. Fall 2023 – co-created by Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons – was loaded with couture techniques applied at the most luxuriant and empathetic level, which is in the service of making clothes not for special occasions, but for everyday life. In other news- Malika Savell came on board as Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for Prada North America and is responsible for developing policies, strategies and programs to help ensure diverse representation of cultures and perspectives at all levels of the company.
The Prada Group, committed to sustainable raw material sourcing, has also set an ambitious goal to achieve certified leather by 2023. Prada Re-Nylon employs regenerated nylon Econyl as the basis for a new circular supply chain. Obtained by recycling plastic waste collected in oceans and textiles- Econyl yarn can be recycled without the loss of quality.
Prada offers Ready To Wear collections- handbags- footwear- fragrance- lifestyle accessories and travel bags with accessories for both men and women. And a selection of accessories such as wallets and card holders- hats and gloves- sunglasses- hair accessories- key chains- belts and scarves.