My Posts

How Did Prada Become an Icon? The Story Behind the Name

By The Hyperhive


20 March 2024


©️ Prada / Instagram

Prada. The name evokes images of sleek design, timeless elegance, and a touch of rebellion. Even “The Devil Wears Prada.” But how did this family-run business become a global luxury icon? This article delves into the fascinating story of the beloved brand, its visionary leader Miuccia Prada, and the unique styles that continue to define the brand.

From Fratelli Prada to Fashion Force

The Prada legacy began in 1913 in Milan, Italy. Mario Prada, along with his brother Martino, opened a shop named “Fratelli Prada” (Prada Brothers) in the prestigious Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Initially, they focused on high-quality leather goods, importing fine materials from England and crafting exquisite trunks, handbags, and travel accessories for Milan’s elite.

Fun fact: Initially, Mario Prada wasn’t keen on women working in the business! Continue reading to find out why.

©️ Prada

Women Take Over Prada!

Mario Prada held traditional views that women were not suited for the business world. He envisioned his sons taking over the company. However, none of them showed any interest. As a result, the business passed to his daughter, Luisa Prada, after his death in 1958.

Luisa ran the company for about two decades. While she maintained the brand’s reputation for quality, the business faced a decline during her leadership. This ultimately paved the way for Miuccia Prada’s unexpected yet transformative takeover in 1978.

The Rise of Miuccia Prada

Despite Mario’s traditional views that women shouldn’t be in business, his granddaughter, Miuccia would take the reins and propel the brand to new heights. Born Miuccia Bianchi in 1949, she possessed a rebellious spirit. An unlikely inheritor, she earned a Ph.D. in political science and even trained as a mime! However, in 1978, she took over the family business, then facing declining sales.

©️ whatmiuccia / Instagram

A Revolution in Black Nylon

Miuccia’s arrival marked a turning point. Uninterested in traditional luxury materials, she embraced innovative fabrics like waterproof nylon. Her first ready-to-wear collection in 1985, featuring the now-iconic black nylon handbags and backpacks, challenged the established notions of luxury. The juxtaposition of practicality with high-fashion design resonated with a new generation, and Prada’s reputation for understated elegance and rebellion was born.

Patrizio Bertelli: The Business Expertise

Miuccia’s creative genius was perfectly complemented by her husband, Patrizio Bertelli. A shrewd businessman, he transformed Prada’s operations, focusing on quality control, brand image, and global expansion. Together, they created a formidable partnership that steered the brand toward becoming a multi-billion-dollar fashion empire.

What Contributed to the Brand’s Reputation?

Several factors cemented it’s reputation as a luxury powerhouse:

©️ Prada

Unwavering Quality: From the very beginning, the fashion house prioritized exceptional craftsmanship and used only the finest materials. Their leather goods were renowned for their durability and timeless design. Even with the introduction of innovative fabrics like nylon, quality remained paramount.

The Royal Seal of Approval: In 1919, it received the prestigious honor of becoming an official supplier to the Italian Royal House. This recognition not only added prestige to the brand but also allowed them to incorporate the House of Savoy coat of arms into their logo, further solidifying their association with aristocracy and luxury.

Miuccia Prada’s Visionary Approach: Miuccia’s arrival ushered in a new era of design innovation. Her use of unconventional materials like nylon alongside classic craftsmanship challenged conventional notions of luxury. This juxtaposition, along with her minimalist aesthetic with a touch of rebellion, created a unique and highly desirable brand identity.

Patrizio Bertelli’s Business Insight: Bertelli’s shrewd business practices ensured consistent quality control, a focus on brand image, and strategic global expansion. He ensured the brand remained at the forefront of the luxury fashion market.

Fashion Evolution

Their runway shows are famous for their ability to surprise and challenge. This is because Miuccia always pushes limits, playing with proportions, silhouettes, and unexpected material combinations. The brand champions a unique style – intelligent, sophisticated, and often infused with a touch of revolt. Think clean lines in contrast with bold colors, and luxurious fabrics reimagined in odd ways.

Prada’s First Ready-to-Wear Collection

Miuccia’s debut ready-to-wear collection in 1985 was a groundbreaking moment for the brand. It challenged the established luxury fashion scene in several ways:

©️ Prada

Unconventional Materials: Instead of traditional silks and leathers, Miuccia utilized high-quality black nylon, a then-unconventional material for luxury goods. This not only offered a more practical and weatherproof option but also introduced a new aesthetic – a sleek, minimalist look with an industrial edge.

©️ Prada

Juxtaposition of Luxury and Functionality: The collection featured practical silhouettes like backpacks and simple tote bags, crafted from the luxurious black nylon. This marriage of practicality and high fashion resonated with a new generation of customers who valued both style and functionality.

©️ Prada

Understated Elegance with a Rebellious Spirit: The collection embodied Miuccia’s signature aesthetic. It was elegant yet unpretentious, with clean lines and a touch of rebellion, evident in the use of the unexpected material.

This first ready-to-wear collection set the stage for Prada’s future success. It established its reputation for innovative design, a focus on quality, and a unique brand identity that continues to captivate the fashion world today.

Famous Items

Prada achieves fame not by tying itself to a single item but by combining innovative design approaches with high-quality craftsmanship across various product lines.

1. The Prada Bag

©️ Prada / Instagram

Their handbags are coveted luxury items known for their sleek design and functionality. Two particularly iconic styles include:

  • The Galleria: This bag, crafted from Saffiano leather with its signature crosshatch pattern, is a timeless classic known for its durability and elegance.
  • The Nylon Backpack: In 1984, Prada surprised the fashion world by using utilitarian nylon, normally seen in military tents, to create luxurious handbags. Hence, this innovative approach, defying expectations of luxury materials, became a signature Prada move.

Beyond handbags, they offer a wide range of luxury goods for both men and women, including:

2. Clothing

Their clothing lines are known for their clean lines, high-quality fabrics, and unexpected details. Think luxurious cashmere sweaters with bold color blocking, or tailored suits with a touch of playfulness.

©️ Prada

3. Shoes

The footwear is known for its expert craftsmanship and fashion-forward designs. From classic pumps to statement boots, Prada shoes elevate any outfit.

©️ Prada

4. Accessories

They offer a variety of accessories that complement their clothing and bags. Think belts, sunglasses, and wallets crafted from the same fine materials and showcasing the brand’s signature style.

©️ Prada

A Story Still Unfolding

This fashion house’s journey is far from over. While Miuccia Prada stepped down as co-CEO in 2020, she remains the head designer for the Prada brand. Her creative vision and design expertise continue to shape the label’s identity. The appointed CEO in January 2023 is Andrea Guerra. He oversees the business operations of Prada. His experience in the luxury goods industry, leading companies like LVMH’s hotel division and Luxottica, is crucial for Prada’s continued growth and success.

One last interesting fact? Believe it or not, Prada was the first to create a touch-screen phone! The Prada Phone, released in collaboration with LG in 2007, predated the iPhone by a whole six months!

What is your favorite Prada item? Tell us in the comments.

You may also like: The Entire History of the Infamous Hermès Birkin Bag

The Hyperhive

Bzz! This busy bee is on a mission to make your reading experience as vibrant and colorful as a blooming meadow. 🐝