Prada's Fashion Evolution
Lime green, burnt orange and mustard yellow geometric patterns on cropped flares with tunic jackets one moment, before that ladylike florals teamed with oversized boxy leather biker jackets, a 360 turn from primary brights in deckchair stripes and curlicued baroque monkeys before that. Often when Miuccia Prada’s designs come down the runway they manage to intrigue and wrong foot fashion fans – but inevitably, by the time the following season’s glossy mags come out, there’s never a single one that goes out without a Prada cover. Mrs Prada is one of the few designers that sets, rather than follows the agenda, and that has been the case since she started putting out ready-to-wear in the 1988.
You may or may not know that Prada is a long-standing Italian luxury brand; it is, although the ready to wear side of it only dates back to the 1980’s and the monumental success and dominance of the label is even more recent. The leather goods house dates back to 1913 – originally making fine quality luggage for the Kings and Queens of Italy plus the likes of Grace Kelly. It was the granddaughter of founder Mario Prada, the political science graduate and qualified mime artiste – Miuccia – together with her formidable husband, Patrizio Bertelli, who transformed it into the powerhouse that it is today.
Surely in her Prada hall of fame, greatest hits collection will be her black woven nylon backpack of the 1980’s. It was the first of many times when by deliberately, even provocatively choosing something quite unfashionable on paper, but producing it with a novel spin on the idea, resulted in a commercial super-success as well as a landscape-changer in terms of the rest of the fashion world – which then had to catch up.
Since then Miuccia Prada's collections have been unfailingly neophyte and by playing with the boundaries of accepted notions of good taste does she keep everyone on her toes. Or, as the lady herself puts it; her collections are ‘about what I like, but also analyzing what is and isn’t trendy and why people like something, trying to find a way to look at it from outside, researching new ideas on beauty and femininity and the way it is perceived in contemporary culture.’ The Pradas expanded their business with Miu Miu in 1992 then a portfolio of acquisitions during the late Nineties - a majority stake in Helmut Lang, control of Jil Sander and also the British heritage brand Church’s (makers of brogues). The label are also committed patrons of the arts – supporting and providing a platform for such artists as Sam Taylor-Wood, Anish Kapoor, and Marc Quinn, at the Prada HQ on the via Fogazzaro, in Milan. Most amazingly of all, Miuccia commissioned avante-garde artist/srchitect Carsten Höller to install a twisty metal slide in her office, so she can make a clean getaway from her quarters to the ground if ever she’s in need of a breath of fresh air.
2012 saw the brand and, Mrs Prada herself honoured with a novel take on the retrospective at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – a comparison show called Impossible Conversations – between her and pre-war designer and surrealist, Elsa Schiaparelli.