Lauren Bowes

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA256

The origins of the House of Prada lie in a store established by Italian brothers Mario and Martino Prada in 1913 in Milan, which specialized in fine leather goods and luxury products. The company swiftly gained favor among the elite, and Prada became an official supplier to the Italian royal family in 1919. In 1949, Mario’s granddaughter Miuccia Prada was born in Milan; she would later become head designer and general matriarch of the Prada empire.

Miuccia Prada took over the company in 1977 and swiftly began to enact changes that would rework the Prada aesthetic and branding. Shortly afterward, Miuccia met and was influenced by Patrizio Bertelli, an entrepreneur in the leather goods market. He would become a mentor, CEO, and husband to Miuccia—a commercial and marital relationship that has endured. This partnership would provide the foundation for the evolution of the Prada brand.

In subsequent years, Prada launched footwear (1982) and a ready-to-wear collection (1989), which represented a substantial step away from their traditional roots as an accessories company. Within this period, a simple black nylon backpack was introduced that became a must-have fashion accessory in the 1990s, retailing for $450. Prada expanded their empire further in 1992 as a secondary line was introduced called Miu Miu, a name derived from a nickname for Miuccia. This line was intended to appeal to a younger consumer, who wanted to indulge in an innovative approach to fashion design that remained affordable. In two consecutive years—1993 and 1994—Prada received awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Prada is heralded for its original approach to design, which amalgamates luxurious fabrics with simple styles and classic colors such as black, brown, gray, green, and cream. “Prada green” would emerge as a trademark of the brand. The name of Prada conjures images of classic, sophisticated, and high-quality apparel and accessories. Beyond fashion design, the company is keen to develop a broad aesthetic sensibility through the establishment of architecturally impressive retail spaces, such as the flagship store in New York that was designed by Rem Koolhaas in 2001. The financial success of the company is proven, and it was revealed in 2005 that the Prada family was worth approximately $3 billion. In 2012, the triumph of Prada was celebrated in a gala and exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, entitled “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.”

Prada, Fall/Winter 1995. Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive