Miuccia's new world
For the Lady of Italian fashion it’s time to dare. Or rather, to explode
She has never looked back. Since she has been designing fashion, since the late ‘70s when she took over the family’s business founded by her grandfather Mario in 1913, after completing a degree in Political Science at the University of Milan and having spent time performing mime course at Milan’s Teatro Piccolo and, as many young people of the time, participating actively in the Communist Party, Miuccia Prada has always been acting consistently with this principle that permeates her style and creative world.
She has always looked ahead, this lady in her fifties with youthful looks and energy, shy and cheerful, stern yet friendly, unconventional yet very fond of her family, her two children, Lorenzo and Giulio, and her husband Patrizio Bertelli, her greatest fan, the fighting and lively entrepreneur from Arezzo with whom she started a company in 1978 and shares all the Prada Group’s strategic and cultural decisions. “Miuccia is the only designer capable of making two lines, Prada and Miu Miu, without distinguishing between primary and secondary labels” he said after showing in Paris for Miu Miu, the brand that, in the space of four seasons, has doubled its turnover: from €100 to 200 million.
Many agree with Bertelli. Famous fashion personalities as well as ordinary people admit that Miuccia Prada is both daring and consistent, graceful and extremely dedicated and that she revolutionized the concept of classic clothing without indulging in excesses. A difficult but not impossible task for a woman who goes her way, bringing up pupils that soon turn into competitors (Marc Jacobs and Stefano Pilati, but also Ivana Omazic who designs for Celine) but never falling from the throne, she the Queen of contemporaneity and concreteness. Even when she experiments, as in the latest two collections, with the fantasy world of the summer 2008 Prada collection and with the theatrical-ironic world for Miu Miu. For all this and much more, Anna Wintour, the “devil” of Vogue America, describes her as “ a woman who assumes all risks” and considers her one of the world’s best fashion designers, the only female and the only Italian one.
Miuccia, how do fantasy and creativity peacefully coexist?
“In a varied and complicated world such as today’s, I believe- says the designer wearing a black gazar overcoat and her signature accessory, the ancient and precious earrings that light up her penetrating look- we must be open-minded. Because creativity means opening up to the world. At present, I find inspiration in new worlds, in emergent countries where clothing is still very important. Because in those countries people are still “obsessed” by themselves unlike Europeans”.
Have these new worlds influenced your latest collections?
“Of course, it was inevitable. I asked myself if what I have done so far makes sense to people belonging to different cultures. It was quite a shock but ideas are born from comparison. And my collections have to go with this fast-changing world by using new forms and colors, soft materials instead of my beloved fabrics with weave features, eccentric prints. Let’s not forget that in new markets, such as Russia, Japan, India and China, everything is showy and loud. And fancy fabrics are my response to this fast-changing world. I am fed up with being what I am- goes on Miuccia from her headquarters in Via Fogazzaro, Milan- we have to get over our sophisticated European culture”.
You have left your mark on contemporary clothing. Do you feel like a revolutionary for this?
No, the last revolution in fashion, and not only in fashion, was in 1968, Mary Quant’s miniskirt. There has been nothing else after that. Today true fashion is worn by ordinary people in the streets, not by fashion models. I make only wearable objects. I never create icons of style, unlike most fashion designers. I hope I will go on looking ahead”.
Firstly handbags and your famous backpacks forged out of nylon, then the minimal and conceptual style, the revival of classic clothing in a modern version, technical materials paired with haute couture fabrics, all black collections but also, as in the coming winter, an explosion of color, the use of precious fabrics and even the fake mohair fur. In the beginning, you focused on accessories, now on the study of forms. Only two seasons ago, the Prada woman was a wild neo-feminist wearing Eskimo jackets and clogs, now she looks like a comic-strip character living in a fairy-tale world. Where does all this creativity come from?
“From looking at people straight in the eye, especially young people, from the contamination of fashion and contemporary art that I follow passionately through the Prada Foundation which aims at getting the public acquainted with the most provocative forms of contemporary art and culture. And then from the love of clothes that many designers have lost sight of. In short, we have had enough of the domination of accessories over clothes. Of course, all this involves a cross-contamination of styles, with few yet essential pieces”.
How much do you like showing disregard for the dictates of fashion?
“Why is this happening to me?” she jokes.
At the latest Miu Miu fashion show in Paris on October 8, you sent a doll wearing a tutu down the runway, between a sexy bunny girl and a “commedia dell’arte” character. Most of your colleagues were inspired by Romanticism, the ‘20s and ‘30s, Lee Miller’s heroines, the American ‘60s. What is the Prada-Miu woman hiding under her tutu?
“Nothing, what she wears is an expression of herself. And herself is crazy, daring as in the ‘80s. The time of stiff and composed ladies is over. Yes, I even designed a bunny girl, because I believe that people play a part when they dress up, just like on a stage or in a show. I see nothing wrong with this, as proved by customers from far-away countries”.
Miuccia: envied, adored and criticized at the same time. Her way of experimenting with fashion never leaves us indifferent, a combo of conservatism and eccentricity. Prada women are sexy without revealing too much skin. And more often than not, she wins: she appeared on the cover page of TIME Magazine, in 2005, as one of the 100 most influential people in the world and, again, in 2006, alongside her husband.
She is the creative mind, he took on the role of business manager of a Group that employs 6000 people, runs 212 monobrand stores and 24 franchised stores in 62 countries across the globe. A company worth billions: Prada SpA’s profits reached, in 2006, € 1.425 billion, an 8,2% rise compared to 2005. The Prada label alone had revenues of €1.185 million and is distributed the world over. Miuccia and Patrizio have added top-flight labels to the company’s portfolio of brands: Church’s, Car Shoe and Genny and licence agreements with Luxottica and Puig Beauty & Fashion Group. All this is created by the talented hands and mind of Miuccia, a small, great woman that has revolutionized the concept of luxury and clothing.