While studying fashion at school, I’ve come to realize my passion for learning all about different fashion designers, what they are known for, and what they have contributed to the fashion industry. Because of this, I’ve decided to start up a series of blog posts discussing just that! Each post in this series will focus on a single designer and the influence she or he has had on the world of fashion. For my first Designer Spotlight, I’ve decided to write about one of my favorites: Miuccia Prada.
The Prada brand was founded in Milan, Italy after Miuccia Prada’s grandfather, Mario Prada, opened the first store in 1913. Miuccia Prada (originally Maria Bianchi) was born several years later on May 10th, 1949 in Milan to Luigi and Luisa Bianchi. In 1970, after receiving her Ph.D. in political science, studying to become a mime, and joining the Italian Communist Party, Prada began working for the family business. Just eight years later, she had worked her way up to head of the company.
Photo: Miuccia Prada by Luca Bruno
As head designer, Prada began to transform the company into the luxury fashion house it is today, although this couldn’t have been done without the help of a man she hired named Patrizio Bertelli, whom she later married. One of Prada’s first creations was a line of black backpacks made from Pocono nylon. Unfortunately, they were not successful at first. In 1980, Prada began to expand the company globally, and in 1985, she relaunched her nylon bag idea. This time, however, she designed her handbags with gold chain straps and the triangular signature logo that would someday become a symbol recognized across the globe. With this line relaunch, the brand saw immediate success.
With encouragement from her husband, Prada debuted her ready-to-wear line in 1988. The brand continued to expand into the 1990s with the launch of perfume, eyewear, cosmetics, activewear, and menswear lines. Prada also created her more affordable secondary line, Miu Miu (her nickname), which she designed with inspiration drawn from her own wardrobe. Starting in the late 90s, Bertelli began to acquire other fashion brands including Fendi and Helmut Lang. However, after falling into a substantial amount of debt, Prada Holding B.V. had to sell the Fendi brand.
Miuccia Prada is most known for her destructured minimalistic designs. She uses lots of neutral and basic colors, such as black, white, brown, cream, and army green. She also tends to use synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and nylon, rather than natural ones. Although her designs may be described as “plain”, they have been and still are some of the most influential in the fashion industry. Her garments challenge society’s ideals and expectations when it comes to femininity and what it means to be “sexy”. Her luxurious fabrics and close attention to detail allow her to create pieces that are able to flatter the female body in a beautifully elegant way while still maintaining a great sense of modesty. Over time, as Prada’s designs increased in popularity, they’ve become associated with strong and independent working women.
Photo: Miuccia Prada by Jamie Hawkesworth
Over the years, Prada has been recognized with many awards and acknowledgments for her work. These include the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) award in 2004, a spot on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in 2005, the British Fashion Council’s International Designer of the Year award in 2013, and more. Some of her designs are featured alongside fellow fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s in an annual exhibition done by the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Today, Prada remains the CEO and lead creative director of her company, and she continues to be a source of inspiration to people all around the globe.
Header photo: Miuccia Prada by Guido Harai (1999)