A brief history of Prada
The Italian powerhouse has fully cemented itself as one of the world’s biggest fashion hitters – and its impact on the industry and popular culture is tangible from here in the UK, all the way to the middle of the Texan desert (more on that later). So we felt it only fair that we celebrate the label’s online launch in the best way we know how: with a handy, chronological list of our favourite Prada moments.
The big bang (aka, the beginning)
In 1913, the very first Prada store was founded by Mr Mario Prada (Miuccia Prada’s grandfather). Opened in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan (the world’s oldest active shopping mall, and a pretty darn fancy one at that), Mr Prada sold bags, trunks and travel accessories to the affluent Milanese fashionistas. By 1919, they’d obtained the rather prestigious title of ‘Official Supplier of the Italian Royal Household.’ Their foray into ready-to-wear would come along just a little bit later.
Mrs Prada arrives
In 1970, Miuccia Prada joined the family business (having earned a PhD in political science and dabbled in mime at the Piccolo Teatro, naturally). She got down to work, designing her first set of backpacks and totes, with the nylon ‘Vela’ bag among them. Transforming a functional, waterproof fabric into something luxurious and fashionable was a bit of a novelty – and its sleek, understated branding (a simple triangular metal token) was the complete antithesis to the logo-heavy It-bags doing the circuit at that time, making it a sure-fire hit. In 1988, the brand’s first runway collection made its debut to critical acclaim, and the brand had cemented itself as a key fashion player.
Picture the scene: it’s the early 90s, you’ve got D:Ream’s ‘Things can only get better’ blasting on your boombox, and the supermodels are gracing the covers of your favourite fashion magazines, as well as dominating the catwalk shows for the biggest brands in the biz. Prada was no exception – a very fresh-faced Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Carla Bruni were all runway regulars – making their shows pretty much the best thing to keep a rather fashionable eye on (other than The Crystal Maze, of course).
“The good taste of bad taste” was the basis behind Miuccia Prada’s spring/summer ’96 collection (in her own words). Taking elements of style that had been resigned to the wardrobes of the distant past (avocado green and musty-brown colour combinations, as well as a healthy dose of geometric print), but turning them into something sweet – albeit in an awkward, knock-kneed sort of way – made us all reach for clumpy sandals and collared cashmere again.
Where for art thou, Prada?
How’s this for a fashion moment? Yep, Romeo + Juliet director Baz Luhrmann tapped Prada to create that white dress with angel wings worn by Claire Danes in the 1996 Shakespeare flick, rendering us all doe-eyed and swoony at the romance of it all. (Honestly, who hasn’t mentally re-enacted that fish tank scene at one point in their lives?) And speaking of blockbuster costumery, Miuccia Prada also worked with Baz Luhrmann in 2013 to assist with the costumes for The Great Gatsby, altering dresses from the cavernous Prada archives to fit the film’s 1920s setting.
To say that everyone carried a version of this bag in the Noughties is by no means an exaggeration. A quick ‘hands-up, who owned a bowling bag back in the day?’ straw poll in the office sealed the deal – pretty much everyone had one of these dangling from the crook of their arm. Prada’s sporty, perforated leather bags were sold out everywhere in the summer of 2000, with year-long waiting lists worldwide.
It’s been 13 years since this Prada store popped up in Texas, and yet not a single purchase has been made. Walk up to the glass front and you’ll see that the doors have been sealed shut, there are no staff, and the shoe and bag displays are gathering dust. So why did a Prada store end up in the middle of nowhere? Created in 2005 by artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, the Prada Marfa store is a sculpture-cum-landmark, sat just outside of Valentine (population of around 134), Texas. Built from clay stone with the signature Prada-logoed awnings, it wouldn’t look out of place in any major shopping district from Milan to Tokyo. Yet, when isolated – displaying luxury handbags to nothing but tumbleweed in the eerie quiet – it feels like an alien spaceship has crash-landed in the barren landscape. It initially began as a project with no affiliation with the brand itself at all, but as Dragset told Dazed Digital, “we realised it would be important to the project to get in touch with them”. He went on to say, “They were very nice; Miuccia herself selected things that were really cleverly chosen in sandy colours because it’s the middle of the Texan desert.” Beyoncé ‘grammed herself leaping in front of the store a while back, solidifying its status as a must-visit – if you ever find yourself in the middle of nowhere, that is.
All that glitters
Sometimes, fashion should just be good fun – right? There was a light-heartedness to the spring/summer 2010 show that renders it one of our all-time favourites; where playfulness meets power dressing, or, as Prada put it herself, “business to beach”. The show opened with a line-up of grey angular jackets and suits (that would make any boardroom meeting fun, we’d wager), followed up with our personal favourites – a selection of crystal-studded, chandelier-style baby-doll dresses. Cocktail, anyone?
For us, spring/summer 11’s Prada show encapsulates exactly what makes the brand so admired. More design references than you can shake a stick at (baroque cherubs, hospital gowns and jazz legend Josephine Baker, to name but a few), intense colour combinations, conversation-starter accessories and a touch of kitsch (hello, bold banana print), all add up to an iconic catwalk collection in our book. Tim Blanks of Vogue Runway reported, “Miuccia’s message was crystal clear. As she said backstage, banana earrings vibrating, ’It’s time to be bold.’ And that’s one maxim that, with any luck, will rub off on the world at large.”
No umbrella required
Beauty dream duo Pat McGrath and Guido Palau created a make-up and hair look for Prada’s autumn/winter 2013 show that was (and still continues to be) a lazy girl’s dream. Soaking wet hair, combined with a smudgy, imperfect smattering of matte-grey eyeshadow and berry lip stain added a bit of intrigue (and romance, perhaps – kissing in the rain?) to this film-noir inspired collection of belted overcoats and 40s-style pencil dresses. This particular beauty look is also a very handy excuse when turning up at work having been caught in a downpour sans umbrella, or smudging your make-up while running for the bus. Because, duh – we’re referencing Prada AW13. Obviously...
For spring/summer 2018, Prada shifted gears and took on a combative approach to women’s dressing. Mrs Prada put it best in Vogue Runway: “It’s especially for women, because there’s so much against us, still.” Miuccia Prada referenced several female artists – including the late Tarpé Mills (aka comic book creator June Mills), who was the first woman to create a female superhero (aptly named Miss Fury) – in the collection and the catwalk set, which was decked out with graphic cartoon illustrations. The catwalk was a direct and empowering reaction to the current political climate in the US; the line-up of rough-edged sleeveless blazers, prim dresses layered over tailored (but unfinished) trousers, and sharp pointed collars representing an unapologetically feminine woman with feistiness coursing through her veins.