Italy’s renowned house of Prada started more than a hundred years ago with Mario Prada, an artisan who set up shop in 1913, making custom leather goods such as trunks, handbags, and travel accessories. His store, located on the prestigious Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II in Milan, still stands. More impressively, the House of Prada is still a family-owned business. Mario’s granddaughter Miuccia oversees it now.
The Prada Brothers
In the beginning, there was craftsmanship, hard work, and daring design. Mario Prada and his brother Martino didn’t just use traditional leather or stone. They created unique designs with materials like lizard skin and toad skin. They also sold luggage, including imported English steamer trunks. The company was known as Fratelli Prada (The Prada Brothers).
The Prada Brothers stated goal was to create fashionable products that would not be out of fashion after a year but would become classic.
Just a few years later, The Prada brand had become popular with the Italian royal family. Prada was granted the title Official Supplier of the Italian Royal House in 1919. The House of Savoy coat of arms and rope design became integral to the Prada logo and expanded the reach of the business to Italy’s aristocracy and upper classes.
Passing The Baton To The Next Generation
Mario Prada wanted to pass the business along to his son, but his son had no interest in it. Mario’s daughter Luisa took the helm in 1958 after Mario died, and ran the company for the next twenty years.
Luisa had four children and her youngest child because the heir apparent. In the mid-1970’s Luisa’s daughter, Miuccia (born in 1949 and named Maria), became more active in the company she had joined in 1970. In 1978 she took the helm of Prada, despite the fact that she was once an ardent feminist and her college degree was not in fashion or art but in political science. Once a member of the communist party, Miuccia also spent years training to be a political mime.
Miuccia partnered with Patrizio Bertelli in 1977. Bertelli, a native of Tuscany, owned a leather goods company, and the two reportedly met a trade fair where his company was selling Prada knockoffs. Together, they adopted a business model new to the fashion industry – complete control over the manufacturing process.
She also married Bertelli and they had two sons. Today, Bertelli is the managing director of The Prada Group.
Miuccia revitalized the outdated and complacent company and her influence has continued to grow in the years since. She has designed handbags, clothes, and more, to great acclaim. She fearlessly introduces new styles, like a transparent raincoat. Prada doesn’t flash its logo obviously, however – only those familiar with the triangular logo will recognize it on shoes, handbags, and clothes.
The year 1979 was a landmark year for the brand, as the first Prada shoes were introduced.
The Future Of Prada
Today’s Prada superstardom began with a line of black nylon backpacks in 1985 Pocono nylon was durable and waterproof, and had been used for military tents at one time.
Miuccia’s refined and elegant style became more and more popular in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In 1988, Prada’s line of women’s wear made its debut. In 1992, Miu Miu, a line of more affordable clothing, debuted. The line features bolder, brighter colors found in Miuccia’s personal wardrobe.
Prada eyewear and menswear lines were added in the period from 1990-2010. Prada Sport, a line of sophisticated but casual sportswear, launched in 1997. In 2000, Prada sponsored the America’s Cup, and Patrizio Bertelli, an avid sailor, took an active role in the competition.
Fondazione Prada (the Prada Foundation) was born in 1995, its aim to promote contemporary art. In 2000, the foundation was recognized with honorary awards from two very prestigious sources, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and the Royal College of Art in London.
In 1993, Miuccia won the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America International Award. Miuccia Prada was named by Time magazine in 2005 as one of the hundred most influential people in the world, for having “provoked and influenced colleagues for years with her eccentric and highly personal sensibility.”
Today, Prada dominates the worlds of luxury fashion and design and maintains a cult-like following worldwide. The 2006 movie The Devil Wears Prada was a huge international hit. The company continues to expand and has bought large shares of other prominent brands like Gucci, Helmut Lang, Jil Sanders, and Fendi.