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Sep 20, 2023

How Prada became Prada: 4 short pills if you’re short on time

What’s next for Prada? That could be the wildest fashion week prediction. Since Raf Simons joined Miuccia Prada as co-creative director in April 2020, you cannot trust the crystal ball to make reliable forecasts. Even when Miuccia Prada was sharing the reins with no one, you could only dream about Prada’s next collection – and then be proven wrong when they hit the catwalks in front of stunned and amazed editors. But now that the iconic fashion duo is working side by side, each season takes a step towards a stylistic balance between these masterminds. With the new catwalks just around the corner, here are four milestones from Prada’s past and present: they will be your compass to guide you through one of the most interesting brands ever. Prada’s Spring-Summer 2024 women’s show will take place tomorrow, and we know you’re short on time; that’s why we’ve collected four short pills not to be missed on this iconic Italian fashion brand. By the way, do you know that Fabio Zambernardi, Miuccia Prada’s right hand since the 1990s, is preparing to exit the Milanese fashion group at year end, BoF said?

@prada Kai Newman rolls the dice in Prada Stories, the #PradaFW22 ♬ original sound - Prada

Kai Newman rolls the dice in Prada Stories, the Prada F/W 2022 campaign by David Sims and Ottessa Moshfegh


The place where it all began 

Prada is one of the iconic brands with a strong heritage and a prestigious history. It was founded when Mario Prada and his brother, Martino, opened a Fratelli Prada leather goods shop in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan in 1913.

The store initially sold high-quality leather crafts and luxurious products, such as England-imported trunks, travelling accessories, and other items. In a few years, Fratelli Prada evolved from a nice shop to a supplier for Italian aristocratic families. 

This allowed the company to start supplying the royal House of Savoy, embracing its official logo with a knotted rope design, still honoured by Prada today.


Along came Miuccia  

The tenure of Mario Prada, who was legendary for his designs of luxury leather goods and accessories, held sway for almost half a century before his granddaughter, Miuccia, took over in 1978.

She quickly made a name for herself with her ability to predict fashion trends and launch groundbreaking styles that shook the entire fashion industry.

Miuccia Prada at Fondazione Prada's cinema, photographed by Amit Israeli. "What Miuccia wore" Instagram account posts a visual diary of outfits worn by Mrs. Prada

Miuccia Prada earned a doctorate in political science from the University of Milan, which led her to become a former member of the Italian Communist Party. She also gained a reputation as a staunch feminist, actively involved in the women’s rights movement during the 1970s in Milan.

Mrs Prada took over the company from her grandfather and became a successful businesswoman. She met and married Patrizio Bertelli, a leather goods manufacturer from Tuscany, who brought his solid entrepreneurial skills and merged them with Prada’s bold visionary insights. This collaboration made Prada stand out in the fashion world, notably because of their use of nylon in their products, the same fine nylon that Mario Prada used on the cover of his trunks.

With the creation of the black nylon collection, launched in 1985, Prada established itself as a modern classic, capable of launching iconic items even now. Later, the brand achieved even greater success, launching their ready-to-wear items in 1988.


Ugly chic and intellectual integrity 

Mrs Prada’s fascination with contemporary arts is evident in the brand’s DNA. Following her multifaceted vision, Prada’s contemporary art pieces have been publicly shown in a permanent exhibition in the world-acclaimed Fondazione Prada since 2015.

Fondazione Prada’s experimental and free-thinking program aims to affirm that culture is useful and necessary as well as attractive and engaging

The game-changing quality of the Prada brand lies in its concept of eccentricity and intellectual integrity, with a unique mix of modernity, ambiguous techno-retro style, and aesthetic sensibilities that go beyond trends.

With her audacity, Miuccia Prada is not afraid to challenge conventional interests with discreet elegance and fine craftsmanship.

Beyond the definition of Prada style, which is based on beauty, Miuccia Prada is also interested in the “ugly” side of fashion, as she once said in an interview:

“The investigation of ugliness is, to me, more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty, because ugly is human” – Miuccia Prada, co-creative director of Prada

Her exploration led to Prada’s Ugly Chic collection in 1996. Despite being criticised for decades for its unusual and ironic design, the collection presented a new representation of humanity and, with Prada’s creativity, brought forth an original aesthetic taste and a new unconventional set of possibilities.

Naomi Campbell in Prada's S/S 1996 Ugly Chic collection


Rethinking beauty

Rethinking Beauty is more than just the name of the beauty line that Prada unveiled to launch its first make-up and skincare collection this August. It’s a state of mind.

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A post shared by Prada Beauty (@pradabeauty)

A state of mind: Prada just launched its first makeup and skincare collection, Rethinking Beauty 

For Prada’s latest Fall-Winter 2023 women’s collection, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons aimed to redefine and rediscover perceptions of beauty using couture techniques that represent beauty through actions rather than aesthetics. The entire Fondazione hall was filled with Prada’s evening wear, as well as formal and uniform garments. 

The brand has always gone against convention, which was evident as Prada and Simons made headlines with the simplicity of their 1990s vision for that autumn-winter. The show was further elevated by Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid’s presence, not just in the front row but also on the catwalk, generating buzz and excitement among the audience.

Miuccia Prada, Fall 2016 fashion show finale

Prada has never failed to intrigue the public eye when it comes to fashion and luxury, as Miuccia Prada never limited her fluid creativity while exploring new ideas. Her uniqueness is evident not only in her designs or witty and fascinating campaigns but also in the infusion of her theoretical, political and intellectual experiences into many of her collections. 

Prada’s refined craftsmanship and modern designs are instantly recognisable across the globe, yet complex to define.

Whether it’s party, formal, or casual wear, Prada never fails to deliver new possibilities and meet consumers’ expectations while seeking to provide them with a higher and more profound meaning.



Busabong Thongbandith
MA in Fashion Promotion Communication & Digital Media, Milan