Monday, Apr. 18, 2005

Miuccia Prada

She has been called everything from a communist to an intellectual to an iconoclast (all four-letter words in the fashion industry, mind you), yet Miuccia Prada has provoked and influenced colleagues for years with her eccentric and highly personal sensibility. For a woman who was raised in an affluent Milanese family and never imagined taking over what was then her grandfather's dusty luggage company, Prada, who is in her mid-50s, has done remarkably well. The company that bears her family's name—run by Miuccia and her hard-driving husband Patrizio Bertelli—is now a $2 billion conglomerate. And more than a financial success, Prada is an engine of ideas, most of which run counter to the age-old adage that sex — and only sex — sells.

Prada is known to say that designing clothes is silly, and yet it's her love of clothes that has got her this far. As a student, she wore Courrèges and Yves Saint Laurent while handing out communist flyers at protest marches. Those frocks, still in her closet, inspire her signature radical-chic combo of high-end couture and everyday industrial. Her ability to create trends out of unlikely garments and accessories—from bowling bags to olive green polyester—inevitably sends competitors running back to their drafting tables. Three seasons ago, she launched the frumpy '50s housewife look, which would rule other designers' runways for several seasons. In February she stunned the color-happy fashion industry with an all black collection. Which means that, for now at least, black is the new black.

From the Archive
Style & Design: Miuccia Prada