Prada has been around for a while now as a premier high end brand. It seems like everywhere you turn you can spot a little Prada triangle on a pair of shoes, sunglasses, wallets, or other accessories. It’s been an iconic mainstream brand for years now, and one that is constantly changing with the times. It wasn’t until their exploration into athleisurewear, however, that Prada really found their stride. Around this time is when streetwear really came onto the scene. Streetwear is notorious for blending and mixing styles of clothing such as athleisurewear with business professional blazers, or red sole stilettoes with casual wear. As a result of this, as well as releasing highly popular products, Prada’s online sales doubled and soon Prada found themselves flourishing in the streetwear scene. But as 2020 has proven to be the year of change, fashion designers are predicting a new flavor of fashion on the horizon that is moving away from streetwear. The question is, can Prada keep up?
While Prada has always been considered a high end clothing brand, is Prada even considered a luxury brand? With all the ups and downs this fashion house has faced throughout the years, many are starting to question if Prada really is considered a designer or luxury brand. While their price tags sure reflect designer quality, let’s take a deeper dive into the fashion house to see if the price is worth the luxury quality (1).
The Fall of Prada
Prada was first started in 1913 in Milan, Italy by Mario Prada and his brother Martino Prada. As with many iconic fashion houses, Prada started off as a leather goods shop primarily selling animal goods and imported English trunks and handbags designed for travel. The shop was originally named Fratelli Prada. The shop proved to be a success and as Mario became older, the question of who to pass along the business to surfaced. Mario had a daughter and a son to hand over the business to, but did not believe that women had any role in business. Ironically, however, his son had zero interest in taking over the family business, so it was his daughter, Luisa Prada, who took on the Prada business. She ran it successfully for almost twenty years, and finally handed it over to her daughter, Miuccia Prada who joined in 1970 and eventually took over fully in 1978.
In 1977, Miuccia met Patrizio Bertelli, an Italian businessman who had been making his own leather goods since his early 20’s. Miuccia brought on Patrizio shortly after and together, they worked to revamp the Prada company with a focus on apparel and accessories. In fact, it was Patrizio that suggested Prada stop importing English goods, advise that Miuccia took. With Patrizio by her side, Miuccia flexed her creative muscle and poured new life into the Prada name. Thanks to her dedicated work, Prada became the most influential status symbol in the 90’s – an era where the Prada name could be found on almost everything. As Prada hit their stride, making more sales than ever, they went on a bit of a spending spree.
Prada acquired many shoes, leather goods, and English apparel companies under their name. They took on more and more until eventually the company had racked up about $850 million dollars in debt. They eventually sold the companies they had acquired under their name and even sold all of Prada’s 25.5% of shares in Fendi to LVMH. From there, the company tanked.
Prada tried everything from skin care to funky new designs, and even bold shoe options that failed to sell. In one of Prada’s Spring/ Summer ready-to-wear fashion shows in Milan, they got infamous coverage because the models were all stumbling on the runway. While a few of them only stumbled, two models tripped and fell right in front of photographer and had to be helped by the audience to get back up. One model even took off her shoes to continue her walk later saying that “the heels were just too high”. Ever since then, Prada has been on a slow decline.
Back on the Rise
It wasn’t until 2018 that Prada finally found their stride again. They finally broke into the athleisurewear and found themselves deep into the streetwear scene. Streetwear, as we know, mixes many styles of clothing, and Prada’s athleisurewear could soon be spotted in every urban area. As Prada explored their new boundaries in streetwear, they played around with utility styles. The experiment was a success, and Prada utility wear soon came into play (2). It felt as though Prada had found their way back to the mainstream and was here to stay. Until 2020 that is. As 2020 rages on as the year of change, streetwear is slowly dying out, and Prada is dying with it. In 2019, the Italian fashion house said they would be focusing on new innovative materials and designs and hopes to experiment with new boundaries in fashion. In February of 2020, Prada brought on Raf Simons as co-creative director
They May Not be Considered ‘Luxury’ for Much Longer
With the new addition of Raf Simons as co-creative director, we can see a weird turn for Prada. As they released their Spring/Summer line and their Fall/Winter line, it seems as though Raf Simons has a muted role as co-director. While there are definitely hints and flares of Simons iconic heavy metal aesthetic, it seems as though the co-director is being toned down. Prada’s new line is an odd mix of Raf Simons aesthetic and traditional polo styles and flowy dresses. Many of their new designs are proving to be outdated, while adding in an bizarre Raf Simons style to it all. While Raf Simons is an incredibly talented fashion designer – when he has the space a freedom to make his own design choices – it may not have been the best move for Prada. Only time will tell if this is Prada’s big break, or the beginning of the end.