i have a thing for smart, fearless women and miuccia prada is certainly one of them. she took her grandfather’s luggage company inheritance in 1978 and with the help of her husband, patrizzio bertelli, turned it into today’s 2-billion, 7,450 employee international business by doing it their way.
beside fashion, the power couple are also into contemporary art and architecture. the two starchitect-commissioned hqs in tokyo (herzog and de meuron) and soho, ny (rem koolhaas) put a 100 m dent into the prada finances and nearly sank the brand. as my only target in tokyo was the amazing omotesando building and as i heard that the brand is presently making satisfying profits, i say it was worth it!
another series of risky but wise moves were the buy outs of other interesting fashion brands: helmut lang, jil sander, fendi and azzedine alaia. initially, the financial effort was substantial but things were finally sorted out – the first two brands mentioned cost the prada group over half a billion but were sold off to a bank ever since. the prada group also includes their own prada and miu miu as well as footwear companies church and car shoe.
it’s interesting to think about how prada’s librarian chic sold so well. to me, it’s somehow a confirmation that not all women dream of being sexed up versions of themselves 24/7. the prada woman is busy, independent and knowledgeable. and all those ever-changing shapes and colours need a healthy sense of humour and courage. i know this sketch portrait sounds a lot like the designer herself and i’m sure it’s no coincidence. after all, she is a good role model for women. she has a phd in political sciences and has lead a very varied and exciting life – a militant communist and feminist in her youth, a hugely successful business and many interesting hobbies – she once acted as a mime for 5 years, she’s into arts, sailing and who knows what else. did i mention she has two grown up sons?
the art collection of the prada/bertelli couple is said to be one of the best in the world in private possession. she’s taken seriously as an art patron and rightly so: their important undertaking, fondazione prada, with 3 current venues and a new rem koolhass-designed 17,750 sqm milan hq to be opened in 2013. also, earlier this year she was one of the turner prize presenters and she was also part of the jury of the victor pinchuk-powered 100,000 usd the future generation art prize. and there are many little things such as: the prada rem koolhas-designed temporary transformer, sam taylor-wood took her portrait for vogue uk in march ’11, the carsten holler slide installed in the milan prada group hq, etc.
a woman with a vision. a family business with tremendous success. fabulous art and architecture. decades of changing the way the fashion game is played. surprising. pioneering. modern. interesting. inspiring.
for a better look at prada’s work, go to new york next year, at the met, for elsa schiaparelli and miuccia prada: on fashion (10.05 – 19.08.2012)