Fashion designer Miuccia Prada was born on May 10, 1949, in Milan, Italy. Once a member of the Italian Communist Party and a mime student, Prada was an unlikely entrepreneur when she took over her family's luggage business in 1978. She first dazzled the fashion world in 1985 with a series of black nylon handbags and backpacks. Prada is now a billion-dollar company.
Famed fashion designer Miuccia Prada was born Maria Bianchi Prada on May 10, 1949, in Milan, Italy. She was the youngest granddaughter of Mario Prada, who started the Prada fashion line in 1913 by manufacturing well-crafted, high-end suitcases, handbags and steamer trunks for the Milanese elite.
Prada was an unlikely inheritor of her family's business. A former member of the Italian Communist Party, Prada attended the University of Milan, where she made a name for herself as an ardent feminist and earned a Ph.D. in political science. Following her academic work, Prada planted herself at Milan's Piccolo Teatro, where she trained as a mime for five years.
Early Fashion Career
In 1978, Prada entered her family's business and soon set to work on reimagining a company that had grown sleepy and stagnant. With the help of her future husband, Patrizio Bertelli, Prada began updating the company's merchandise with designs she'd developed herself.
Prada began gaining popularity in 1985, when she unveiled a series of black nylon handbags and backpacks with understated labeling—a stark contrast to the logo heavy clothes that dominated the fashion world at the time. Four years later, Prada, who has no formal fashion training, introduced a line of ready-to-wear women's clothes that she called "uniforms for the slightly disenfranchised." Critics and consumers ate it up.
Working closely with her Bertelli, who'd by now become her husband, Prada quickly grew the business into a powerhouse. In 1992, she introduced a new, more affordable label called Miu Miu. Three years later, the company unveiled a line of men's clothing.
In the years since, Prada has continued its upward trajectory, introducing other new lines, and buying stake in or just buying up competitors, including Fendi, Helmut Lang, Jil Sander, and Church & Company, among others. In 2002, it was reported that Prada had annual revenues of more than $1.9 billion.
Much of what set Prada apart from the rest of the fashion world is her seeming disregard for the fashion industry. Prada has always blazed her own trail and demonstrated a fearlessness in trying new styles. Her experimentation once included a raincoat that was transparent until it became wet, at which point it turned opaque. In 2004, she dazzled a front row of critics at a show with a collection of souvenir clothes that included straw hats and embroidered moccasins. In another designer's hands they might have been seen as garish; in Prada's, the items packed chic appeal.
"If you want to know what a season is about, you don't miss the Prada show," one fashion director told TIME magazine in 2004. "She never follows anyone else's lead, just her own original energy. Her collections are completely an expression of herself."
In 2010, Prada was the named the McKim Medal Laureate (for achievements in fashion and business) at the Villa Aurelia of the American Academy in Rome. In 2012, an exhibition of Prada's work was showcased, along with that of the late fashion pioneer Elsa Schiaparelli, at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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