Prada: Company and Brand History
Prada's flagship store in Milan: yesteryear and today
Prada started as a Milan-based luxury leather goods company in 1913 and was founded by brothers Mario and Martino Prada. The company's original name was "Fratelli Prada" (Prada Brothers) and was based at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, where the company still maintains its flagship store.
Fratelli Prada initially specialised in luxury leather travel goods like trunks and suitcases. Their impressive quality led to the company being appointed as the official supplier to the House of Savoy royal family in 1919.
Fratelli Prada's delivery van, circa. 1918
Whilst the company had achieved success within its niche, the turning point into a global juggernaut really came in 1978 when the family-run business was taken over my Mario's granddaughter Miuccia, who set the company on a new creative course, introducing backpacks, totes and handbags.
Miuccia's first runaway design success was a bag made out of durable "Pocone", a military-grade nylon material which the company developed itself. Both the material and design were considered very avant-garde at the time, capturing a unique, simple chic look. The bags became de rigueur in the 1990s.
Iconic Prada backpack in black nylon "Pocone"
Prada introduced their first women's shoe collection in 1984 and their first women's ready-to-wear collection in 1987. A men's ready-to-wear line was added in the 1990s.
Another key milestone was the launch of sister brand "Miu Miu" in 1992. Miuccia Prada was recently quoted about the difference between the flagship Prada brand and Miu Miu:
"Designing for me is a very complex process. There are many ideas that I want to express in one object, very often contradictory. The creative process in Miu Miu is completely different from that of Prada. Miu Miu is not as complicated and though out as Prada. Rather than being young, Miu Miu is immediate. Prada is very sophisticated and considered; Miu Miu is much more naïve. The solution, when I am working on Miu Miu, has to come immediately, instinctively, spontaneously with whatever is available at the moment. If I think three times, I stop."
On the business side, Patrizio Bertelli, whom Miuccia met in 1977 and married in 1987, was instrumental in guiding Prada's business direction and international expansion which started in the 1980s. The Prada business continues to thrive in terms of new products lines such as eyewear, fragrances and even mobile phones. In addition to the Prada and Miu Miu brands, the company controls Church's, a traditional men's shoe brand with origins in England, as well as Car Shoe. The brand has developed an especially strong following in Asia, particularly in Japan. Shares in Prada Group were publicly listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2011. As of July 2014, the company operated nearly 500 stores world wide.
Patrizio Bertelli and Miuccia Prada, co-CEOs of Prada Group
In Singapore, Prada operates 7 stores, including 2 at Changi Airport. The company's two-floor boutique in ION Orchard is the largest Prada store in Asia-Pacific, at 1200 square metres.
Prada's Asia-Pacific flagship store at ION Orchard, Singapore
Prada's ION Orchard store covers 1200 square metres over 2 floors, its largest in Asia-Pacific
Stefano Russo was appointed as Prada's chief eyewear designer, a position in which he served until 2008.
Next week, in Part Two of this blog post, we'll review the development of Prada's eyewear range.