Prada: Italian luxury

April 23, 2022

Prada is an Italian luxury fashion house that was founded in 1913 by Mario Prada. It is famous for its leather handbags, travel accessories, shoes, perfumes and many other fashion accessories.

Prada has 58 retail locations in the United States.

It was over a hundred years ago, in 1913 to be exact, when Mario Prada and his brother Martino opened a leather goods shop in Milan, Italy. The shop, which they called Fratelli Prada (Prada Brothers), started off selling imported English steamer trunks and handbags.

Galleria PRADA, Milan, 1913

As was typical in the early 1900s, Mario Prada believed that women belonged at home taking care of the house and children and so, the females in his family were not invited into the business. Well, as luck would have it, Mario’s son had no interest in the business, so his daughter Luisa was the one who succeeded Mario and ran Prada for almost two decades. Likewise, Luisa’s daughter, Miuccia Prada, joined the company in 1970 and took over from Luisa in 1978.

 In 1977, she met Patrizio Bertelli, the owner of a leather goods business. Bertelli joined the company and advised Miuccia to stop importing English products.

In 1978, Miuccia inherited the company which, at that time, had sales of U.S. $450,000. With Bertelli as business manager, Miuccia now had time to work on the company’s designs. It was the beginning of big changes for the House of Prada.

Miuccia began making waterproof backpacks out of a nylon fabric known as Pocono. She released her first set of backpacks and totes in 1979 and, after a tough start, they went on to become her first commercial hit. It was also in that year that Prada began expansion across continental Europe and the United States, opening locations in Florence, Paris, Madrid and New York City.

In 1983, Prada opened a second boutique in the heart of Milan’s shopping district, on the very site of the previous London House emporium which had been run by Felice Bellini from 1870 to the 1960s. The Prada shop took on a sleek and modern look.

The business grew exponentially over the ensuing years. In 1984, Prada added a line of shoes and in 1985, the classic Prada handbag made its appearance. The handbag was, of course, an overnight success and has become Prada’s signature.

Wedding bells rang in 1987 when Miuccia and Bertelli married.

In 1992, the brand Miu Miu was launched, catering to younger consumers and celebrities.

By 1998, sales were US$31.7 million.

Men’s ready-to-wear collections were launched in the mid-1990s by which time sales were at US$210 million. In 1995, Prada won the designer of the year award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

In 1996, Prada’s 18,000 sq. ft. boutique opened in Manhattan, New York. By this time, the House of Prada had 40 locations worldwide, 20 of which were in Japan.

And then came the “ugly chic” style which presented glaringly unsexy outfits that, in the beginning, confused Prada’s customers, but eventually fueled Prada’s popularity.

In July 2016, Prada clothing became available to purchase online for the first time.

For ethical reasons, Prada has stopped using fur and kangaroo leather in its products.

There Prada chain includes 635 stores in more than 70 countries.

Prada store in Vienna, Austria

Gloria Sauvé
Communications and Marketing

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