Miuccia Prada Talks Men’s Wear, The Brand’s Evolution, See-Now-Buy-Now Trend, Revolution & Much More
Miuccia Prada’s Prada Resort 2016.
Italian fashion designer Miuccia Prada (she’s the woman behind Miu Miu and Prada) shares the chief executive officer’s title at Prada Group with her husband, Patrizio Bertelli, with whom she has built a fashion company that last year reached sales of almost $4 billion and that is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Miuccia designs a constant flow of women’s and men’s wear collections — and all their accessories — each year for the group’s signature brand and Miu Miu. She remains one of the few designers who can have a major impact on fashion for both sexes and her men’s runway shows in Milan remain among the most anticipated of the season. Men’s wear is playing an increasingly important role in the group, now accounting for 30 percent of sales.
Miuccia recently sat down with WWD at her Milan headquarters and talked about men’s wear, the brand’s evolution, see-now-buy-now trend, problems in the fashion system, revolution and more. Below are some excerpts:
Your men’s wear collection for fall was one of the most influential in Milan, reflecting the brand’s evolution in the category and its growing relevance. You never seemed to listen to the tug of marketing or commercial constraints. I read that you believe you “know when you are doing something interesting.” Did you realize this was the case with your fall collection? Did you expect such a success?
I must say that more than any other time, I felt the need to express general problematic issues — because sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t. But this time, the sense of questioning was strong. It’s all so dynamic now. Everything is changing in politics, we don’t know where and we don’t know how, in society, in the new means of communication, so the idea was very important for me to ask myself who we are, where we come from and where we are going. Hence this excursus. And then the position of women, I really care about this. After all, unfortunately women still don’t count that much in the eyes of the world. There are two trends — those that have given up and just want to be married and be kept, but luckily there is also a new apparent feminism in the new generation.
Have you been putting more emphasis and attention on men’s wear? We’ve been seeing a common thread between your men’s and women’s wear collections.
Since forever, when I was designing men’s wear, whenever I would find myself looking for ideas, I would pick from women’s wear. I would ask myself: If I were a man, what would I wear? I tried to open the possibilities for men, but without reaching the point of being exaggerated or unwearable. I think it’s more useful to start with something possible and then people will slowly accept more, rather than [presenting] exaggerated looks that could be simply rejected. This has always been my point of view, then sometimes I do a little bit more. I remember once a few newspapers were scandalized by a short skirt, but that was actually a high belt [laughing]. But always under the appearance of something classic. What I am interested in is changing things without being too provocative or obviously political. Politics and fashion too directly linked, I don’t like that, or to make statements on clothes, [such as ] “no to war.” That is too serious. Maybe I’m wrong, but I like to be subtly political. Fashion must do its part, but infiltrate the spirits, rather than making big declarations with no result. When I do men’s — I never end up doing that part that is more masculine or more serious, which I am really interested in, I really like it. But I can’t develop it for women’s. I end up adding heels and this and that, creating a strong feminine contrast. There really are many interactions.
You have been showing women’s wear on your men’s runway. Would you consider showing the collections together? Your husband suggested it years ago.
I am against it. To do two creative shows in one is a massacre. And it has to be a huge show, if you want to do it seriously. Last time, someone complained that there were too many women [in the men’s show] and that it distracted from the men’s wear—and this is somewhat true, because women are showier and swallow up the rest. Together it could be very beautiful but I would shoot myself [laughs]. The way we work, at the last minute, with things arriving the day before if not the same day.…Many designers have things ready ahead of time.
What do you think of the see-now-buy-now trend? In February, you presented a few handbags, for example, that were readily available for purchase.
We’ve thought about it a lot, but journalists need to see [the collection], buyers need to buy it. So far, we don’t see any sense to it. In six months everyone knows everything. Surely, the way we work, with fabrics made for us, it takes two months for the fabrics, two months for the production…it takes around four months from the presentation to the store, to do it well. You can do it anyway and take it out at the last moment, pretend it’s just been done, but with a collection that you know by heart — what kind of enthusiasm can you have to show it on the runway? You freeze it? In the meantime, I have moved forward. It’s a bit strange. And then, you buy only safe [merchandise]; it’s less creative and less interesting. It’s true that creativity is at risk. Or else you have to block out communication, but this is against the trend. Everyone should be silent for four months, from producers of fabrics to buyers, journalists? I have yet to understand how this can work.
Is there anything really wrong in the fashion system, something that bothers you?
It annoys me when something that has no value is successful, I confess. I have never been jealous of those that are talented — on the contrary, I appreciate them and recognize them. But when someone or a brand that I don’t respect is successful, that bothers me.
Do you think a wave of new designers can change things?
You can’t expect fashion to revolutionize things; revolution happens in society. The miniskirt came [to be] because of the women’s liberation. New comes from the change in society and fashion reflects it. Fashion is attentive to changes; maybe now the real revolution is the closeness between men’s and women’s wear.
Is there a moment you prefer? Do you live in the present or the future?
No, I live very much in history, it’s what really interests me now, the history of thought. When I was in school, I studied little, I had other things to do, theater…for years I have been filling the voids, with books from high school.
How do you get to everything?
I try not to waste time, I don’t have many social distractions. I don’t really like them, so I occupy my time doing things I like.
Head over to WWD to read the interview in its entirety.
Miuccia Prada’s Miu Miu Spring 2016 Ad.
Photos Credit: Steven Meisel