For a designer who nearly every season manages to upend what came before, it is a fool’s errand to try and identify the moments where the needle truly shifted. Miuccia Prada’s impact on the way we not just wear fashion, but even think about it, is hard to measure and the times the fashion world was heaved forward after one of her shows is more than any other. As Milan awaits her latest collection this afternoon, we recall some of the truly watershed moments in the Prada pantheon.
A Backpack Revolution
In 1984 Miuccia Prada introduced the “Vela” which was a backpack style available in black and brown wrought in a specially made, water resistant nylon called “pocone.” When she began showing ready to wear a few years later, editors and buyers who happened by the showroom fell in love with the idiosyncratic accessory ( luxury nylon??) and an It Bag was born. With the distinctive metallic Prada seal (NOT a logo), a riff on the original company’s imprimatur as royal Italian leather goods maker, glinting when it caught the light, there was a marked difference between the gaudy and gilted bags being schilled at the time by the luxury competitors. The Vela would go on to be the cash cow of the company and signaled that Prada was place for modernity and no lack of cleverness.
After taking the helm of the family business in 1978, Mrs. Prada made quick work of dusting off the legacy established by her grandfather of Prada as an old world leather goods and luxury house. After introducing nylon accessories and a shoe line, she began showing RTW collections in Milan, her first being in the fall of 1988. It was the opening line of perhaps the most compelling and revolutionary conversations we are still having in fashion. Also peep a baby Kirsten Owen.
Trés Jolie Laide
Mrs. Prada’s Spring and Fall collections in 1996 were geek chic and jolie laide (french for “pretty ugly”) to the extreme. It was arch irony yet delicious fashion and a bellwether for dressing in the 90s.
After the boffo success of her nylon accessories and bags coupled with her burgeoning RTW line, Mrs. Prada had the means to expand her brand reach and introduced Prada Sport in 1997. If you think athleisure was a invented in the last decade, think again. The concept that working out or roughing it could be done in luxury apparel was being marketed by Prada long before Lulu Lemon was selling leggings. The campaigns (shot by photographer Phil Poynter) were pretty fabulous too.
The Nylon Collection
For the Fall 1994 collection, Mrs. Prada took the special nylon from her backpacks and made everything from jackets and vests to full dresses and skirts. It was ingenious on the runway and a utile notion she has returned to in successive seasons.
Leave it to Mrs. Prada to take something as démodé as fanny packs and make them the must have accessory of the moment. The tourista chic pieces she showed for Spring 1999 were Gattaca meets Times Square in August and were just the kind of witty but irresistible fashion she was making her name for.