When Miuccia Prada took the lead at her family’s brand, it was barely surviving. Continue reading to learn how she has turned it into an entire universe, extending beyond fashion and into art, architecture, cinema, and philosophy.
In 1913, brothers Mario and Martino Prada opened their first luxury leather goods store in Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which continues to operate as the world’s oldest mall and serves as a major landmark in the city. Then named Fratelli Prada (meaning ‘Prada Brothers’ in English), it offered travel trunks, bags, and accessories. Just six years after it was founded, Prada became the official supplier to the Italian Royal Household. This title allowed it to add the House of Savoy coat of arms and knotted rope to its logo, making the house a symbol of Italian aristocracy and confirming its quality.
As the patriarch, Mario believed women should not work outside of the home and excluded female family members from employment at Prada. However, when he died in 1952, his only son was not interested in taking over the family business. With no clear heir, his daughter Luisa assumed his position in 1958. Throughout her 20 years at its helm, Prada experienced a slow but steady decline. That is, until her daughter Miuccia joined in 1975.
Detailing Miuccia’s influence and her most groundbreaking contributions, as well as the house’s so-called Pradasphere and standards of authentication, our comprehensive guide will help you learn everything you need to know about the fashion industry’s rebel brand.
Continue reading to become an expert in all things Prada.
Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images
Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images
Miuccia Prada’s fearlessness in confronting and overturning the status quo and Patrizio Bertelli’s entrepreneurial intuition have made them a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry. Under their direction, as creative director and CEO respectively, Prada has become a billion-dollar brand. Though, always keen to be at the forefront of change, they have recently made an unprecedented announcement. Starting with the Spring/Summer 2021 collection, Miuccia will permanently share the position of creative director with another prominent designer. Raf Simons, formerly of Jil Sander, Dior, and Calvin Klein, has officially joined the Prada team.
Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada, Photo by Prada official website
Miuccia Prada (born Maria Bianchi on May 10, 1949, in Milan) focused on politics and art far before fashion. Prior to performing mime at the Piccolo Teatro, Miuccia received a doctorate in political science from the University of Milan and affiliated herself with the Italian Communist Party. But, a member of the Prada family, style was her birthright. (After all, while her peers wore jeans and sneakers, she unironically attended demonstrations in YSL.)
Miuccia joined the family business in 1975, starting as an accessories designer. As a feminist and leftist, she initially felt conflicted about her career choice and feared she was selling out. Miuccia reasons, “I suppose I felt guilty not to be doing something more important, more political. So, in a way, I am trying to use the company for these other activities. I’m not interested in the silhouette, and I’m not able to draw. I’m trying to work out which images of the female I want to analyze. I’m not really interested in clothes.” Since Miuccia succeeded her mother as the head of Prada in 1978 (at this point, she was adopted by her unmarried aunt, so she could legally carry the Prada name), she has provoked the normative notions of femininity, beauty, and taste. Through her notoriously complex and confrontational design process, Miuccia has turned fashion into an intellectual pursuit.
Miuccia Bianchi Prada, Photo via Business of Fashion
In 1977, Miuccia met Patrizio Bertelli at a trade fair in Milan. A leather goods purveyor with experience in the production process, he was selling Fratelli Prada knockoffs. When she was promoted a year later, Miuccia granted Bertelli’s company, then called IPI spa, an exclusive license to make and distribute Prada’s leather goods. Bertelli immediately placed his focus on internal control of Prada’s production process, ensuring its products met strict quality standards. Soon after, Prada and IPI spa would merge to form a single Group, and Bertelli would become its CEO (a position he has shared with Miuccia since 2014, when she stepped down as its chairman) and Miuccia’s husband (the couple wed in 1987). Together, Miuccia and Bertelli set their sights on expansion, planning to broaden Prada’s product range and increase its international presence.
Following the renewed popularity of its leather goods, Prada began designing shoes. It launched its first women’s shoe collection in 1979.
In 1983, Prada opened its second retail location at Via della Spiga in Milan. Its walls were painted a light, cool green, which beautifully offset Miuccia’s designs. Since becoming synonymous with the house, referred to as Prada green, all of its boutiques now feature this signature shade. More store openings followed in New York, Madrid, London, Paris, and Tokyo.
It is rumored that Bertelli threatened to replace Miuccia if she would not agree to design clothing. So, for Fall/Winter 1988, she showed her first women’s ready-to-wear collection. In a decade defined by glamour and extravagance, Miuccia’s pieces were pared back and minimalistic. To much critical acclaim, she released clean, simple tailoring in muted tones. Years later, for Spring/Summer 1996, Miuccia continued to prove that she was an oppositional designer. With Tom Ford in control at Gucci, overt sex appeal was in style, but Miuccia showed collared cardigans, clunky sandals, and knee-length skirts in geometric prints and moldy, murky colors that had not been popular since the ‘70s. Her collection, dubbed “ugly chic,” was deemed a sartorial hit. Miuccia explains, “If I have done anything, it is to make ugly appealing. In fact, most of my work is concerned with destroying – or at least deconstructing – conventional ideas of beauty, of the generic appeal of the beautiful, glamorous, bourgeois woman. Fashion fosters clichés of beauty, but I want to tear them apart.” Miuccia quickly distinguished herself as a nonconformist designer that subverts trends, influenced by her own personal taste rather than sales.
No longer only questioning the traditional idea of femininity, but also masculinity, Prada debuted its first men’s ready-to-wear and shoe collections in 1993. Miuccia asserts, “Basically, I’m trying to make men more sensitive and women stronger.” That same year, it also established Miu Miu, its sister brand that now offers clothing, bags, footwear, eyewear, and fragrances. Though still headed by Miuccia, Miu Miu is not subjected to the same unrelenting, complicated creative process as Prada; it is much more carefree and playful. Miu Miu briefly created menswear, but today exclusively designs for women. It is headquartered in Paris, France, and also shows its runway collections there.
In 1999, the Prada Group acquired Helmut Lang, Jil Sander, and a portion of Fendi, becoming a fashion conglomerate. It has since sold its shares in all of them.
Throughout the 2000s, Prada further diversified its product range, introducing its own eyewear, fragrances, and even a cellphone. Revealed in March 2007, just six months before the iPhone, it was the first that was entirely touchscreen. Produced in collaboration with LG, it was updated and re-released in 2008 and 2011.
Miuccia Prada’s daring creative direction and Patrizio Bertelli’s business acumen transformed Prada, growing it from a modest leather bags and accessories business to a ready-to-wear powerhouse. Miuccia and Bertelli have received numerous accolades for their work. Among them, Miuccia was named as the British Fashion Council’s first-ever International Designer of the Year, and Bertelli was granted the Honorary Degree in Business Economics from the University of Florence; together, Time has included them among the Top 100 Most Influential Couples in the World.
Patrizio Bertelli, Photo by Brigitte Lacombe
Raf Simons, creator of the self-titled menswear label, has had a long professional and personal relationship with Prada. From 2005 until 2012, Simons served as the creative director of Jil Sander, which was majority owned by the Prada Group. Hiring Simons was a huge risk, as he had only ever designed menswear, but it paid off and he formed a strong bond with Patrizio Bertelli. And, throughout their careers, Simons and Miuccia have expressed mutual respect and admiration for one another. In an interview together, Simons conveyed, “The reason I wear Prada is not just because I like the clothes; it’s also because Miuccia has a mindset that I can relate to.” Miuccia reciprocated, “One thing I would really love to do is work with Raf.”
Following rumors that Raf Simons was poised to either take over Prada menswear or revive Miu Miu menswear, it was recently announced that he would be joining Prada, albeit in a much different and rather unexpected capacity. At the end of Milan Fashion Week, Miuccia and Simons made the groundbreaking announcement from Prada Headquarters. Miuccia’s Fall/Winter 2020 show would be her last as Prada’s sole creative director. Effective as of April 1, 2020, Miuccia and Simons will indefinitely collaborate as co-creative directors at Prada, equally sharing all responsibilities from creative input to decision-making. Simons clarifies, “It is simple. When you have a lot of things to talk about, there’s more strength when two creatives talk about it and love it, then when one does. When we both believe in something, we’re going to do it; when one does not, we won’t.”
It is the first time two major designers – two of the most influential in fashion – have agreed to share power at a major brand. An unusual decision that has shocked the industry, it has left many questioning, why?
Often, a new designer is hired when the board has lost faith in the current, no longer confident their aesthetic will translate into sales. But, Simons has not had a high-profile job since he abruptly departed Calvin Klein in 2018, and Prada has been showing promising growth, improving its sales by 4% since the start of this year.
Many have speculated that Miuccia, now 71 years old, is preparing for retirement and grooming Simons to take over. However, she adamantly denies this, refuting, “I like working and I look forward to working more – don’t make me older than I am. Sincerely, I think I will have to work more.”
Apparently, they had long been discussing a permanent collaboration. Throughout their individual careers, Miuccia and Simons have both prioritized creativity over commercial success. They openly criticize the fashion industry for excluding creatives and believe their partnership could push for a change, proving it is design and not business that sells products.
Once again, Prada is leading innovation in the fashion industry.
Raf Simons, Photo by Willy Vanderperre via TIME
Photo by Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images
When Miuccia Prada designed the Vela, which would later become the brand’s flagship bag, she subverted the traditional idea of luxury. Using nylon, not just for the backpack but also the subsequent Prada Sport line, Prada stitched resistance directly into its designs and forever marked itself as the agitator of fashion norms.
Miuccia introduced Prada to the ultimate anti-luxury material: pocone nylon. Inspired by Italian military tents, she crafted it into an offbeat, utilitarian backpack known as the Vela. Released in 1984, the Vela was Prada’s seminal nylon bag. Standing in direct opposition to everything that was on-trend in the ‘80s, like excess, the backpack perfectly disturbed conventional notions of luxury.Miuccia upholds, “I was searching because I hated all the bags that were around. They were so formal, so lady, so traditional, so classic.”
Though its synthetic, humble fabric, hands-free practicality, and understated branding were not immediately appreciated, the Vela eventually came to be considered covetable highfashion. By the early ‘90s, every girl had the style slung over one shoulder.
For this, Prada is indisputably punk. Not in the superficial sense of safety pins and mohawks, though Prada has featured nylon bags with studded straps in recent runways, but philosophically; Prada has provoked and overthrown the industry’s idea of opulent luxury, redefining it to be more simplistic and casual. To the house, luxury is an abstract idea, which is open to interpretation.
Since the Vela, nylon has consistently appeared in Prada’s collections
In 1997, Prada debuted a new line of technical apparel called Prada Sport. Crafted of nylon and GORE-TEX, making it resistant and completely weatherproof, Prada Sport was designed specifically for skiing and sailing (Patrizio Bertelli is a passionate yachtsman, serving as the manager of the Italian racing team for America’s Cup). Each piece was produced in a solid color and branded with a red plastic tab, giving the line its more popular and widely used name Linea Rossa (which directly translates to ‘Red Line’ in English). Though the line’s futuristic look made it extremely popular, especially entering the new millennium, Prada Sport was discontinued in the mid- ‘00s.
As athleisure experienced a comeback, the result of an industry overrun by couture, Prada re-launched Linea Rossa in both its Men’s and Women’s Ready-to-Wear Fall/Winter 2018 shows. A synthetic rustle could be heard as models again strutted in nylon; however, this time, the house’s signature red line was stitched onto bright neon bucket hats and boxy puffer vests. Though still functional sportswear, the new generation of Linea Rossa looks much more like a luxe re-interpretation of the tracksuit. Re-keyed to the 21st century, it still has resonance today. Reflecting over her 30-year relationship with nylon, Miuccia determines, “Back then what I said was really new, but that feeling is back again. Now is the right moment.”
Photo by Courtesy of Prada
As sustainability has been at the forefront of concern in the fashion industry, Prada has acted. In 2019, the house announced a new initiative in partnership with the textile yarn producer Aquafil. After years of research and development, Prada released its Re-nylon capsule collection, consisting of six classic silhouettes (including a belt bag, shoulder bag, tote, duffle, and two backpacks) refashioned in ECONYL. A repurposed nylon, ECONYL is made by reclaiming and purifying plastic waste that has been collected from oceans, fishing nets, and excess textile fibers. Regular nylon melts at a low temperature, meaning that it needs to be cleaned many times for all the bacteria to be killed and degrades in the process. ECONYL, in contrast, can be recycled indefinitely without a loss in quality.
The most recognized motif of the brand, Prada uses around 700,000 meters of nylon every year. Making its supply chain completely circular and transforming trash into treasure (quite literally), Prada plans to convert all of its virgin nylon to ECONYL by 2021. A statement from Prada reads, “This project is an evolution of a fundamental code of Prada, a reinvention of heritage. Yet, in the same way, a forward-thinking ethos is intrinsic to the cultural make-up of Prada: invention, experimentation, progress. A revolutionary new material, a radical new proposal, to reinvent our past.”
Nylon is emblematic of Prada and its mission to disrupt high fashion, leading the industry in rethinking both the concept of luxury and its unsustainable practices.
Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images
Miuccia Prada is known as an intellectual designer. With her varied interests, the Prada brand is about more than just clothing and bags. She has created an entire Prada universe, extending beyond fashion and into art, architecture, cinema, music, and philosophy. Referred to as the Pradasphere (the term originates from a retrospective exhibition that Prada hosted at Harrods in 2014), it encompasses all of her storied ideas and offers a glimpse inside her mind.
Fondazione Prada (or Prada Foundation) was inaugurated in 1993. With Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli as its co-chairs, Fondazione Prada supports ideas and their expression through multiple disciplines. It began by hosting presentations in abandoned venues in Milan, Venice, and cities abroad, but it opened a permanent site in 2015.
Based in a former gin distillery in the Largo Isarco industrial complex on the edge of Milan, OMA – led by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas – has created a complex that spans 19,000 m2 (with almost 11,000 m2 devoted solely to exhibitions). To contrast the traditional gallery setting, existing structures were restored and new were erected. In total, ten buildings are situated around a courtyard (including, a theater for films, lectures, and live performances, a bar designed by Wes Anderson, and a library), so Prada Fondazione functions as more of a campus, fostering a sense of exploration and discovery. With no Prada logo on its façade, as Miuccia and Bertelli believe their support for the arts should remain separate from their brand, Fondazione Prada is rather unassuming from the outside. Surrounded by a stucco wall and topped with terracotta roofs, it almost completely blends into the surrounding neighborhood, except for its four-story tower that is leafed with gold, adding light to the gray Milanese sky.
Not a conventional museum or gallery, Fondazione Prada is instead a cultural institution. Fondazione Prada explains its mission, “What is a cultural institution for? This is the central question of today. We embrace the idea that culture is deeply useful and necessary as well as attractive and engaging. Culture should help us with our everyday lives, and understand how we, and the world, are changing. This assumption will be key for the Fondazione’s future activities.”
Seven years in the making, Fondazione Prada is unprecedented. Amidst budget cuts that have impacted all of the city’s institutions, Prada S.p.A has privately financed Fondazione Prada and opened it to the public (seven days a week for an admission fee of 10 €).
While Milan has long been a fashion capital, Fondazione Prada has put it on the map for contemporary art too.
Concerned customers were getting bored of the usual retail experience, Miuccia conceived of the Epicenter. Diverging from the house’s conventional ‘Green Stores’, which are characterized by signature pale green walls and minimalist décor, Prada Epicenters are much more conceptual. They show that a brand’s retail locations do not all need to look the same. Designed to avoid repetition (or, as Rem Koolhaas refers to it, the ‘Flagship syndrome’) and maintain Prada’s innovative reputation, the Epicenters focus on architecture as a form of artistic expression. To the surprise of many, they are almost entirely devoid of clothing and instead showcase an excess of space. The Prada Epicenters are not just boutiques, but also public spaces, laboratories, and galleries. They provide a different way to shop, proving Miuccia is just as interested in selling ideas as products.
Under the direction of Koolhaas, Prada opened its first Epicenter in December 2001. Built in what was once the SoHo branch of the Guggenheim Museum on Broadway in New York City, it spans an entire city block. Inside, the Prada New York Epicenter features the ‘wave’ – a 180-foot zebrawood ramp, which descends from the street level to the basement. A stage flips out from its center and bleachers sit across from it, so it doubles as an auditorium for events. Suspended above the ‘wave’, metal display cases move on tracks in the ceiling, showcasing the clothing, shoes, and bags that are for sale. Because the products are not front and center, Prada has equipped the Epicenter with some of the latest technology. To aid shoppers, the rails are fitted with screens that display the sizes and styles that are in stock and antennae track items that are going in and out of the dressing rooms. Entering the Prada New York Epicenter, it will look different every time. The wall that connects Broadway to Mercer is decorated with ever-changing wallpaper. A space for artistic expression, the Prada New York Epicenter elevates the shopping experience.
Shortly after, in 2003, Prada opened its Tokyo Epicenter. Designed by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, it is a six-story, stand-alone building in the Aoyama district. Unlike New York, all eyes are on the Tokyo Epicenter’s exterior. Made of diamond-shaped glass panes, it resembles a 3-D display window. Alternating between concave and convex curves, the glass creates an optical illusion from the inside and casts a ‘Prada Green’ hue on the outside. Futuristic but organic, the prismatic structure is one of the most distinctive in Tokyo and attracts visitors from all over the world.
One year later, Prada teamed up with Koolhaas (once again) and Ole Scheeren to build its third Epicenter in Los Angeles. Situated on the famous Rodeo Drive, it commands attention. With no storefront, the shop is open to the street and seemingly exposed to the elements, inviting customers in. (Though, it does have an environmentally responsive air curtain system that creates an invisible barrier between the outside and inside, as well as a metal panel that raises and seals the entrance at night for security.) An aluminum box that appears to float above the street, it is actually supported by two wooden staircases at the center of the store. An inversion of the ‘wave’ in New York City, they create a ‘hill.’ A beam ceiling and porous, sponge-like walls (which were specially designed in ‘Prada Green’) let in natural light, furthering the lack of a divide between the outside and inside in the Los Angeles Epicenter. In its dressing rooms, the customers are able to view themselves from the front and the back at the same time on the ‘magic mirrors’ and track every piece they have ever tried on via the ‘web closet.’ Prada’s Los Angeles Epicenter is both experiential and functional.
The Epicenters offer the house’s customers something new, further immersing them into the world of Prada.
Prada, Los Angeles
Prada, New York
In 2005, a Prada boutique was unveiled just off Highway 90 in the middle of the Chihuahua Desert. With its logo awnings and stocked shelves, it resembles every other around the world. The only difference? The nearest town, Valentine, Texas, is home to just 132 people, and this Prada store has never been open to them or any other customers.
Designed by Scandinavian artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, Prada Marfa (named for a slightly larger city in the area, which was once home to the famous minimalist artist Donald Judd) is a non-functioning replica of a real Prada boutique. A sculpture. It has never had staff, unlocked its doors, or sold a single product, and it was never intended to.
Prada Marfa began as a commentary on gentrification and consumerism. In 2001, as SoHo became overrun with luxury shops and gallery prices increased, Elmgreen and Dragset (as well as other New York City-based artists) were pushed out. As a joke, they posted a sign to the window of their new gallery in Chelsea, which read, ‘Prada, Coming Soon.’ To the frustration of its owner, many collectors believed the gallery had actually closed. This caught the attention of Yvonne Force Villareal and Doreen Remen, the directors of two non-profit art organizations called the Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa. With help from them (they found a rancher who was willing to donate a piece of his land to the project) and Miuccia Prada (she approved the use of the brand’s trademarked logo and hand-selected bags and shoes from her Fall/Winter 2005 collection to be displayed inside), Prada Marfa came into existence.
Constructed of biodegradable adobe brick, Elmgreen and Dragset planned for the structure to simply disintegrate back into its surroundings and disappear over time. However, a piece of public art installed outside the confines of a museum, Prada Marfa has taken on a life of its own. Since Beyoncé posted a photo of her jumping in front of it in 2012 (first to her Tumblr, and later to her Instagram), it has attracted thousands of visitors a year. And, unfortunately, vandals have also followed, including one that smashed its windows and stole all its merchandise, making off with some very expensive handbags and worthless, right-foot-only heels. As a result, the Art Production Fund and Ballroom Marfa have had to intervene, installing security cameras and enlisting a local to watch over it. To prevent Prada Marfa from becoming an eyesore for Valentine’s residents, the organizations finance its maintenance (a costly amount they will not disclose, as the county has a median income of around $46,534 and its schools lack adequate funding).
Prada Marfa is now a cultural landmark, a destination worth the detour. Elmgreen and Dragset emphasize, “It has turned into something beyond our control, and that is the best thing an artist can experience. As artists, we are only here in order to trigger debate, to provide platforms for other people’s interpretations.”
Sounds like something Miuccia would say.
While Miuccia did not commission the piece herself, she did endorse it. Prada Marfa might be a critique of her very brand, but it has become a part of the Pradasphere. Similar to her designs, it provokes people to question their ideals.
Prada Mode is a traveling social club, which is timed to coincide with cultural events around the world. By special invitation only, it provides its members with unlimited access to fashion, music, food, art, and conversation. To date, Prada has hosted four of these pop-up events.
Prada Mode kicked off on December 4, 2018, in Miami Beach. At the Freehand, a hostel-hotel, it complemented the themes of Art Basel. Throughout its three-day residency, Prada Mode Miami focused on identity formation in the age of technology. Attendees were treated to a packed schedule filled with live performances by artists Theaster Gates, the Black Monks of Mississippi, Elena Ayodele, and the National YoungArts Foundation, as well as discussions led by Document Journal and DJ sets by Craig Richards, AJ Kwame, and No Vacancy Inn.
The following year, on March 27 and 28, Prada Mode went to Hong Kong for its Art Basel. It occupied the third floor of the Barrack Block of Tai Kwun, housing a dining area that provided guests with breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and cocktails, a private salon, and lounges that doubled as staging areas for Dolls’ House by Jamie Diamond and Prada Invites. Each day was recapped with a private dinner followed by a late-night party, where DJs Acyde, Fraser Cooke, Mimi Xu, and Yasmina Dexter mixed. Prada Mode Hong Kong was attended by notables like K-Pop rapper Mino of Winner, Moncler collaborator Hiroshi Fujiwara, and fashion influencer Aimee Song among others.
Later that year, Prada Mode held its third edition in London. In correspondence with the Frieze Art Fair, it took over 180 The Strand on October 2 and 3. Teaming up with The Vinyl Factory and The Showroom, Prada Mode London explored the concept of collective intimacy. This was accompanied by a panel discussion led by Grace Wales Bonner, performances by Nephertiti Oboshie Schandorf and Inua Ellams, and an installation by Theaster Gates.
Most recently, on January 19 and 20, 2020, Prada Mode landed in Paris for its Haute Couture Week. With the help of AI researcher Kate Crawford and artist Trevor Paglen, Prada Mode Paris transformed Maxim’s on Rue Royale, a Belle Époque restaurant from 1893, into its Making Faces exhibition. Centered on surveillance and facial recognition, the invitees were exposed to the history and future of AI. A mix of pages from phrenology textbooks, mugshots, and patent applications were displayed throughout the art nouveau interior, providing a critical look at data gathering and current policing practices. This was followed up with panel discussions conducted by leading theorists and practitioners Simone Browne, Sarah Myers West, Xiaochang Li, Stephanie Dick, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, and Hito Steyerl and a dinner co-hosted by Vogue Paris. Composer William Basinski and DJs Jonny Seymour and Kim Ann Foxman performed. Esteemed guests included the likes of Gigi Hadid, Alex Kapranos, and Adèle Exarchopoulos.
Through Prada Mode, the house has extended its influence beyond just its runway or a specific product. It has created an exclusive, insider-only experience, which cannot be bought. Miuccia describes, “Mode is one of these events, offering a familiar place to extend the art experience into the social; a place where people are welcome to think freely and discuss, not forget to have fun.”
Photo by Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images
Most brands cannot stand the thought of their designs being copied, but to Prada, imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery. In an interview with The New York Times, Miuccia Prada nonchalantly remarked, “The job is to do something interesting with ideas, and if it is copied, I couldn’t care less.” While Bertelli has also commented, “We don’t want to be a brand that nobody wants to copy.” Though Prada recognizes that forgery is an unavoidable reality of making highly coveted luxury products, its customers are not as understanding. And, rightfully so. Paying top price for Prada’s renowned craftsmanship and design, they do not want to invest in fakes.
At The Vintage Bar, our team of expert authenticators works hard to ensure that you feel comfortable shopping for Prada secondhand. Want an inside look at our authentication process? They have broken it down for you!
Correctly authenticating a Prada bag requires many careful considerations. To ease a rather complex process, we have phrased each step as a simple, straightforward question. Ask yourself these questions to determine whether the pre-loved bag you have your eyes on is Prada or nada.
Photo by Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images
First used for Prada’s ‘IT bag’ backpack in 1984, nylon has since become a trademark of the brand and its transgressive design aesthetic. Originally light and thin, it has gotten heavier and thicker over time. A twill material, every iteration has been long-lasting and water-resistant.
Prada refers to its nylon as Tessuto or Vela. While the two names are often used interchangeably, there is a key difference. Higher-value bags with more features are crafted out of Tessuto (for example, messenger bags), while entry-level bags with minimal features are crafted out of Vela (for example, cosmetic pouches).
To authenticate a Prada bag, you do not need to be able to distinguish between the two types of nylon. Though, you should still take a closer look at the material. When assessing a bag’s nylon, ask yourself these questions:
Originally founded as a leather goods shop, Prada continues to use the material today. Though it crafts its pieces out of many types of leather, including Bufalo, Daino, Spazzolato, and Vitello, Saffiano is its most popular. Saffiano is a high-quality calf leather, which is coated in wax and pressed with a crosshatch texture. Extremely durable, it is resistant to scratches and scuffs. When considering the leather on a bag, ask yourself these questions:
Prada has a very distinctive stitching pattern, which is unique to the brand. No matter the style, every Prada bag should exhibit identical stitching. When surveying a bag’s seams, ask yourself these questions:
Unlike most luxury houses, Prada does not have a monogram or an archive of recognizable symbols. Prada is known for its avant-garde design rather than its in-your-face branding. Though more discreet than its competitors, Prada’s brand name does appear in several places on its bags. The brand name can be found on the triangle logo plaque, hardware, interior logo plaque, and lining. It should be written in a very specific font, which is consistent throughout the bag. When inspecting the brand name, look at each letter and ask yourself these questions:
Originally, as their endorsement evidenced its impeccable craftsmanship, Prada featured the symbols of the Italian royal family in its logo. See figure 1.
Though this early logo is still in use (for example, it is screen printed on the Prada Printed Tote), it has been modernized and transformed into an inverted triangle. Understated yet edgy, Prada’s now-iconic logo plaque reflects its simplistic aesthetic. The house’s only form of branding, the exterior of almost every Prada bag features one. Each triangle logo plaque includes: the brand’s name, city of origination, year of origination, and coat of arms. See figure 2.
When reviewing a bag’s triangle logo plaque, ask yourself these questions:
Prada only uses two different tones, gold or silver, for its hardware, and every element is engraved with its brand name. When evaluating a bag’s hardware, ask yourself these questions:
Over the years, Prada has used zippers from a variety of manufacturers. Their stamps can be found on the underside of the zipper slides. Though it is not possible to determine which manufacturers were used on which styles and when, as Prada switched frequently and without mention, its zippers can still be authenticated. When scrutinizing a bag’s zippers, ask yourself these questions:
When you open a Prada bag, you will always see a brand stamp. No matter the style of the bag, it will always be attached to the bag’s back wall, either along its top seam or under its interior pocket. Crafted of an enamel plaque or a leather patch, it lists the house’s identifying information. On vintage bags, the brand stamp is comprised of either two or three lines. If it is two, PRADA is on the first line and MILANO is on the second; if it is three, PRADA is on the first line, MILANO is on the second, and MADE IN ITALY is on the third. On newer releases, the brand stamp is always comprised of two lines. PRADA is on the first line and MADE IN ITALY is on the second. When judging a brand stamp, ask yourself these questions:
The Quality Assurance Tag, also referred to as the Factory Tag, can be found inside almost every Prada bag. The tag is typically stitched into the bottom seam of the interior pocket. It features a number, which designates the factory where the bag was manufactured. When examining a bag’s QAT, ask yourself these questions:
Every Prada bag is accompanied by an Authenticity Card and a Product Card, which are stored in an envelope. Together, they ensure that a bag is a genuine Prada and that it has been thoroughly inspected to meet the house’s quality standards. Because these cards can be easily replicated or separated from the bag, their presence does not guarantee its authenticity and their absence does not prove its inauthenticity. However, just like the bags they come with, these cards include specific details that are unique to the brand and can be closely assessed to determine whether they and, as a result, their bag are real. When referencing a bag’s Authenticity and Product Cards, ask yourself these questions:
To make our complex authentication process more approachable, we have separated it into parts. Through a series of questions, each part addresses a different feature on a Prada bag. However, following each question, we declare that the bag only might be a genuine Prada. This is because a bag cannot be judged as an (in)authentic Prada based on a single feature. Instead, it must be considered in its entirety. Take every feature into account before deciding whether a bag is a true Prada or not.
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You should always shop with a trusted reseller that provides a guarantee of authenticity and has a fair return policy. However, no matter what, it is always best to take your time and do your research. If a secondhand Prada find seems too good to be true, it probably is. Trust your gut!
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This guide has covered everything you need to know to become a Prada expert. But, do you want to learn even more? Read the supporting articles we have written, which provide further information on the Prada Group, the house’s most popular bags, and its Garden Factories, as well as how to spot a fake Prada bag.
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