Design over time
Amongst the renowned names in Italian style [from Ferrari to Gucci] Prada can lay claim to being the least obviously Italian of the lot, and yet the one that really has its finger on the pulse of trend setting style.
Less of the ostentation and labelling. Pure [modern/business] class. Most of the
credit must go to Miuccia Prada, a reluctant heir to her family throne but, as it’s turned out, the right mind [intellectual, astute, communist, mime!] to steer this Italian luxury mainstay through their 90s bag heyday into something more resolute and influential.
Movements in fashion and politics have coalesced to make Prada’s particular proposition relevant now. Non-leather materials are likely the long-term future of fashion; a move to sustainability and animal welfare that will see the development and improvement of plastics and other vegan options. Prada have already got there, of course, with nylon bags.
How Prada made Nylon fashionable
The Vela is where is all started. Still one of its most iconic bags [and much copied]: A black nylon backpack with zip and the now uniform triangle logo. Miuccia’s desire may have been to transform the musty, imperial image of fashion [and in a stroke, she largely achieved her aim] but one can also credit [back in 1984] the emergence of a yuppie class for the rapid emergence of the brand: a demographic that were moneyed, modern and didn’t want to wear a tie to meetings, but who still wanted to look like they owned the room.
The Prada bowling bag and the intricate [and Gucci-esq Cahier bag model [complex but crisp] all consolidate the theme, as does the very business-is-business Saffiano Lux Galleria bag with that resolute top handle.
Plenty of finest Italian leather also features where necessary; calf leather and a Saffiano leather embossing technique [that founder Mario Prada invented, and which has now become popular throughout the luxury sector] also show through the seasons.
Simplicity has been the defining yet evolving facet of the Prada template since then. In clothing, expect one or two-tone looks [tonality between black and white can focus on creams and greys] and occasional flourishes into artisanal floras and – more likely – technical symmetrical and computer-guided precision and pattern.
Up until the turn of the century, Prada’s vision has been clear, but it has taken the advancement of computer-aided design and manufacturing techniques [along with artisanal principles and control] to better define those sharp principles. It looks easy to achieve [and is certainly a good study guide for those wanting to master fashion primaries in all their simplicity] but comes at a price.
Prada has sometimes been criticized for this – how can relatively simplicity [and frequently nylon materials] be justified at over £1,000 a bag. The answer has always been that quality nylon is an expensive material to master, and that the continual evolution of manufacturing techniques and the hypermodern aesthetic are more than worth the price.
How Prada captured the Gen z Market
Not the most likely post-post-modern brand on paper. Miuccia Prada’s aesthetic fits the euro-nerd template [clean, intelligent, connected], but Gen Z, what gives?
In fact, all the components are there, with Prada’s incorporation of technology in the design and construction process something that rubs well with the 21st Century crowd.
Branding has also become less appealing to a demographic that may want to reap the working benefits of capitalist society but don’t want to advertise it too loudly.
A Prada bag may be recognizable, but it carries its sharp lines and smooth exterior inconspicuously through metropolitan areas. Additionally – Prada’s ongoing commitment to experimental sustainability is win-win for all twenty-somethings.
Yes, all the brands talk it up, but Prada – an independent label – is very much at the vanguard with its re-nylon initiative. Commitments to equality, diversity and fur free products are also top of Prada’s priority list.
Still, with detachable shoulder strap and punk aesthetics that match the constructivist mood, the practical bucket bag variant is straight up cool. Crossbody bags tend to be where Prada relax the plan; the Re-Edition Saffiano shoulder bag variant being equal parts smart/comoda.
There are further stylistic reasons why Prada has such a high standing amongst Gen Zs; its whole aesthetic – angular, minimalist, futurist – has in many ways evolved into the calling card of many 21st Century designers.
Look to collections from the early 2000s for the genesis of the idea. The athleisure [and athletic and leisure sectors] all create clothing that has a focus on angular lines and cut [see Prada’s Triangle Pouch bag for evidence of where it takes mini bags concept].
The look has become di moda across the Gen Z spectrum, with brands as diverse as Balenciaga and Off-White adopting a sparse, constructivist look, and Thom Brown purifying suits and boots.
It’s also a sign of the egalitarian nature of fashion [in principle, if not in price]: the fact that those wearing designer goods are more likely to be working and gym-going; a coalescing of personal and public life that matches the socialist ideals of its owners and differentiates Prada from the lux principles of a standard high end fashion house.
Prada’s range of influence can be seen more clearly perhaps by attending to diffusion line Miu Miu, where simplicity gets a casual reworking, or in, for example, the Resort 2019 collection, where off the shoulder layers and pastels intentionally mute the austerity.
But Prada bags are where the infatuations starts and – except for a few business-bags and black ruck sacks from other contemporary fashion brands – where the line is very sharply drawn.