Miuccia Prada is not one of those designers who share the pearls of wisdom distanced from the world in her ivory tower of creativity. Apart from being at the front of fashion design, she shares the CEO title at Prada Group with her husband, Patrizio Bertelli. Together with partner Miuccia has built an extremely successful empire that brings about $4 billion in turnover each year. Being very much a hands-on boss Miuccia rightly knows her business inside out. Her interview with WWD (full interview)provides us with a glimpse of Miuccia’s world and her relationship with the capricious creative process.
What makes a successful show
“I believe the catwalk is 50 percent reality and 50 percent imaginary, entertainment. I don’t know if this is right or not, but surely because communication is so wide-ranging, you need to exaggerate or nobody understands what you are doing. Nobody knows what is right and what is wrong at this moment. I can reason, say: “We must think about what women want to wear; we’ll do a simpler, more normal show, with wearable clothes.” But then we have the entire world, journalists coming here, and already, they get bored with that idea. If you know how to do it, a show is important; you have to tell them something. People are stimulated by so many things, cinema, television, social media — think how you can make yourself heard and remembered.
“I am against showing the male & female collections together. 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…”
Getting creative in accommodating the complexity
Reflecting on the ever-growing workload and pressure in the fashion industry, Miuccia commented: “Perhaps at this moment it’s that there is a little too much work, with pre-collections, post-collections, specials, etc. Also, we must engage with the world of the Internet. In addition, what is tiring is that you have the entire world to think of, the races, religions, the complications of the world make it more difficult to give a more complex, not superficial reading. You can’t show the legs there, you think of the smaller bodies in China, the bigger ones in Germany, you can’t show the nipples in America. This is what would be more fun, very interesting if you had the time to analyze and rethink the collection for different worlds.”
While it obviously looks like fun for Prada, we know of many celebrities who fell victim of political correctness. Think Priyanka Chopra with her T-shirt equating refugees to travellers or Hilary Duff and Jason Walsh with their innocent Halloween costumes – just a few most recent scandals. Bottom line – unless you are as confident and eloquent with your self-expression as Prada, it might be best to avoid loud statements.
But if you think you are brave enough, here too the fashion guru shares her wisdom: “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.”
On creativity and how new trends in fast fashion affect it
The inspiration for the world-renowned designer doesn’t only come from the poetic world of art – think “the adventure, the vagabond, the sailor as symbols of fatigue and pain, and the history of humanity, the suffering of women waiting.” Indeed, the designer has found many ways to tell it through her collections – just think of SS16 Prada pirates. But even for the great Prada, sometimes the fantasy and the reality don’t meet in one coherent collection: “The fantasy or what interests you don’t always find an outlet in the story.”
Prada makes sure that even being ahead of everyone, she stays grounded and in touch with the reality. “I’m interested in the economic part because I’m interested in knowing what people think. I challenge myself because I want to verify if I’m in sync with people. When I let my intellectual or political side lose, I censor my work and it’s a harm to myself and to the collection.
“Then there are periods in which I’m more generous with myself and others. I express myself in a way that is more understandable and people like it. When I do something that is fundamental, pop, it always works, maybe because there is some irony.
“In contrary to many high street and high-end brands, a See-now-buy-now trend is seen by Miuccia as nothing less than a threat to creativity: “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 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.”