WWD: The fashion/art connection—has it become just another trend?
M.P.: I think fashion embraces everything that is happening, everything in society and vice versa. Other creative fields find in fashion openness, comprehension, money—not necessarily money, but interest. People in fashion are open to music, open to movies, open to art, open to architecture. In the fashion world, there is a lot of enthusiasm. Also, speed. Speed is very much envied by other fields. You want something, you do it; it’s quick. A piece of architecture takes five years to build, a movie maybe less. But fashion is instant. You have an idea, you do it and after, change—good and bad.
WWD: When designing a collection, do you think about the customer as you are designing?
M.P.: No, never. You have to be in contact with people indirectly. You can’t study. It has to be completely instinctive, but of course, your instinct is an accumulation of all of your knowledge.
WWD: You don’t think about the customer when designing, but you certainly talked about creating merch that will sell. Is there an emotional connection that comes?
M.P.: Of course. We have to sell, because otherwise you close. So there are different moments. The creative moment has to be separated from that, but after, if I could do the buying…
WWD: You would do everything if you could, right?
M.P.: If I could. But I don’t do it all.
WWD: Do you like spending time in the stores?
M.P.: No, because I am so terrified that what I see is not reflecting my ideas. I nearly don’t go. I’m scared to go.
WWD: Seventy percent of the business is in your own stores, right?
M.P.: Now we want to try even more.
WWD: You want to eliminate wholesale?
M.P.: Except department stores and a few [smaller stores] in a few places.
WWD: Why eliminate the others?
M.P.: They decide what they want to buy from you, and you don’t want that. Mainly, in a moment of crisis, they tend to buy what is ugliest, what is easy, what is more safe. And after, [they] discover maybe the bestsellers are something completely new. The buying is a very difficult process. I think it is the most difficult part.
WWD: Has your creative process, the physical process of it, has it changed since the IPO?
M.P.: No. I’m actually feeling liberated.
M.P.: The company is doing so well. In a way, being public is easier than dealing with bankers. And we are used to be being public. Our company was so public always anyways that it didn’t do any difference. It’s a bigger responsibility, but for sure we can stand this responsibility. Or I can stand it.
WWD: Is the focus now on China, in terms of expansion?
M.P.: We have so many markets potentially, and that is one. Everybody talks about China, of course, it’s a broad market. But still, kind of small…Also filling Europe, filling America. Everywhere. In the newspapers, it seems there only exists China. It’s not true. Of course, they are affluent, but also an easy and difficult client at the same time.
M.P.: Easy because they have money and the will to spend.
WWD: Why difficult?
M.P.: Difficult because you know them less. It is difficult to understand what they have in mind. For this European culture, more or less you know. For American culture, more or less you know. But when it comes to such a different culture, and you want [product] that is not just appealing because of the label but because of the content.
WWD: Do you design specifically for various markets?
M.P.: The buyers do the selection. You don’t know if their selection is a cliché, or if they are right. That is basically the buying process. There are so many preconceptions or prejudice about the tastes of [women in various markets].
Of course the profession of buying is difficult. The buyers try to understand, but often it’s the opposite of all [their] criteria that’s the biggest success. That’s what I like about it.
WWD: E-commerce. Prada has been conservative in this arena.
M.P.: Yes, we don’t like it. I don’t care. My husband hates it and we think for luxury it’s not right.
WWD: Why do you think it doesn’t work for luxury?
M.P.: It’s good in countries that don’t have the shop nearby. [Otherwise] the choosing and sending home is too complicated. Personally, I’m not interested.
WWD: What about social media?
M.P.: We are always interested in the Internet. We do incredible movies, we even did a Polanski movie. Now we have a huge project for art that is done on the Internet.
WWD: Is that relating to Venice?
M.P.: Venice, yes, for the Foundation [Fondazione Prada, which supports contemporary art]. So we do a lot of content that seems to be good…But when they do the ranking, we are never in a good position. What is needed is something more superficial, probably. At least, when I read reviews of other companies. It seems easy to navigate and they like very simple, stupid things sometimes.
[Prada went off the record to give an interactive, merchandise-related example.]
If that is being genius, sorry but I prefer to be stupid.
WWD: The more mundane, the better, perhaps?
M.P.: Brava. Exactly.
WWD: Prada and Miu Miu have Facebook accounts and YouTube channels. Have you been converted to Twitter?
M.P.: I don’t even have a computer. I have the computers of all the people around me. Of course, I’m super interested. I think it’s a fundamental place.
WWD: But you don’t Tweet?
M.P.: I have no time to do it.
WWD: Is there someone who Tweets for the company?
M.P.: Yes, when we do the special events. [Otherwise, no.] You have to spend your life answering. Sometimes people hire somebody else to give answers. Here, the dictate is if I say something, I have to say something. Otherwise, I prefer not to answer.
WWD: Let’s talk about Miu Miu. Backstage you said that so much intense work went into Prada that you wanted Miu Miu to be more lighthearted.
M.P.: The press must be so bored of seeing fashion [by the time Miu Miu shows, on the last day of the season] that you have to do something new. For this season, the silhouette I thought was very interesting. It’s very difficult.
WWD: There was such a charm there. Is charm important?
M.P.: Yes. And because I have less time to think, I have to choose between ideas and fashion. I choose fashion, because fashion is my job.
WWD: Do you acknowledge a thread? The shows were very different, but each with a Forties feel.
M.P.: Yes. Because for sure, there is one fashion that I think is relevant. You can develop different aspects, but it’s not that one is totally dramatic and the other is totally romantic…Prada comes first. For instance, what we were thinking could be for Miu Miu if we needed, we put in Prada. You have to do it the best you can. Also, what happens in Paris dictates or makes you eliminate many things.
WWD: What do you mean?
M.P.: Many times [at Miu Miu] I’ve eliminated something I loved because somebody else did it in a way that we thought was slightly too [close]…It is a nightmare. That is the worst.
WWD: Miu Miu was so specific. How do you start throwing out last minute? M.P.:This season, we liked the idea of the polka dots, but I thought it was maybe not special enough. But it was so perfect as this kind of femininity that in the end we did it.
You always hope that your idea is not done by somebody else. Basically, that is the nightmare for Miu Miu. For Prada, you have time to change and rethink the same concept in different ways.
WWD: There’s another kind of fashion show that people obsess about and in which you recently had a starring role—the red carpet.
M.P.: I think for actresses, it is such a big drama. It’s not easy for anybody and they have to do it and they have to interest people. They have to be very correct. They can’t risk. I’m sure that it’s a very difficult moment for them.
WWD: You say “They can’t risk.” Is that code for boring? I remember Uma Thurman in that gorgeous lavender Prada. That seems a lifetime ago, before the cookie-cutter machine took over.
M.P.: I think they are pressed by agents. I don’t know the whole system there. They are so afraid to get it wrong…They have to look beautiful; they have to look thin. I don’t think they are happy.
WWD: During the most recent Oscars red carpet, at least two very accomplished, very beautiful actresses said, “I didn’t have anything to do with my dress—my team picked it.”
M.P.: This, I don’t understand. If I were an actress, I would pick my own dress. Or collaborate. I think it’s a difficult moment for everybody. It’s slightly inhuman.
WWD: It’s become enormous.
M.P.: And you don’t even know if it’s really worthwhile. But I do think for [Anne Hathaway to wear] our dress to win the Oscar—it’s important.
WWD: Back to the runway, few designers stage two major shows. Does it ever become too much? Are the shows worth it?
M.P.: It is fundamental. I wouldn’t work so much or stress myself if I didn’t have to do shows. It’s the moment I stress myself and work. You are a fashion designer, you have all the journalists in front of you and they want you to be good. It’s a huge pressure, but it makes me think and stress and work.
Miuccia Prada & Catherine Martin dress Gatsby opening cocktail party
Miuccia Prada has collaborated with Baz Luhrmann and his wife, costume designer Catherine Martin to create a collection of over 40 unique Miu Miu and Prada cocktail and evening dresses for the movie “The Great Gatsby"
Miuccia Prada, head of luxury brand label, speaks of fascination with 'ugliness'
Miuccia Prada, the designer whose eponymous label and its associated brands are now worth £3 billion, has spoken of her fascination with "ugliness".
Claire Duffin | 25 August 2013
It is a word rarely used in the fashion industry, but insisted she found it far more interesting than "beauty".
In an interview with theTelegraph's Stella magazine, Prada said she had been criticised for her approach to fashion, which was seen as allowing the trashy into the world of haute couture, when she took over the family fashion house in 1978 .
It was originally set up by Mario Prada, her grandfather, as a maker of leather goods in Milan but is now one of the world's leading fashion brands.
However in the interview, which is published next week, Prada said she did not see herself as part of the conventional fashion industry.
"When I started, fashion was the worst place to be if you were a leftist feminist. It was horrid. I had a prejudice, yes, I always had a problem with it," she said.
"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."
Prada, 64, runs the brand with her husband Patrizio Bertelli, and jointly built up its commercial success.
however the inspiration for the designs remains her own, including, she said, her unusual interest in ugliness.
"Ugly is attractive, ugly is exciting. Maybe because it is newer," she said.
"The investigation of ugliness is, to me, more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty. And why? Because ugly is human.
"It touches the bad and the dirty side of people. You know, this might have been a scandal in fashion but in other fields of art it is common: in painting and in movies it was so common to see ugliness.
"But, yes, it was not used in fashion and I was very much criticised for inventing the trashy and the ugly."
Prada is unusual in being a woman at the head of a fashion company and said she was conscious of her gender, and also the balance of raising a family - she and her husband have two grown-up sons - and running a firm.
"Sometimes I still feel that women don't appreciate their position in society," she said.
"That we are not strong enough to impose our thinking. We don't like businesswomen: we go against women who appear to be like men.
"I chose a compromise, a complete compromise. I chose a bit of avant-garde, a bit of fashion, and for me it works. I don't want to reject my past because I have it so deeply inside me. To be nice with a man, I don't think it's so bad."
Looking Through Mrs. Prada's Eyes
Miuccia Prada discusses fashion, art and Prada with Cathy Horyn
Milan, late May: The design home of Miuccia Prada never looks more like a factory in an Italian neorealist film than it does in the off-season between shows. Sunshine fills the courtyard of the sprawling complex. In a corner an industrial-size chute loops in a spiral from a window to the ground. It's actually a slide by the artist Carsten Höller.
A zippy escape route? That might qualify as a subversive joke, since normally the fashion world is beating to get in to see Miuccia.
We meet upstairs in a conference room next to her office; a light lunch, which will include wine (she partakes), has been set out. She immediately offers condolences for the recent death of my partner, and we spend several minutes talking about him. This is not strange, and yet it is. Although I have known Miuccia for 20 years—I've convinced myself that I can remember my very first Prada show (pale crepe de chine dresses, a '40s Berlin essence)—we are not close. I've visited her home, a loft-like apartment in the same building where she grew up, only once—to write an article about her and her husband, Patrizio Bertelli's, art interests. I see her backstage at her shows, like everybody else.
To the extent that I know Miuccia, it is through her clothes, though, clearly, that is saying a lot. As Michael Rock, a graphic designer who is a frequent collaborator, says, "Miuccia has excelled at making her own questions the subject of her work." For fall, there is a distinct anti-fancy attitude in plain silk dresses and the pairing of rough shearling coats with wispy '20s-style chemises. And because she was born in 1949, the culture of Europe in the '60s and '70s is never far from her mind. But while she may watch all of Fassbinder's films to get inspired, the process for Miuccia is never that direct.
At one point she tells me, in earnest, "Maybe I should change my life. There are people who are happy with little. And us, we are never excited with anything, or never enough. We're very ambitious. That complicates your life, but it's also the fuel of it. People with a simple life can be happy too."
She laughs a bit ironically. "Rich people need to be entertained more and more. And then I think, 'Let's not entertain anymore. Let's be simple.' "
Does she mean it? Maybe, maybe not, but such soul-searching speaks to her particular gift. Very few designers have her ability to dig under your skin. She makes you care about clothes, and I, for one, hate them. Of course, that's her ambivalence too. And her strategy. She knows how to make something feel a certain way.
A few random impressions of Milan's foremost agitator: She doesn't wear her intelligence for all to see. She's more modest, or simply shrewd. Nonetheless, she is mentally quick, like a bird in a lusty dive toward a piece of food. She listens as much with her eyes as her ears, and she keeps you, at all times, under her talon gaze. Her humor is the dry kind, with a chortling, deliver-me-from-this laugh.
And while she is intensely competitive—she makes no bones about being out to smother her near-and-dear peers with a great Prada show—she lacks the instinct, common in fashion, to put you down. She will at least consider what you have to say because she questions everything.
I mention, as we are passing platters of salad and spinach timbale, that I've been volunteering on a farm. I am, needless to say, curious how this will be received. Miuccia, though, merely nods and fills her plate. "Farming is an option," she says, interested. "I actually like the country very much." Then, perhaps thinking of her garden in Tuscany (she and Bertelli have a home there, as well as one in the Swiss mountains), she adds, "I realize I have no patience with my hands anymore. I've become manually impatient—the hands don't correspond to the speed of the mind. If I can't do it in one second, I don't have the patience to redo it."
Miuccia, who has on a charcoal top and skirt with a hula fringe of metal chain at the neck and a taupe headband framing her face, began work on her spring men's collection the day before. It will be shown in a month's time and will include a few women's looks as a tease for September. She says the theme will be classics—"whatever that means"—then immediately offers that it could wind up "the subtitle" of the show. "Usually when I say 'classic,' " she says with a brisk laugh, "it means I have no ideas." (However she felt a month later, insiders sensed from her middle-of-the-road togs "a conservative turn." Even the cocktail food was picked for useful clues: It was "fiercely untrendy.")
One wonders how much insiders actually know about Miuccia's methods. "It's really a drama," she says of the number of times she can change her mind or add something before a show, often in the final week or two. "This is not very nice maybe, but all of the decisions are because we are late. And mainly it's me. If I can postpone and postpone …" She shrugs. "Sometimes you need unconsciously to let your mind consider an idea."
For the women's show in September, she and design director Fabio Zambernardi will have their initial meeting in July so, as he says, they can get an idea down before the August holiday. That leaves the design team three weeks to get the show together. (Miu Miu is essentially done in 12 days.) Zambernardi, who started at Prada in 1989—a year after Miuccia first showed—believes that the intense process helps her to be precise but, maybe more, to rely on her instincts.
Still, he admits, "after all these conversations, the day before the show she'll say, 'Oh, it's so beautiful, I'm so happy, but what's it all about?' " He laughs. "Almost like a child asking, 'How did we get to this point?' She needs a recap of her thoughts. Me too!"
Such "drama" is possible because of the Prada machine—the industrial side of the $5-billion-a-year company run by her husband. For Miuccia, it just works. "You have to consume one idea so that the next idea comes," she says. The biggest challenge for her right now is how to throw out relevant ideas to a global audience in a way that is also clear: "The simplification is a nightmare! It's everywhere. In politics." And, of course, it's in art and fashion. Still, she says, "I don't want to address myself to a small, elite group. This is too easy." She's gratified that so many young people she meets are widely informed. "They know so much about everything, the references," she says, adding with a chuckle, "I often have the feeling that young people are more free than those with the complex to be modern. And what does it mean, modern?"
She sighs. But instead of continuing in that vein, she says, "There is a key point that people keep underestimating about me: I am a very trendy person! I mean, my job is more complicated, but basically I am interested in what's next. Since I was 16, I wanted to be the first one. I wanted to be different."
What makes a Prada show different has a lot to do with Miuccia's ability to create mood. Michael Rock, whose firm makes the wallpaper and murals she uses and who is heavily involved in exhibitions, like the recent "Pradasphere," at Harrods in London, says she really grasps the affective aspect of fashion. That is, the impression a style (or a show) can leave. This indirect method of conveying an idea also keeps her from being overly intellectual about it, Rock says.
For instance, the Fall 2013 show, with the tweed dresses in '60s cocktail cuts worn over sweaters, with high heels and the models' hair in damp clumps as if from rain or a night of sex. The audience was in a tizzy over its glamour. Pure affect. Or take the controversial Fall 2010 show featuring the bosomy models Doutzen Kroes and Lara Stone and a lot of dowdy dresses covered in pastry frills. Readers of one blog went wild, saying it evoked Madame Tito, fond memories of their mothers, and even "a post-socialist aesthetic of warmth and human pace." Still…pure affect.
She has an incredible handle on that," says Rock. He recalls his favorite Miuccia quote. He'd asked her about an idea for a show and she replied, "What's an idea in fashion? It's a little '20s, a little '60s, a little Russian woman on a horse." Of course, Miuccia is rather more complex than that—as is a Prada show. The difference is the Miuccia effect.
In the mid-'70s, after getting a doctorate in political science and studying for a while in a mime theater, Miuccia went to work in the family's leather-goods store in Milan. She needed a job, but it must have felt like a defeat to a young idealist. Milan fashion was not the glitz it is today. Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace hadn't yet arrived. Besides, Miuccia hated fashion—or, rather, she hated the tastethat ruled it. Not just good taste but the rigid system of taste that in the '70s was being defined by designer brands. Her answer in the late '70s and '80s was to wear old uniforms and kids' clothes.
In 1977, she met Bertelli at a trade fair. He had a factory in Tuscany. She once told the writer Michael Specter that Bertelli was the most bullheaded, arrogant man she had ever met. They fell in love, married in 1987, and, for better or worse, have been together ever since. It was Bertelli, she told Specter, who pushed her to design shoes and clothes, mainly by threatening to get someone else to do it. She wasn't going to give him the satisfaction, so she did it herself. But, she conceded, "Bertelli was right. I would have been bored only doing bags."
Germano Celant, the charismatic director of the Prada Foundation and a family friend, relates his own dealings with the couple: "Miuccia and I are very idealistic, very romantic, going for what I would call mental masturbation. Patrizio gives you the answer in two seconds. Making everything real. It's a fantastic combination. She's the conceptual creator, and he's the anchor."
Miuccia's answer to high fashion in the '90s, when she introduced Prada's notion of ugly chic, wasn't just personal; it was a rebuttal to Milan's system of presenting a consistent style and silhouette each season. She really challenged that notion by changing Prada's direction every season, often dramatically. The consequences of that move have been profound. Because unlike most of her competition, Miuccia isn't obliged to stay within this narrow lane of expression. Which, as Rock points out, has become only more confining with corporate branding. Miuccia is free to explore. And change her mind.
When I talk to Celant, a week or so after my Milan visit, I mention that the freest birds in the fashion world happen to be two mature women—Miuccia and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. "That's because they're artists," he says. "They don't care about the market at the end. The artist learns that the more you are free and creative, the more you sell. And coherence is the worst. Coherence means style. Rei and Miuccia try to go against that idea—every time."
He goes on. "The big artists were always creative late in life. Duchamp. Karl Lagerfeld is another one. Have you seen his home in Paris? All the books." Celant grunts with pleasure. "They are really cannibals. That's Miuccia too. Looking for the new art, the new architect. And pushing themselves. To me, Miuccia has an obsession—to throw the ball far, far out there. To get an idea."
Lately she's been fascinated by classical art, perhaps as a counter to the current scene. ("I can't talk badly about art at the moment," she says with a laugh.) Next May, when the foundation opens its new headquarters, in a spectacular redo of an old distillery in the south of Milan, it will host an exhibition called "Serial Classic," featuring Roman art. "It's the idea of copies," she says of the concept. "The sculptors were busier doing copies for rich people, all wanting the same thing. It was worse than now."
Our lunch plates have been cleared, and Miuccia steps out to retrieve a tray of coffee and tea. Some years ago, over a similar lunch at Prada, Bertelli asked me (in front of his wife) how I thought the press would treat Miuccia when she was an older designer. The question has stayed with me in part because of Bertelli's touching candor and in part because he obviously had nothing to fear. When Miuccia returns to the room, I mention my theory that the three most determined radicals are feminists over the age of 65—her, Rei Kawakubo, and Vivienne Westwood. What's the explanation, I wonder.
Miuccia's eyes widen. "That's true. I never thought about it. Maybe women are more aware of their problems. We touch every day on our skin." Yet for all that, Miuccia has no interest in showing her clothes on older women, or indeed on any body type other than a model's. Many people have wondered how she can defend her position.
"I don't have the courage" to use older models, she says. Really?
"Eh, because the fashion world is my job," she says with a shrug. "And I have to compromise. I don't even want to do it—there are not enough examples of women getting older in a good way. Also, I don't like to make politics on the runway. I want to be political in an indirect way." But then she reveals that she had older women in her first show. "Because it was new and it came naturally," she explains. "Now if you put older women on a runway, it's a cliché."
Miuccia is naturally competitive, as if it weren't obvious. She admits to checking out other designers' shows online. "For sure, we all look at each other," she says. "Maybe it's not very noble, but it's like this." She admires the work of Marc Jacobs and Nicolas Ghesquière, to name two.
Stirring her tea, she adds, "And I feel much more noble when I realize that someone else has a good show. I'm not super happy, but I respect it. I can't pretend I don't care about competition."
The fact is, it's difficult for a creative person to reconcile all of her conflicts, and Miuccia, like Kawakubo, essentially doesn't want to explain everything on the grounds that it can sound trite. Personally, I feel I've come closest to understanding her—what really touches her and therefore her fashion—when I bring up the Fall 2010 collection, the one with Doutzen Kroes and the dowdy dresses. I tell her about the blog comments, the post-socialist rap, a lovely thought about "tea and brandy and the kitchen table."
Miuccia looks at me intently; she seems startled. Then she says, "Yes, the big dress is the memory of peasants, of such huge humanity, and that is something I really care about, the efforts of women, when they really have a difficult life. In the country, in the fields, during the war. Today. The effort of women. It's really something that to me is very present. The sufferance of women." She explains, "When I do fashion, I don't want to inject my other knowledge and to look intellectual, but obviously it comes out. Also, because I am not an intellectual; I am more human. That's why I have a good relationship with the most difficult artists. Because, at the end, good people are very human."
When I spoke to Celant, I asked him what Miuccia does for fun. He snorted as if to say, "C'mon, she's Italian!" "She has friends from high school," he says. "She spends time with them—playing cards, listening to music, watching football. Yes. Like everyone. They play cards until one in the morning, and they're screaming. It's very simple." Celant adds, "And banal. Why not!"
I sense from Miuccia, the mother of two grown sons ("I'm not allowed to talk about them. They're so severe with me!"), that family occasions are a big deal. "The home is always full of people," she says. For getaways, she has a small sailboat. She'll go off alone or with a friend. When I asked Zambernardi where she keeps the boat, he replied, "Where the sun is. Mostly south Italy."
And now our session has come to a close. We have reached the apertivo hour. I ask Miuccia when she is happiest. "When I have new ideas," she says a little too quickly. "When I excite myself, that means I have new ideas."
But the answer doesn't satisfy her. "For sure, I care more about my life than my job, but there is nothing I do that is not related to my way of thinking and what I want," she says finally. "So my life is one. And art and fashion are circulating. I'm anchored to the ground and to life."
By Cathy Horyn on Aug 12, 2014 - harpersbazaar.com