Miuccia Prada: Wild At Heart

4.19.2010

By Tim Blanks

Two years ago, she had gone even further, when she sent her male models down the catwalk in what looked like little tutus over their trousers. The resulting storm of derision saw the offending items pulled from the showroom within a few days. Prada acknowledges her surprising sensitivity to criticism. Was she being naive in not anticipating the response or deliberately trying to disturb her audience? 'No, I want to do something new,' is her response. 'Maybe people are disturbed, but I like when I disturb with something that is so simple -- a little plastic skirt and people seem scandalized. I always search for something new, a new reading. Until I get excited, I know I'm doing nothing interesting.'

Go into any Prada shop and you'll find plenty of sober, beautifully cut suits, office-appropriate striped shirts, and muted knitwear -- the kind of clothing that makes up the bulk of the business. But Miuccia's own seasonal 'new reading' for the Prada man often seems to involve something ambiguous. It has definitely become younger in spirit since she closed the men's division of her second label, Miu Miu, at the beginning of 2008. The idea that she may be bent on subverting traditional concepts of masculinity would seem less surprising if she herself weren't clearly such a man's woman. The collaborators with whom she works most closely -- including her husband Patrizio Bertelli, Germano Celant (Fondazione Prada's artistic curator), the architect Rem Koolhaas -- have the silver fox charisma of men at the height of their authority and power. Try subverting that.

Still, Prada does like to make life hard for herself. 'Hard is a consequence,' she agrees. 'I try to do things that are interesting and exciting.' Her most recent excitements have been the Double Club, the pop-up nightclub in London that was conceived by artist Carsten Holler and funded by Prada, and the equally temporary Prada Transformer, a Rem Koolhaas'designed multipurpose structure in Seoul. The integration of art, architecture, and design has shaped her company's distinctive Renaissance personality. And it seems to have cast Prada herself in the role of patron, a modern-day counterpart of the Medicis. 'Maybe from the outside, it would look like this,' she counters, 'but I don't live it like this. It's more direct. It's not that I put people together. I am very much involved in all these ideas. And very often it comes from me.'

But if that sounds supremely confident, her attitude toward her collaborations also hints at a surprising insecurity -- or maybe it's just pragmatism. 'I see that people want to do things with me because I am successful in my work and they respect my work,' Prada claims. 'If my job weren't relevant, there would not be the same attraction. It's not a question of coordinating others or of having money. It's the idea that creative people are always in search of other creative people.'

Prada has a radar for the relevant. 'This is something I inherited from my mother,' she says. 'When I enter the room, I see very often the truth. So probably in my work, I get what is relevant to women or men.' The relevance of fashion itself is something she never questions. 'There must be something important in fashion because people are so crazy about it,' she explains. 'Like music. It attracts people in such an incredible way there must be something very serious about it. We think it's so superficial, but its impact on young people is huge.'

To see our Prada fashion story, shot by Bruno Staub, click here.

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