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Prada, Miuccia Prada

A History of Prada and Nylon—How the Textile Earned Its Fashionable Place

A history of Prada and Nylon—how the textile earned Its fashionable place.

9/26/2021 1:25:00 AM

A history of Prada and Nylon—how the textile earned Its fashionable place.

Tracing the origins of the house’s nylon and Re-Nylon backpacks, satchels, and crossbodies.

Of course, in its long history, Prada has utilized many, many other materials fortheir bags—from the iconic patent bowling bags to the structured bi-color Cahier, from ironic snap-frame lady numbers to all manner of velvet evening clutches, straw summer satchels, and capacious totes, including the Galleria rendered, like so many other Prada offerings, in the house’s trademark Saffiano leather. The above are all meticulously crafted, gorgeous, and desirable, but it is the nutty notion of nylon that first gave the house its burst of revolutionary energy. It also marks Miuccia Prada’s arrival at the family company, sending a signal to the world that it was time to rethink the entire project of luxury.

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The original Prada store was founded by Miuccia’s grandfather, who opened his shop in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan in 1913 (which is why every Prada bag flaunts that little metal triangle and its legend “Milano da 1913”). He sold bags, trunks, and travel accessories, fancy enough to have earned the title, “Official Supplier of the Italian Royal Household.”

Sixty-five years later, in 1978, his granddaughter Miuccia came on board, bursting with fresh ideas. She didn’t initially believe that fashion was her destiny: She once explained that although she loved clothes, fashion was “the worst place for a feminist in the ’60s.” She kept her affection for clothing literally under wraps; instead, she studied mime, got a Ph.D. in political science, and eventually joined the Italian Communist Party. A communist mime with a doctorate in poli sci? No wonder her thinking was so wild and so special. Her first creation was the now-classic Prada backpack called the Vela, which made its debut in 1984. In the unlikely event that you cannot picture this item, or it is not in your closet, the Vela has a flat top, a D-ring closure, a drawstring opening, and of course, that devilishly charming triangle. (And think about it—at this point, isn’t headtopics.com

Pradabackpackpractically one word?)It may have been transgressive, but it wasn’t cheap. Ms. Prada bristled when she was queried about the price of her nylon sacks, explaining back in 2004 that “those bags were more expensive than the leather ones because learning how to work with the nylon took three or four years. We had to develop the technique. Back in the 1990s, I found a company that was spinning a very specific type of nylon. It was more expensive than silk because the thread is really thin and very precious.”

Maybe the backpack was such a hit because it spoke so eloquently to the times. It was light, it was fun, it was irreverent, it was impervious to weather, but it was also impossibly chic. And it has certainly endured: In 2019, the company introduced the sustainable

Re-Nylon range, a collection consisting of a tote, shoulder bag, belt bag, and, of course, two backpacks. The line employs Econyl, a sustainable yarn that claims it can be recycled indefinitely and that it’s wholly made from waste—things like ratty old fishing nets, heretofore useless fabric scraps, yucky carpet flooring, and industrial plastics.

But maybe this innovation shouldn’t come as such a surprise—Prada’s radical critique of fashion has never been divorced from the pressing issues of the day. As she once explained, “Now, I’m not saying I’m fashionable, but there are sociological interests that matter to me, things that are theoretical, political, intellectual, and also concerned with vanity and beauty that we all think about, but that I try to mix up and translate into fashion.” And who better to mix up necessity and luxury, explore irreverence with rigor, and wed humor to deeply seductive style than the legendary Miuccia Prada? headtopics.com

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