The idea to re-publish some very special interviews with some very special people many years later, as we have done previously with Luciano Pavarotti, Eric Hobsbawm, Sophia Loren and Diane von Fürstenberg, is because in an interview you get to know the personality and the ideas that basically never change.
Miuccia Prada is a unique woman and for her fashion is a statement that combines past, present and future. Her style is unique, very feminine and at the same time controversial, because she has an idea of beauty and fashion that is at once both classic and also profoundly modern. It does not matter if we are talking about her new collection or one she proposed ten years ago, she understands that, even if art and fashion are not the same thing, fashion needs to be inspired by art; because art anticipates as a metaphor what is really happening or will soon happen in the world. So as much as she is looking at the future she is rooted in her past collections and in her tradition.
Prada is somehow a philosopher of taste, which is not necessarily good taste but what people sometimes don’t even know that they are looking for. Like most artists today she is a citizen of the world, but she needs to live in Milan, the city were she was born and grew up, because there she has her home, her family and her identity; and she does not want to lose it. She is proud to be Italian, an Italian artisan that dresses all kinds of women and all kinds of men, all over the world.
Prada is Prada and her fashion never goes out of Fashion.
December 8th, 2002
A MISTRESS OF FASHION BALANCES CREATIVITY AND NEW MARKETS.
MIUCCIA PRADA RECOUNTS HER PASSIONS AND PROJECTS.
“Using the ancient secrets of tailoring to win over the youth of China.”
Miuccia Prada, Christmas is approaching and how are sales going?
“We are now in a phase of rethinking everything. It is not true that people are not buying. They are not buying so much just for the sake of buying, but only when they are really motivated to do so.”
What are you doing about this?
“In our New York store, every season we present a “Vintage” collection, a show of our previous productions; not in the sense of our being a museum, but rather in the sense of styles that are important today because now they are out of production. This is an idea that has greatly tickled the fancy of Americans who loved it. There are some stores in the world which we call epicenters; they are special, experimental, designed by great architects. And it is also part of a unique sales system, so that, for example, in the evening we also show movies or hold other events.”
Is the only store like this the one in New York?
“That one is the first of a series. The second is under construction in Tokyo and will be opened in 2003. At the beginning of 2004 we will open another one in Los Angeles.”
And in Europe?
“They are being planned, but they will be different. While those in New York, Tokyo and Los Angeles are hugely demanding and expensive, in Europe they will be just as interesting but less costly. It is possible that there may also be one opening in Beijing.”
How is the market generally speaking? Are you still expanding? And what about the Chinese?
“For special projects I have made some caftans that allude to the traditional story of Prada: they have all been bought by a sheikh who is creating a super trendy fashion sales outlet. However, as regards China, it is the market that everyone thinks will work more than any other. Because they have a great curiosity and a different spirit from the Japanese who are more puritanical. The Chinese are big spenders and have a great passion for objects and for clothes.”
And they love counterfeiting …
“Because it is the only means of access that they have, but they have a great yen to become consumers. In our New York store for a few months we will project on our screens a series of films about China.”
When it comes to Prada’s fashion direction, where is it going?
“What I feel is necessary is the recovery of beauty, which is not being nostalgic. It’s the beauty that comes after the ugly and the trashy. ”
Are you thinking of a more feminine woman?
“I am speaking especially about aesthetic forms. Speaking of beauty one usually thinks about the haute couture of a Dior. But then the world switched to blue jeans and a dirty T-shirt. We would now like to create a sense of greater dignity: to regain and revive the knowledge of quality. I am currently working on fabrics that were made on looms that these days nobody operates.”
You are speaking about tailoring then?
“Also. The tailoring of a fabric that is no longer made, to use specific beautiful materials to make wearable clothes. It also interests me to rediscover the kind of work that most people simply do not know about any longer. It is a heritage that should not be passed up. I have worked extensively within European culture, maybe today this is not enough any longer. ”
Prada has also sought this elegance in sailing boats!?
“Sometimes the elegance of a hull does not coincide with the speed of the vessel. Therefore when it comes to boats it is not always beauty that holds the right key.”
One of your passions is contemporary art. With your husband seven years ago you created a foundation which is more and more active.
“Until three or four years ago my attention to art was in a kind of historical and cultural way: we mounted exhibitions of artists from the generation of the 60’s. More recently we have worked closely with contemporary artists, where there are no texts or studies or catalogues, we have come to understand that we can only come to know them by familiarising oneself with them and cultivating the same interests. For me this is a necessity of my own personal life and it’s something which is very real.”
Does contemporary art have similarities with fashion?
“They both have the same social inquisitiveness and reflect the dramas, the joys, the pleasures of life as it is lived today.”
Do you think that Italy is a country that lacks culture?
“No, because it has deep cultural roots, but it rather lacks when it comes to being bang up to date. It is not just our problem. With the Foundation I tackle also the problem of thought. To try to understand all the complexity of today. ”
How do you see Italy?
“It’s still fantastic, perhaps the best country in which to live, where art, beauty and the quality of life are higher. Perhaps it lacks curiosity about the present time and engagement with what is happening in the rest of the world. I’m talking about film, art, architecture. There are isolated instances of superb quality, but not generally throughout the environment. ”
To use the jargon of economic policy is what you are saying that there is not a ‘Country Plan’?
“Yes, probably that is the exactly case. The best artists are always traveling the world, but when you are in Italy you simply do not find an available ambience of writers, filmmakers or musicians. So a centre of excellence has not been created.”
Where in the world is it different to this?
“In London, in New York …”
And yet you insist on living in Milan.
” I do not know if I insist, but it is the house in which I was born.”
Do roots count?
“For me they count a lot: the enormous complexity of countries is our root and the point that keeps you in balance. To have roots is like an anchor of reassurance; an almost practical tool that enables one to maintain one’s equilibrium.”
And the family?
“That too. The same old friends, the family, the home, these are all the additional anchors of our salvation.”
And the black suit?
“It has its own value, it is very important, as the blouse is just as much! Such clothes provide reassurance. The endless process of frantically looking for the new, the constant anxiety of trying to understand the complexity that is all around. Exactly the same mechanism works with clothes. As one needs roots and family, so one also needs black suits and blue blouses.”
In the windows of Prada you also see many traditional suitcases. Yet one does not use the old accoutrements of travel so much any more?
“If we want to talk about fashion, a classic is the fashion of today, understanding it also as a cultural privilege; and perhaps it is even necessary to have a beautiful leather suitcase. At the end of the day at Prada this is how we started, in 1913, with leather goods and luxury items: it was our hallmark. ”
Are you always working so much?
“I work at my own pace. In the morning I go to the office late; if it is necessary I work a lot, if not then not. ”
Are you very much involved with your children?
“I would say yes. Unless you are talking about the computer environment that I find interesting but which I really do not know. ”
You find it scary?
“No, I’m just not capable, or rather I haven’t tried it all out properly yet.”
So are all your designs drawn by hand?
“I do not design as such, I tell a story to my designers and my assistants.”
You have created a new watch. Why only one model?
“It is one of my husband’s initiatives, a limited edition to celebrate the America’s Cup. It’s enough to begin to address the timekeeping problem. ”
Is fashion today still so important or does it need to downsize a bit, is it in crisis?
“It’s not in crisis: it is one of the young people’s strongest obsessions. Fashion affects people in an almost agonizing way; it’s as if it holds an exaggerated interest. Fashion is tied up with everything that represents physical appearance, and health, it is part of the quest for eternal youth holds us all in its spell.”