Over the past 15 years, since I began interviewing and talking to Miuccia Prada, she has proven far from icy and has defied all the stock fashion-industry expectations of her. As arguably the most influential fashion designer in the world, known and deified for her imperious intellect, Mrs Prada – as she is frequently called by her Italian staff – is far more than cool, clever and commanding. In the fashion industry it is easy to be cool, to play the calculated game of being ‘in’ and ‘now’ – it is also something that rarely lasts.
rada’s staying power over the past four decades, since 1978 when she first took the reins of the Milanese luxury leather-goods company that bears her family name, comes from somewhere else. What Miuccia Prada continues to be is warm: instinctive, human and herself, with the uncanny power of anticipating and communicating what is to come. In her women’s and men’s collections for , she has the knack of giving people what they want, but not what they thought they wanted.
Inside, you are struck by the deep plush carpets, luxurious olive-green sofas, mirrored display units and absence of music. Bags and accessories are on the ground floor, womenswear and luggage are upstairs. Somehow, it all worked together - though it was a little sterile for my palate. Every item was carefully folded, exactly placed or delicately hung, and it all felt a bit museum-like and 'don'ttouch-me' - but perhaps that's part of the thrill of shopping here, ruffling up a display that some poor sod has spent three hours steaming and hanging. Sadly there were none of the big architectural statements that Prada is known for in some of its other locations, such as Rem Koolhaas's striking New York flagship, or the structurally magnificent Herzog & de Meuron-designed store in Tokyo.
For a leviathan brand, Prada is still distinctly and idiosyncratically personal. With her husband, Patrizio Bertelli, who is also the CEO of Prada, she has led the way in reconfiguring what a luxury-goods business means, not just in terms of their own labels – namely Prada and Miu Miu, the other line Mrs Prada heads – but by setting an example of what luxury can be for the rest of the fashion industry.