THE PAST, THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE
The biggest makeup trend to come off the runway for SS22? All-out colour.
WORDS: MARNI ROSE MCFALL, GRAPHICS: HOLLIE MAE HOMAN, IMAGERY: GETTY AND JEREMY FRENCH, 02.02.24 Photographer: JANE DOE
Much like the earth revolves around the sun, the fashion world lies in anticipation of Prada’s next move. Fashion fortune tellers, cultural architects and industry heavy-weights, Prada’s legacy is untouchable. The name ‘Prada’ generates 372 million search results on Google and the brand have amassed a cool 33.4 million Instagram followers. To say their influence would be as strong as ever? It would almost be an understatement. As they’ve just been named the hottest brand in the world by Lyst. Allow us to introduce you to the world of Prada.
It all began in 1913. In Milan. Where the first store was founded by Mario Prada. Their clientele? The crème de la crème. From the aristocracy to the literal royal family, Prada was designing for Italy’s elite. But in 2024? To say it’s different wouldn’t cut it. Headed up by the imitable Miuccia Prada, the brand entered a new era.
There’s a whole host of ways you could describe Miuccia Prada, but a living legend would suffice. And her CV? It’s impressive to say the least. Before her move into fashion, she gained a PhD in political science at the University of Milan and dabbled in mime, training at the Teatro Piccolo and performing for five years. A member of the Italian Communist Party and involved in the women’s rights movement in ‘70s Milan, she spent her rebellious student days decked out in Saint Laurent. While her love for fashion ran deep, she didn’t plan on pursuing a career in the industry. In fact, she told Vogue in 2019 that fashion was “the worst place for a feminist in the ‘60s” and she was a woman “who first resisted, then embraced the role of fashion designer”. And thank God she did. Mrs. Prada singlehandedly orchestrated a fashion revolution, taking the brand from tired leather goods house to one of the hottest labels in the business.
The turning point for the Prada? The Nylon Handbag. Debuting in 1985, it was this little black bag that made Prada into well, Prada. It was sleek, chic and unique - and totally unlike other popular styles at the time, which Mrs. Prada labelled “bourgeois and boring” in an interview with Vogue in 2019. Nylon was simple and plain, elevating this kind of fabric was virtually unheard of – this was long before the days of Pigeons and coffee cups as clutches (here’s looking at JW Anderson and Balenciaga).
After the insane success of their nylon bags in the ‘80s, Prada entered the ‘90s on top. Just at the same time another phenomenon was exploding: the supermodel. In 1994, Prada sent Kate Moss down the runway in a little white slip dress. And the cult moments that followed are endless: think Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell shot head-to-toe in Prada by Patrick Demarchelier for Harper’s Bazaar’s May 1998 issue, or Jennifer Aniston in a Prada corset on the cover of W Magazine in 1999. In an age of influence, working with celebrities is the standard. But then? Prada were changing the game.
You see, when it comes to It celebrities, Prada are practically clairvoyant. Their front row is naturally filled with the hottest names in the business, but it’s also filled with stars who are on the rise, about to be the next big thing. Their AW24 Menswear show saw everyone from Jake Gyllenhaal and James MacAvoy to Christopher Briney and Karina in attendance. And when it comes to their campaigns? Their genius prevails. Most recently, they cast the It boy du jour, Troye Sivan in their SS24 campaign. And it doesn’t stop there. For their Re-Nylon collection, they cast Emma Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch to model their regenerated nylon handbags. Watson has been big news for the brand as of late, having sent Instagram wild when she used her Prada heels to crush a bag of ice in an interview for Vogue.
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But alongside familiar faces, Prada loves to cast an unconventional star. Case in point? The pra-daddies. Jeff Goldblum, Kyle MacLachlan both walked at their SS23 Menswear show, and quickly became the most unexpected stars of fashion week. And while MachLachlan has already enjoyed decades of stardom, when he walked in Prada’s SS23 show, he was relatively unknown to the majority of GenZ’s watching. And today? His social media activity is sending GenZ into a tailspin and he’s quickly becoming one of the younger generation’s favourite celebrities. Prada knows how to pick ‘em.
But Prada’s biggest muse? It’s Hunter Schafer. Schafer has been starring in Prada campaigns since 2022, donning Prada at the Meta Gala, on The Hunger Games press tour and at the 2024 Golden Globes. Basically, Schafer is the ultimate Prada girl. And the significance of the relationship shouldn’t be underestimated. Having risen to fame through her role in HBO’s Euphoria, the 25-year-old is a force of nature. As a young trans woman in the industry, Schafer is helping to craft a new gen of It girls and a fresh approach to ‘celebrity’. One that is more inclusive, more accessible, and geared up towards positive change. Her work with Prada proves that while the house may be a heritage brand, they’re still leading the way.
Another contributing factor to their unwavering legacy? Miuccia Prada’s friendship with Baz Luhrmann. Prada worked on the costuming for both The Great Gatsby (2013) and Elvis (2022). The brand is cemented in pop culture. Read: Bianca Stratford (portrayed by Larisa Oleynik) in cult classic 10 Things I Hate About You, stating, ‘I think there’s a difference between like and love, because I like my Sketchers, but I love my Prada backpack’. And then there’s The Devil Wears Prada. The endlessly quotable (Stanley Tucci telling us to gird our loins lives rent free in our head) cultural touchstone was literally named after Prada. It’s hard to get more iconic than that. And as far as we’re concerned, if the Devil Wears Prada, we’re buying one-way tickets to hell.
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Cut to 2024 and the house is responsible for countless It bags and cult sensations – and there’s no end to what Prada can do. Like acquiring Helmut Lang and Jil Sander, and the unstoppable rise of their sister brand Miu Miu.
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Call it the Prada effect. If we’re assigning the brand a label, it’s this – they’re the fortune teller of the industry. Honestly, if we weren’t convinced of Miuccia Prada’s genius, we’d suspect it was witchcraft. The house not only shapes, but dictates, the trends each season.
Take the Pradification of the tank top as evidence. Today, the term ‘white Prada Tank Top’ generates over 17 million search results. First modelled on the AW22 runway by Kaia Gerber and Hunter Schafer, since then, it’s become a favourite of both Bella Hadid and Julia Fox. To turn something as unassuming as a white tank top into a season-defining cult buy is no small feat, but that’s the power of Prada.
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To what do they owe their success? It’s hard to pinpoint. But perhaps the roots lie in the brand’s subversion of the norm. In the ‘90s, Miuccia Prada threw out all notions of conventional beauty and sexuality. Its fashion folklore that Ms. Prada is the one who made ‘ugly’ chic. While Versace were showing iridescent minis and Tom Ford was debuting collections oozing sex appeal for Gucci, Prada was looking at fashion through an eccentric lens.
In SS96, Prada showed stiff, unflattering silhouettes and less-than-chic colours: think murky browns, slimy tones and pond greens. These styles were all a little more schoolteacher than supermodel, and it felt like they shouldn’t work. But of course, they did, because it’s Prada. And this unorthodox approach has held up. For SS24? It’s translated into bulky bomber jackets, swim caps, ethereal, floating gowns, and lashings of fringe.
Their influence on fashion? It’s infinite. For SS12, Mrs. Prada showed ‘50s-inspired diner-wear on the runway – think pink tulle, pastel green cardigans and sharp geometric prints. The diner-chic craze was almost instant, with every glossy magazine shooting editorials filled with milkshakes, jukeboxes and vintage cars. And it wasn’t a one off. For 2012 it was dinercore, for 2019 it was doll-like padded headbands, for 2014 it was Velcro sandals.
And the latest trend that Prada has poured petrol on? It’s bedroom to boardroom. Sexed-up office wear has been a hot topic over the past few seasons, and Prada is pushing the agenda. Their FW24 menswear show saw blue office cubicles staged at the entrance. Inside? Computer screens, illuminated with the brands iconic logo. Black office chairs swivelled as the stage was set for the FW24 collection. And as for the looks? Think tailoring so sharp it could cut glass, paired with bulky glasses and a series of almost alien-style balaclavas that truly, on Prada could pull off. It was a similar story at their SS24 womenswear show. Expertly cut blazers were cinched at the waist and cut off at the thigh. The hemlines were short, the fringe belts were long, and the fash-pack is on fire.
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Prada is untouchable. It’s no surprise Lyst reported that searches for the brand are up 41%. Or that the prada.archive fan account on Instagram has amassed over a hundred thousand followers. We may only be four years into the ‘20s, but Prada’s co-creative direction with Raf Simmons is already a hallmark of this decade in fashion. The work is fresh, impulsive, and dynamic. It’s limitless creativity that always honours the brand’s DNA. The co-creative direction shows this - for Prada, the future is bright (or dark if we’re speaking aesthetically).
It’s Prada’s world, we’re just living in it.