Prada's rapid, sometimes rocky rise to retail success

2 weeks ago by Amy Lamare in Features

Prada ($HK:1913is a globally successful fashion house that has defined high fashion for decades. It remains a major player in fashion even after a marketing snafu in late 2018. But first, some history.

Mapping Prada's History

The Italian luxury handbag and accessory maker was founded by Mario Prada in 1913 as a leather goods store on Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

In 1978, the family business fell into the hands of his granddaughter, Miucci Prada. But Miucci didn't have a straight path to Prada's throne.

She got her PhD in Political Science from the University of Milan. After graduating with her PhD, Miuccia studied theater and became a mime, performing for half a decade before getting back to business. Miucci met her future husband, Patrizio Bertelli, during this time. Patrizio encouraged her to expand the company's catalog beyond leather goods and into shoes and apparel.

Today, Miuccia is still the company's head designer while Patrizio is the company's global CEO.

Around the time Miucci and Patrizio wed, Prada expanded outside of Italy and into Paris. This quick expansion had a lot to do with a popular line of black woven nylon handbags with the now-familiar inverted triangle Prada logo. The bag quickly became a status symbol for fashionistas.

Prada crossed the Atlantic on January 1st, 1996 when it arrived on Madison Avenue in New York City. Around this time, it also opened a shop in London, England.

Almost two and a half decades later, Prada has 211 stores around the world (according to the company's own store locator). It has its largest number of stores in the United States (55), followed by China (36), France (27), and its home country of Italy (23).

 

Miucci Prada also created a lower priced entry level women's line called Miu, based on her nickname, in 1992. That spin-off store has 218 locations.

Prada also is in control of Church & Company, a British footwear store with 65 locations, mostly in the U.K. and Italy.

Marketing snafu, social media drop, and recovery

In December 2018, Prada released a line of animal-themed trinkets in its stores that featured a brown monkey with large lips called “Otto Toto.” The monkey-like figures set off a social media storm when someone pointed out that Prada appeared to be drawing inspiration from blackface imagery.

Prada removed the animal-faced trinkets from its stores. The label later tweeted that it would remove the "fantasy charms" of "imaginary creatures" and noted that they were "not intended to have any reference to the real world and certainly not blackface." 

Prada had shown rapid growth in Twitter followers in the Fall of 2017. As of January 24th, the fashion house had just over one million followers. But the controversy over the monkey trinkets has hurt the brand, with the company experiencing a social media slowdown since October.

Despite the social media fracas, employees at the company are still happy to be working there, according to employee sentiment data from Glassdoor.

The company's chief executive, Patrizio Bertelli, boasts a 85% approval rating, while Prada USA's CEO, Pierre Fayard, has an impressive and steady rating of 94% after taking the position in September 2017.

The company's business outlook has also taken major swings since 2017.

Today Prada, under the design direction of Miuccia, is known for minimalist, classic, and understated style that exudes cool and luxury. And while the company has faced a recent questionable design decision with "Otto Toto," the brand is still growing worldwide.

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