Fashion Designer Prada was founded in 1913 in Milan, Italy as a manufacturer of leather bags. What is known today as Prada is mostly the work of the founder's grand-daughter Miuccia Prada. Miuccia Prada was born in 1949. After university, she entered the family business 1978 and soon revolutionized the appearence of its products. Her interest in unusual fabrics led to the distinctive trademark of Prada products: the surprising combination of materials. There are usually two discoveries to be made when dealing with Prada products: First, the surprise to see the use of a specific material in an unusual context and in consequence, the astonishment how good it fits the purpose. In 1989, she introduced women's wear with instant success, men's wear followed equally sucessful in 1995.
Prada is said to be the most prominent example of a new form of inward-directed luxury. While in the eighties luxury was explicitly displayed, today an understated luxury is sought, only recognizable by insiders. Thus, Prada clothes avoid very loud clouring and easily appealing appearences. They are described as cool, comfortable, pure, graceful, and minimalistic.
Miuccia Prada, who is entirely in charge of the companies creative decisions, says she bases her decisions mostly on intuition. She is reported to be overly fussy about each detail of her design. It can happen that each product has to be changed over and over in order to come closest to Miucci Prada's initial idea. Her husband Patrizio Bertelli is the buisness-man behind Miuccia Prada. He is responsible for the commercial side of the products and the retail strategy.
In 1994, total sales of Prada products were reported to be 270 billion Lira ($167 million). In 1996 total sales were 456 billion Lira ($296 million). This figure is expected to rise by 50% to 732 billion Lira in 1997 ($475 million). Europe accounts for 55% of total sales. The biggest export market is Japan accounting for 17% of total sales; other Asian markets achieved 12%. The U.S. has contributed 16% to total sales. The sharpest rise in sales for 1997 is expected in the Asian markets, with a decreasing European share. Most of the revenue is schived with the Prada Donna line (78%), followed by the Prada Uomo line (15%). Miu Miu and Granello are expected to contribute significantly more in the future. In 1996, Prada had sales worth of 1150 billion Lira in retailing ($746 million). This figure is believed to rise by 60% in 1997.
The biggest share of sales is still achieved with leathergoods and shoes, but apparel sales are expected to grow.
Distribution Prada has 250 fully owned shops around the world. Prada wants to keep tight control on the retail activities, therefore it avoids franchise agreements and duty-free shops.
In addition to tight control over retailing, Prada seeks also to control the production of its products firmly. Production and distribution of Prada products is in the hands of the company "I Pelletrieri d'Italia", in Montevarchi, Italy which is run by Patrizio Bertelli, Miuccia Prada's husband. Licenses were avoided, until Prada decided in 1996 to enter the cosmetics market (which will be in stores by end of 1998). Underwear has recently been added to the Prada product range. Curiously, the Prada underwear will bear no label at all, not even the well-known Prada triangle. A new skiing clothes line will be added to the main collection in late 1997. and homewear in 1998.
Prada operates about 250 stores in 65 countries. Recent acquisitions brought the family-owned company UK shoemaker Church & Co., Genny and Jil Sander, among others, but the spree put Prada deep into debt. The company delayed a fourth attempt to go public in November 2004 and considered selling its Sander and Helmut Lang brands.
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