Founded in Milan in 1913 by Mario Prada and his brother, the company was originally called Fratelli Prada (Prada Brothers). In their opulent boutique, Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle, they sold such luxury items as Austrian crystal, silver from London, Hartman leather goods, and their own shoes, leather handbags, and trunks made out of durable walrus skin. With the advent of air travel, Prada began manufacturing luxurious lighter-weight leather suitcases and handbags, which were sold to rich Americans and European aristocrats. After Mario's death in 1978, the company was run by his daughter and went into decline until his granddaughter, Miuccia Bianca Prada, took over. Miuccia, who holds a doctorate in political science, spent five years studying mime at Milan's Teatro di Piccolo. In her thirties, she was a registered Communist and seemed an unlikely candidate to move the company forward. However, her unique fashion sense, based on nonconformity, was the secret to her success. During the 1970s, she started making black nylon backpacks but it was not until 1985, when she created her famous high-priced, black nylon waterproof handbag (made out of a material known as "Pocone") with its silver triangle logo, that Miuccia catapulted to fame. She and her husband Patrizio Bertelli transformed the company by creating younger, hipper bags and shoes and, in 1989, ready-to-wear.
   Her collection was in sharp contrast to her contemporaries in that it was not sleek nor sexy à la Gucci but rather intelligent, eclectic, and in her own words "Prada Ugly." In 1992, Prada launched a less expensive line, Miu Miu (Miuccia's nickname). In 1993, Prada won the Council of Fashion Designers of America International Award for Accessories and, in 1995, the Designer of the Year Award. By the end of the 1990s Prada had become a fashion empire rivaling Moët Hennessey Louis Vuitton (LVMH) and Pinault-Printemps-Redouté (PPR), with a stable of acquisitions: Church Shoes, Helmut Lang, Azzedine Aläia, Byblos, Jil Sander, and Fendi (with whom they partnered with LVMH to acquire). However, by 2006, due to rising debt, Prada Holding was forced to sell off Byblos, Jil Sander, Helmut Lang, Church's, and Fendi. Today the Prada and Miu Miu collections are highly regarded in the fashion community for their innovation and originality as evidenced by their "epicenter" store designed by famed intellectual architect Rem Koolhaus in New York's SoHo district, replete with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology designed by IDEO (a "cool" Silicon Valley industrial design firm). The Wall Street Journal has named Miuccia Prada one of the thirty most powerful women in Europe.

Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. .

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