One of Indian luxury industrys biggest misses is the absence of Italian label Prada in its midst. Many young and hip Italian labels are finding their feet in India,like Missoni and Pucci most recently. But Prada has been flirting with the idea of launching here for over a decade,and pulling back just as quickly. It is a sad truth,but without Prada,Indias international fashion business is a bit of a misnomer.
Just as each fashion house has its one-line specialty (Louis Vuittons is premium luggage,Burberry is British-ness,Gucci is rocker chic,Roberto Cavalli is hooker chic),Pradas is simply being beyond fashion. Its well-documented disdain for trends du jour,even mocking them rather blatantly,has lent the label names such as quirky,rebellious and intellectual. Prada now stands as the most influential and experimental fashion houses in modern history.
Its most recent shake-em-in-the-boots strategy was unveiled at its Milan Fashion Week Spring Summer 2014 show last week. It was a full-throttled jibe at this years biggest fashion trend the crop top,a midriff-baring T-shirt thats sometimes as tiny as a bra (check Balenciaga),worn with a high-waist skirt or palazzos. Rather than go the beaten track,Pradas models wore coats and blouses with bras on top of them. The Prada show is to Milan what Dior is to Paris the most highly-anticipated one. Fashion editors were left gaping at the cheekiness of it.
Moreover,Prada paid a huge compliment to the arts by enlisting world renowned muralists to do its backdrops. The images portrayed women in their quotidian guises: femininity,power,multiplicity and the like. The women on the walls were replicated on dresses and coats,turning art into an everyday utilitarian object. It was also a giant homage to womens emancipation.
The back story for this is riddled with irony. Fratelli Prada (or Prada Brothers),owned by siblings Mario and Martino,was a leather goods company famously launched in Milan in 1913. The traditionalist family didnt think much of women in the family working. But when Marios granddaughter Miuccia Prada took over the business,its fortunes turned. The small and well-respected family-run enterprise became a powerful accessories label. Miuccia introduced the black nylon totes in 1979,a fabric her grandfather had used as coverings. The line was so popular that its still the labels strongest leitmotif. In 1989,Miuccia launched a womens fashion line that spewed all conventional notions of what made women pretty. Waistlines were dropped,lines were fuss free and fabrics were rich. Its repulsion of logos gave Prada a reverse snobbery. In 1992,Miuccia bravely launched another luxury line,Miu Miu,for its younger clients. It was feted to be a failure,since Prada was already loved by the hip and anti-status. Turns out you cant have enough of a good thing,and Miu Miu still stands strong.
Back to Prada in India: the fashion house has made some unsustainable investments in the past two decades. It bought out Helmut Lang and Jil Sander,and invested heavily in the debt-ridden Fendi.
Pradas wait-and-watch game-plan is not only telling of its cautiousness,but also of Indias hype-ridden fashion business. Most labels are here on their advertising and marketing budgets,to establish their enterprises when India is ready to shop big. No one is here to make profits as yet.
While we celebrate Kareena Kapoors favourite itsy cholis showing up on international runways,the iconic Prada is still sorely missed.
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