29 November 2011

Prada: An Infusion of Hyper-Luxury and Avant Garde Innovation

For over ninety years Prada has remained at the forefront of the fashion industry, representing one of the most influential forces in the field the brand creates a clear relationship between fashion and art. Prada’s genius is through its ability to integrate experimentations of ugliness into avant-garde museums of consumer space. Through the brands adoption of and cohesion with the art world, Prada has not only created a label of hyper luxury but also developed an entire lifestyle. Prada, through its brand identity now allows for its consumers to be associated with an entire lifestyle of elegance, class and sophistication. Prada’s collaboration of fashion and art and the focus on consumer experience allows for the success of the company to continue and for the social connotations of style and class to remain strong.

Since the first line was launched in 1913, Prada has been a leader in the fashion industry, continuing to escalade to a representation of elegance and luxury. The label, founded by Mario Prada, originally began selling shoes, leather handbags and trunks before expanding the product line to include men and women’s apparel, jewellery and accessories. The company, which began as two boutique stores in Milan, has now evolved into extreme international success and the house of Prada is now considered, “One of the most influential forces in the industry,” (Ryan 2007, 7). As a luxury brand driven by ambition, Prada has now expanded to over 250 stores world wide. Prada’s focus is on the shopping experience, integrating experiments of ugliness into interesting museums of consumerism. “We’re putting all of our energy into the stores, because the stores are the most important places where your work is seen- it’s where people go to access the clothes and the ideas,” (Miuccia Prada, quoted in Huckbody 2007, 313). The survival of the brand however, depends largely on its cohesion between fashion and art, developing hyper luxury that is saturated with the Prada brand identity of avant-garde creativity. The influential identity of the brand is largely due to the effective marketing policy, which permits the Prada name to not only convey and identify the brand but also to portray a sense of class, high fashion and sophistication for people across different countries and cultures. Miuccia Prada aims to diffuse the real sense of luxury and sophistication through designing clothes for anti-status dressing. This concept is the source of Prada’s genius, “Think the unthinkable, experiment with ugliness, turn an idea around, then make it beautiful,” (Aspden, 2008).

The company’s first ready to wear collection was launched in 1989 and was admired for its clean lines and elegant minimalism. It is this minimalist approach and innovative creativity that still defines Prada today and sets it ahead in the fashion industry. “There is always diversity amongst Miuccia’s designs as she embraces the power of change,”(Huckbody 2007, 309). Channelling everything from the 1950s airhostess look, to classic shapes and futuristic fabrics, Prada’s collections continue to effectively highlight the relationship the brand creates between luxury and avant-garde art. “Luxury is a relational concept and the significance of Prada’s strategies of distinction is contextualized within the prevailing narratives of luxury,” (Ryan 2007, 9). The success of Prada relies on its ability to create an entire experience of hyper luxury fused with artistic creativity. Regardless of how diverse the inspiration for each seasonal collection, the aesthetic continues to remain in synch with the brand’s image, maintaining an ideal of experimentation and newness. However, as always this is complemented with a connection to reality, allowing the clothes to represent a grounded level of luxury and sophistication, appealing to a wide range of the everyday women. “My search for something new is honest. I want to do something new but it’s not something just for the sake of it fashion should be wearable,” (Miuccia Prada, quoted in Huckbody 2007, 309).

Through its unconventional elegance and innovative design Prada has managed to redefine style and sophistication linking it closely to avant-garde artistic creativity. Miuccia Prada, “Symbolises perfectly the merging of these two multimillion-pound industries. Not only are her collections feted for the kind of conceptual audacity that would shame many a so-called artist but she has also acted as a generous patron for all things cutting edge,” (Aspden 2008). The design house of Prada, recognised mostly for its irregular aesthetics and innovative retail space, has managed to create a culture of style and sophistication to surround the brand. It allows for consumers to purchase more than simply a dress or a handbag, “Prada symbolizes an entire lifestyle of true sophistication, and ultra luxury,” (Aspden, 2008). Prada successfully continues to embody high fashion and all that is associated with it, embracing creativity and integrating art. The social representation that Prada has managed to create is largely due to the creative design of the retail space. “Luxury retailers rely particularly on elements such as location, store fit out and merchandising to support their brand positioning,” (Byrne 2008, under “Prada and Starbucks: the non-place of retail”). The collaboration between Prada and Rem Koolhaas in the creation of the New York and Los Angeles stores are clear examples of the avant-garde approach used in creating consumer space, linking the brands identity to artistic creativity. The store in Los Angels, on Rodeo Drive, “Unlike most surrounding stores, is open to all,” (Sokol 2003). The over all lay out and display of the product remains consistent with the Prada brand identity in that, products are openly available and presented in an innovative manner. “We wanted to use this absence of facade to let the public enter absolutely freely, to create a hybrid condition between public and commercial space,” (Rem Koolhaas, quoted in Byne 2008 under “Prada and Starbucks: the non-place of retail”). A similar approach was taken in the development of the Manhattan flagship store, which explores a public- private mixture and includes a stage for public performances. The stores highlight the company’s supreme brand confidence as all emphasis falls on the architecture and creative consumer space. The idea, Koolhaas said, was to shake up Prada's reputation as one of the most exclusive brands in fashion by stressing an openness, even what he calls an, “Easy,” and, “Welcoming,” quality, (Hawthorne 2004, 1).

Through its ability to intertwine unconventional elegance and avant- garde artistic ideas Prada has successfully created an aura of style, sophistication and class to surround the company. Continual experimentation allows for Prada to be recognised as a hyper-luxury brand, while also remaining in close connection with the art world. The focus of the brand is developing a creative consumer experience. The elaborate architecture used for Prada’s flagship stores in New York and Los Angeles allows for the alternative style of Prada’s designs to become integrated in a museum of consumer space. It is through this relationship that the social connotations of style and sophistication remain closely connected and associated with the Prada brand. Prada is not simply about a singular item, it is an entire experience, a lifestyle associated with class, high fashion and elegance.

• Aspden, P. 2008. A Contemporary Marriage. Financial Times Weekend Supplement- Life and Arts. April 26. http://us.ft.com/ftgateway/superpage.ft?news_id=fto042520081608090845
• Byrne, S. 2008 Prada and Starbucks: the non-place of retail. Diffusion. http://diffusionblog.blogspot.com/2008/04/prada-and-starbucks-non-place-of-retail.html
• Hawthorne, C. 2004. Capt. Koolhaas Sail the New Prada Flagship. The New York Times. July 15. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A01E4D6163AF936A25754C0A9629C8B63
• Huckbody, J. 2007. The shock of the New. Harpers Bazaar Australia. September 2007
• Ryan, N. 2007 Prada and the Art of Patronage. Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture 11 (1): 7-23
• Sokol, D. 2003. SCW Case Study: The Prada Effect. Retail Traffic. March 1. http://retailtrafficmag.com/design/interiors/retail_prada_effect/
• Think Fashion. 2007. http://www.thinkfashion.com/designers/prada.aspx
• Women’s Passions Lifestyle Magazine. 2007. http://www.womanspassions.com/


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