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Brand Stories

Brand Stories

Miuccia Prada’s Nylon Revolution

When Miuccia Prada designed the Vela, which would later become the brand’s flagship bag, she subverted the traditional idea of luxury. Using nylon, she stitched resistance directly into the – now iconic – backpack and forever marked Prada as the agitator of fashion norms.

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Gareth Cattermole/BFC/Getty Images

After completing a PhD in political science and studying mime at the Piccolo Teatro, Miuccia Prada finally conceded to her parents’ wishes and joined the family business. When she took over Prada for her mother in 1978, she brought her rabble-rousing, nonconformist attitude with her. Formerly a member of the Italian Communist Party, who unironically wore YSL to political demonstrations, Miuccia established the Prada woman as “intelligent,” “combative,” and “militant.” Concerned she was selling out in joining the fashion industry, Miuccia vowed to maintain a complex – confrontational – creative process of relentless questioning and defiance of the status quo.

Inspired by military parachutes, Miuccia introduced Prada – originally a leather-goods purveyor – to the ultimate anti-luxury material: pocone nylon. Considered suitable only for packaging at the time, she crafted it into an offbeat, utilitarian backpack known as the Vela. Released in 1984, the Vela was Prada’s seminal nylon bag. Standing in direct opposition to everything that was on-trend in the ‘80s, like excess and extravagance, the backpack perfectly disturbed conventional notions of luxury. Though its synthetic, humble fabric, hands-free practicality, and understated branding were not immediately appreciated, the Vela eventually came to be considered covetable high-fashion. By the early ‘90s, every girl had a Vela slung over one shoulder and Miuccia had succeeded in her pursuit to “make the ugly appealing.” For this, Miuccia Prada is indisputably punk. Not in the superficial sense of safety pins and mohawks, though Prada has featured nylon bags with studded straps in recent runways, but philosophically; Miuccia Prada has provoked and overthrown the industry’s idea of opulent luxury, redefining it to be more simplistic and casual.

Claudio Lavenia/Getty Images

Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Claudio Lavenia/Getty Images

FW18 Prada Runway Catwalking/Getty Images

Catwalking/Getty Images

Since the Vela, nylon has consistently appeared in Prada’s collections – most recently taking center stage in its FW18 women’s and men’s shows. With the debut of Prada’s Linea Rosa collection and rumors that its success could result in the re-launch of Prada Sport, the brand’s athleisure wear, nylon is back and here to stay. Reflecting over her 30-year relationship with nylon, Miuccia determines, “Back then what I said was really new, but that feeling is back again. Now is the right moment.” Long live Prada’s nylon revolution!

Cover photography by: Catherine McGann/Getty Images

Edited by : Anna Villani

The people pictured are not associated with The Archive or The Vintage Bar, and do not endorse the products shown.

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