The House of Savoy coat of arms and knotted rope on Prada’s seal herald that the iconic Italian luxury fashion house was named Official Supplier to the Italian Royal Household in 1919. Started in 1913 by Mario Prada, the brand’s original shop in Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II still has the mahogany shelves that displayed its early wares such as travel items and handbags. Today, these fine leather goods are joined by the clothing, wallets and other various accessories that keep the brand on the cutting edge of fashion.
When Mario Prada’s granddaughter, Miuccia Prada (b. 1949), inherited the business from her mother in the late 1970s, Prada was recognized for its quality craftsmanship, yet it was still a modest-sized company. Miuccia, an enthusiast of unconventional Italian filmmakers who’d earned a Ph.D. in political science, introduced the concept of using pocone — a military-grade water-resistant nylon that feels like silk.
Nylon revolutionized the fashion house’s business, with the first Prada nylon backpack released to universal acclaim in 1984. Soon the durable, water-resistant material was incorporated into Prada’s ready-to-wear collections for both men and women. No one had previously considered nylon a part of luxury fashion, and it wasn’t long before the family-owned company best known for its luggage was leading modern style that emphasized function as much as form.
Characterized by clean lines and a refined elegance that signaled the new direction of the legacy brand, Miuccia Prada debuted her first ready-to-wear collection for women in Fall/Winter 1988. More inventive fashion would follow in the ensuing years, such as the 1993 launch of the more affordable, more playful Miu Miu line, which was aimed at a younger audience, and the introduction of Prada Sport in 1997 — a collection now widely seen as prescient for its embrace of athleisure.
Prada has regularly gone against the grain to elevate styles that have long been out of fashion. In 1996, there were dresses and skirts in clashing patterns and muted earth tones that seemed flat and outdated, all worn with chunky high wedge sandals. Fanny packs followed three years later, and elaborate lace in 2008. Each season continues to bring new eye-catching innovations for the historic brand, including enhanced attention to sustainability with Prada Re-Nylon, a new line of bags created from recycled ocean plastic.
Today, find a wide variety of vintage Prada evening dresses, bags and other items on 1stDibs.