First the disclosure. I’m a Prada fan. Just about everything the label does is OK in my book (aside from the odd piece here and there and, of course, those scary prices).
It’s forward looking, surprisingly commercial, quirky, creative, versatile and totally desirable. So why isn’t it doing better than it is? The shares are up recently but are still below their initial offer price and less than half their peak of four years ago. Sales and profits aren’t doing much better and only last month the company reported annual revenue down another 10%, retail channel sales down 14% and profits down almost 16%.
Even the re-sale value of Prada is down – below that of rivals Gucci, Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior, Valentino, Saint Laurent and many others (just check Vestiaire Collective’s re-sale calculator if you don’t believe me).
Like all of those labels it’s had some spectacularly brilliant collections in recent years, as well as some that were so-so. But maybe it’s turning a corner. For a start it’s hooking up with more ultra luxury wholesale partners and so is making it easier for people to buy its products. And if the recent AW17 runway season was anything to go by, every influencer who matters has fallen head over very expensive heels for its feather-trimmed skirts.
So will the new resort 2018 (or cruise, or pre-summer, or midseason or spring, or whatever else you want to call it) collection help its fight-back to fashion’s centre stage?
Well I hope so. It wasn’t a 22 carat classic along the lines of SS08 or AW15, but there was plenty to love and plenty that carried the most popular elements of the well-received SS17 and AW17 collections through into next year.
It all came in a delicious palette that mix pastel sheers (mint, peach, pink, pale blue) with classic white, black, navy and silvery grey.
This was a collection that took layering at its primary statement with a slimline silhouette that saw sheer tunics over sheer shirts, sheer overskirts over sheer underskirts, printed shirt dresses or sheer shirtdresses, crystal pleats over tiny slips, sheer slip dresses over chainmail skirts and more.
The oh-so-commercial portrait or off-the-shoulder neckline was also key, interpreted here in a series of coats and athleisure-influenced waterproof zip-up jackets. And the athletic inspiration also came through in the Velcro tab casual shoes that harked back to the sporty functionality of Prada’s – and Miu Miu’s early days.
As with all Prada collections, the details were as important as the total look with tiny scalloped pleat trims, those feathers, chain mail accents, high necklines with pleated frill trims, and the Art Deco-style patterned socks that went with everything.
This being Prada, we also got print. Courtesy of James Jean, the label served up psychedelic florals and rabbits (think Watership Down on acid) and a mix of the traditional and the modern as timeless embellishment butted heads with technical fabrics and that sports influence.
Will it be enough to send the share price soaring and sales through the roof? Probably not on its own. Those covetable printed mini bags have some hot competition with Alessandro Michele and other upstarts still stealing Prada’s thunder.
But it signified that Prada isn’t a spent force. Even with lower sales and profits, it’s still one of the most inspiring labels on the market today.