Earlier this month, Prada’s racing team Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, lost 7-3 to the Emirates Team New Zealand, after 10 hard-fought regattas. What seems like a defeat for the team – being excluded from the next challenge by the winning team – may however only be for a passing moment, for if it’s one skill Prada is best at, it is resilience.
Resilience is elasticity, the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and Prada has certainly proved to be a great example of it inall the different chapters of its own history.
The past six years have not been an easy ride for the Italian fashion house. Prada had been struggling to catch up with the times, particularly compared to other luxury brands in the market like Gucci, whose appeal to younger, more digitally native consumers has left a lot to be envied by many of its peers. But Prada's efforts to catch up are finally paying off.
Earlier this month, the company reported that its sales and profits had bounced back at the end of 2020, from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was helped by strong demand in China and the wider Asia region. Prada noted that its response to the market changes and its strengthening of its relationship with local customers had nearly completely offset the absence of tourists.
The resilience of Prada is largely down to its ability to evolve and to rise from the ashes, which can evidently be seen through its very precise and well thought-out internal reorganisation, that peaked with the announcement of the creative partnership with designer Raf Simons, resulting in its success in a post-COVID era.
While typically other brands have benefited from a long wave of success, resulting in a inclination to rest on their laurels until the idyllic vision they had of themselves was hit hard by the pandemic, Prada started a deep rethinking of its business models well in advance, having experienced the need to keeping the pace with the likes of Gucci over the past few years.
Indeed, 2021 is the year Prada proves its strength and leadership in terms of business management, creativity and innovation, thanks to its renewed focus on digital, sustainability and communication.
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Firstly, Prada’s willingness to experiment with digital has resulted in a sharper and more impactful online presence. This was clearly evident at its latest digital presentations of its Mens’ and Womens’ collections at the start of the year which demonstrated a masterclass in how brands should harness both their digital communication and marketing strategy.
Using the dramatic backdrop created by Rem Khoolas' OMA/AMO Studio, Prada presented a concept that was both intriguing and powerful, sharp in details and features. The result was a strong, impactful and contemporary approach that was fully developed across all touchpoints, both physical and digital.
The website revamp has also been a success. Prada’s website has never been so clean and focused, and so very representative of Prada’s essence.There are no frills, but instead a lot of content for the Prada community, and it is easy to browse and features a shopping experience that transitions from the website to social media in a very intuitive way. The brand voice is consistent and impactful yet minimalist art direction gives the brand the fuel needed to come back as one of the industry leaders.
It’s important to note that Prada’s digital evolution has been enhanced with the arrival of Lorenzo Bertelli, son of Miuccia Prada and CEO Patrizio Bertelli, as the head of marketing and communications, who has been successful in convincing Prada’s board of the strategic importance of online. Prada reported that its e-commerce sales more than tripled in 2020 compared to 2019levels. And last year, it launched revamped its website and expanding its e-commerce offering in new key markets.
“We are just at the beginning of our growth trajectory and there is still a huge potential to unlock,” said Lorenzo Bertelli in a statement.
Prada’s initiatives to move towards more sustainable products while at the same time maintaining its heritage is another point to note. The development of its Re-Nylon project, which launched in 2019, reflects the spirit of the times.
By taking one of the classic staples and iconic materials that made Prada successful and evolving it into a revisited must-have of Prada, the Italian fashion house has shown that it is in line with the zeitgeist. The idea of turning the brand’s hallmark into a flagship of sustainability couldn’t be more aligned with global sentiment that is taking over the customers approach to fashion shopping. And, once again, the development of a full marketing strategy around this project enhanced its credibility in a very competitive, global market.
Prada was one of the first brands to believe in the power of movies, having featured the likes of Sir Ben Kingsley and Helena Bonham Carter for the famous, branding exercise of a short movie masterpiece “A Therapy” launched in 2012 as well as the Miu Miu Women’s Tales series commissioned in 2011 to female movie directors on the occasion of the Venice Film Festival, and 2013 Wes Anderson “Castello Cavalcanti”.
The special attraction for the cinema helped Prada develop its own voice in terms of digital formats that led to the success of the aforementioned SS21 show including a digital presentation and a conversation between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons and fashion students from all over the world.
These new communication formats prove the ability of the brand to develop a fresh approach and to create a brand-new customer experience, enhancing the iconic products and magnifying the brand thanks to a very original, cinematic vision of fashion.
Finally, we return to the Luna Rossa. Despite its defeat, Luna Rossa (the Silver Bullet, as it is called by the Kiwis) is raised as a champion in the kingdom of sailing. Luna Rossa, inspired by a famous Neapolitan song, is a state of mind. It represents the quest for excellence that Prada as a group has always pursued. Courage and resilience have always been some of the key values of this adventure all over the globe and a sort of a brand statement.
In this case, brand positioning is not just an exercise written on paper, it is defined by precise activities enhancing the brand message and synthesised in a living mission statement.
As Patrizio Bertelli once said, “First of all, sailing teaches you to be humble. You can never be sure you are on the right path and you must constantly put yourself out there. You are not merely facing your opponent, but especially nature and the technological development. There are no certainties, but work and commitment.”
Successful collaborations with American poet and activist Amanda Gorman and cult movie director Sofia Coppola to the futuristic locations created by one of the most prestigious architecture studios in the world, the acquisition of quintessentially Milanese food mecca Pasticceria Marchesi, and targeted collaborations with sportswear brands like Adidas, Prada has risen from its ashes several times and, thanks to its habit of going against the flow, the group had the chance to get prepared well in advance to face the post-COVID chapter in fashion with determination and clear vision.
Of all the fashion brands that have been challenged by the unexpected pandemic downturn, Prada is certainly one of the few ones that came well prepared and equipped to deal with high winds and storms.
As Edmund Gibbon once said “The wind and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigator.”
Cover Image: Prada's Spring/Summer 2021 campaign. Photo: Courtesy of Prada.