Fashion month is over. And what a season it was. There were high expectations for the new chapters of mega-brands like Gucci, curiosity about the new creative director at Tom Ford, sadness about the last show of Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen and Gabriela Hearst at Chloé and interest in an Italian brand like Marni showing in Paris for the first time.
Amongst all this buzz and the many celebrity appearances from the Kardashians to Zendaya, one brand stood out effortlessly from the crowd: Prada.
It was a well-crafted brand statement, leveraging on Prada’s DNA and key iconic details. Even without a logo, one could clearly tell who had designed the collection. In the latest edition of the Lyst Index, Prada was named the third hottest brand. And in first place and for the first time was Miu Miu, its “little sister” brand.
At this point, it’s important to note that the overall tone for the luxury industry is cautious. LVMH reported a 9 percent rise in organic revenue growth in the third quarter of this year, significantly lower than the 19 percent rise it reported last year for the same period. But Prada’s continued investment into its brand strategy and long-term vision for the group is paying off and may weather the challenging economic climate that many are bracing for.
It has continued to develop its brand vision based on key elements of its essence instead of being distracted by short-term trends. Prada’s iconic style and visual identity, as well as its tone of voice and brand message, have been kept and valued as a precious treasure, never spoilt or disrupted, and as a result, it is challenged “just enough” to evolve with grace and strength.
Let us not forget that a few years ago, it was a different story. It had struggled for many years and was criticised for lack of desirability and inability to keep up with the times, particularly compared to other luxury brands in the market like Gucci, whose appeal at the time to younger, more digitally native consumers was envied by many. But Prada’s efforts to turn things around have paid off.
Its curiosity and passion are the drivers that it wisely leveraged to execute an impeccable vision, constantly evolving but always linked to the brand roots and DNA.
The different projects that it ventured into like its racing team Luna Rossa, which is linked to its more sporty, technical collection Linea Rossa; the Fondazione Prada, its art-focused institution which has provided the perfect point for collaborations with artists and movie directors like Roman Polanski and Wes Anderson, and Marchesi, the renown Italian bakery known for its great food and impeccable service.
There is no need to cancel the past, for Prada is constantly conversing with itself, looking for exciting new chapters of a story deeply rooted in a style that does not need to be pumped to stay afloat.
Many brands are learning now that the long game is something worth pursuing. It’s easy to see this with Gucci, whose previous phenomenal success tells us a story of stars burning too bright and fast. However, Prada never fell into the temptation to chase a new wave so different from itself.
Instead, Miuccia Prada and Patrizio Bertelli played a different game. And they won. They knew that the short-term growth of their competitor could not have lasted. They wanted to win the game, not the set.
With a very strategic approach, a deep sense of what the Prada brand should represent and the avoidance of the temptation to play a competition on grounds that do not belong to them, they accepted the risk of growing less than the competitors. Knowing that, very likely they would have lasted longer.
On a different level, it’s the same strategy of the likes of Hermès, Chanel, Armani, and Dior. Being distinctive thanks to the iconic signs, ignoring the waves and earthquakes around them, always with an eye on solid, long-term growth.
Brands such as Dior, Prada, Chanel, know very well that the industry follows specific cycles, and they are so precise in their strategy that they develop themselves with careful attention to the brand equity, instead of the punctual market capitalsation.
The same happened at Apple, with Steve Jobs saying, “If you keep your eye on the profit, you’re going to skimp on the product. But if you focus on making really great products, then the profits will follow.”
Creating collections for customers who become keepers of the brand DNA is the key to long-term success, nurturing the loyalty of the customers with collections that are consistent with your brand even after many years, creating products as Miuccia Prada once said that “make sense” for a specific client, evolving the brand through store concepts, products, fragrances, experiences while respecting Prada’s followers, it truly means fostering a real community, that will never be betrayed, that will never be cancelled by a new designer working for the brand.
The new, unusual creative partnership between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, the recruitment of a seasoned CEO like Andrea Guerra, helping the next generation to take the helm of the brand through mentoring and working together is a clear sign of this wisdom.
This is a brand that integrates the opposites, that sees internal differences as a precious asset instead of a threat, that is able to manage a delicate transition, that loves intricate conversations, that, most of all, has a deep respect, love and passion for its customers and it is immensely rewarded by them with the highest engagement and the best support to the brand regardless the trend of the moment.
The Prada, Chanel, and Hermès communities are stronger than ever because they really do not care about the magician of the moment; they deeply look for the opportunity to be part of a club that will never shut down the doors on their clients’ faces.
In complex and challenging times, having a strong, long-term vision for a fashion or a luxury brand is an incomparable asset that, on the other side, cannot be invented in a few months.
The damned of disruption will always be forced to take higher risks and to spend much more in communication to catch the wave of the moment; the blessed of evolution will grow at their own pace but will always be able to count on their very, very strong circle of brand lovers.
As Miuccia Prada once said, “in the long run, if you are a serious person, you will get the right recognition, even if sometimes you are tempted to perform magic tricks.”