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Miuccia Prada On China, the Web — and More

In an exclusive interview with WWD, the designer discussed everything from the challenges of globalization to fast fashion.

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Prada RTW Spring 2011

Photo By Jonah Kessel

Prada RTW Spring 2011

Photo By Jonah Kessel

Prada RTW Spring 2011

Photo By Jonah Kessel

WWD: Do you come to China often?
M.P.:
About once a year.

WWD: What do you think of the culture, the people?
M.P.:
I really like this country. I’ve always liked it. I came the first time in the Eighties. It’s rather startling to see the differences every year. They are moving at such a fast pace.…There are fashionable people here that you wouldn’t even find in Paris, New York or London. They have already understood everything that they had to understand. Then later, they’ll follow their own path….The market is still small compared to the European, American or Japanese markets.

WWD: But it’s clear you are investing a lot in the country with new stores.
M.P.:
Honestly, we’re investing a little, like we invest everywhere. It’s not as if we treat China in a way that is different than the other countries.…It’s another big country that will be our market.

WWD: What is your view of Italy today?
M.P.:
A question worth a hundred million. [Laughs] I prefer not to answer.

WWD: In your past, you were very active politically.
M.P.:
I prefer not to speak about Italy because you risk saying banal things.…Regardless, Italy is always an exceptional country, so…I have no intention to speak badly about my country. [Chuckles] Also because it’s true that Italy has all of the defects of this world, but it’s the country where perhaps one lives the best in this world. We are a country with…the most beautiful, most pleasurable things, an incredible historical wealth. So let’s be happy with what we have.

WWD: I read in a previous interview that one day you’d like to enter politics. Is this true?
M.P.:
Yes, it’s true.

WWD: So it’s something you are considering seriously?
M.P.:
Probably, yes.

WWD: Why?
M.P.:
Because politics have always been a little of my passion. And now I [could] use my work as a tool to do things other than fashion.

WWD: Obviously everyone has been talking about the possibility of a Prada IPO for years. If the company were to become a public one, could it potentially limit your creativity or, for example, the way financial resources are used?
M.P.:
To start with, everyone is talking, and we haven’t said anything. So we’ll talk when we talk. Everybody says [we postponed the IPO] five times. But this five times was invented by other people. We tried it once, but then [there was Sept. 11, 2001] and we didn’t do it. Everything else was always said by other people.…And if we make this decision, which hasn’t been made yet, I don’t think anything will change at all, because it’s a company [that has operated in a transparent way] for years now. The numbers are more public than those of companies already listed on the stock exchange. Honestly, I don’t think we’ll even notice.

WWD: Everyone is talking about technology and the speed at which everyone can see collections on the Internet immediately after they are presented. Consumers have a direct relationship with fashion houses and are less dependent on newspapers and magazines for information. Recently Tom Ford criticized this immediacy and banned photographers from his runway show. What do you think of all this? Does the technology bring more positive or negative influences to fashion?
M.P.:
I think that, for now, this is the way it is. You can’t avoid it. It’s like being in denial about the future. The future will be even more like this because it’s an opportunity that’s so big and convenient. I don’t use a computer, but I see everyone around me using them. It’s immediate access to information, a way of communicating. I think it’s a real, great revolution, perhaps bigger than the Industrial Revolution. I say it’s just another, extra job. It’s not like it’s not necessary to work with [the press]. It’s not like you don’t need to do everything else. It’s just that you have to also take care of this thing. Every company uses it in its own way for what it believes is useful. We have done a lot of things. All of our films.…Like we always do with everything, we are trying to understand what is really the most intelligent thing, the most subtle thing that speaks to us. Sometimes people criticize us because we aren’t technological enough, because we don’t sell on the Internet…but [to have people] click on a runway show and sell it, I don’t think that’s the essence of the change.

WWD: Do you read blogs?
M.P.:
I have reports sent over. Every week I have a summary sent over of the positive blogs, the negative blogs and the interesting blogs. I read them on paper.

WWD: Have you found any of them particularly interesting?
M.P.:
It’s interesting to see what is making the rounds, what people are talking about. All of our work as designers is to understand what people are thinking, where the world is going, how things work. It’s one of many sources of information.…It’s not that I do it to do my job better. I do it because it interests me.…Definitely everything that leads me to know more about what’s happening probably makes my work more interesting. At least I hope so.

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