Dive into the rich, complex histories of some of the most recognized Italian designers in the industry. From their very conception to what they’re most known for now, learn about the vast greatness behind these three fashion houses: Prada, Fendi, and Valentino.
Prada’s roots date back to 1913, where founding brothers Mario and Martino opened their first store in the prestigious Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. The boutique specialized in luxury leather goods, luggage and accessories, but it wasn’t until 1987 when Mario’s granddaughter, Miuccia shook things up by discontinuing English imports, and focusing more on in-house designs and manufacturing. It was a renaissance for Prada; Miuccia and her husband, Patrizio Bertelli transformed the company to the to Italian powerhouse we know and love today. Miuccia holds a PhD in political science and has an affinity for merging high art and political expression with fashion, and is still at the helm of the company. Themes seen in her collections often can be traced back to her academic past as she explores issues relating to gender, feminism, body image, and the political climate. Today, Prada is known for its sophisticated Ready-to-Wear, and leather goods, combining unparalleled artisanry with wit. There is always a subtext in Miuccia’s collections; always an empowering element in the collections for women and men to comfortably express themselves.
Prominent silhouettes of the house include the forever classic, Double Zip Lux Tote, whose stylistic elements are borrowed from structured luggage. Crafted in the house’s famous saffiano leather, this style is perfect for the office with two side-zip compartments and snap closures to expand the main compartment.
The Etiquette Shoulder Bag, whose studded calfskin perimeter detailing and quirky embossed leather ribbon, referencing the iconic pale blue label used on Ready-to-Wear has garnered cult attention, and became a fast favourite amongst Prada lovers, including Gigi Hadid.
Prada’s Animalier Cahier Crossbody perfectly exemplifies the blending of opulence with functional contemporary design. Miuccia’s ability to reference the past and continue to look forward is demonstrated by blending this ornate lion’s head door knocker hardware with mixed calfskin and saffiano leather for textural variance, grounded with metal corners adding to a structured elegant look on a playful crossbody silhouette.
Founded in Rome in 1925, by Edoardo and Adele Fendi, this Italian luxury fashion house whose specialties include fur, leather goods and Ready-to-Wear is a namesake in any fashion-savvy individuals’ vocabulary. Currently led by granddaughter of the aforementioned, Silvia Venturini Fendi now is at the helm of the house of which generations of the family still work. In 1965 the house appointed Karl Lagerfeld as Creative Director of Fur and Women’s Ready-to-Wear. With roots deeply entrenched in Rome, Fendi has strived to ensure the rich history of the founding family, and country is preserved. To that end, in 2014 Fendi donated over 2 million euros to restore the historic Trevi Fountain in Rome. Over the years Fendi has produced countless showstopping Ready-to-Wear masterpieces as well as many “it” bags. Fendi is anything but safe or basic; signature handbags and accessories are reinvented every season and are embellished with sequins, fur, studs, and intricate flower appliques and mixed media to produce faces and eye-catching patterns.
Classic silhouettes that are reinvented include the famous Baguette bag, seen above in the ‘Wave Micro’ version rendered in multicolored python skin with contrast wave trim. The immensely popular ‘Fur ‘Monster version is crafted in calfskin and fox fur adorned with metal plates, crystal and cutout leather details.
The more recent Kan I, seen above is expertly reintroduced this season with scalloped edges, pyramid studs on closure and studded pearl perimeter.
Valentino was founded in 1959 by Valentino Garavani in Florence. The house specialized in wedding dresses for the discerning customer, and known internationally for its signature “Valentino Red”. Valentino’s designs were regarded as the pinnacle of Italian couture and were worn by Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. Jacqueline Kennedy, who remained a close friend to Garavani, wore a Valentino dress when she wed Aristotle Onassis in 1968.
In 1998 Valentino announced the sale of the company for $300 million to Holding di Partecipazioni Industriali (HdP), who at the time was believed to rival LVMH and Kering. HdP did not manage to turn around sales at Valentino and eventually was sold to Marzotto Apparel, a Milanese textile giant for $210 million. Ten years later, the company was bought by the State of Qatar through Mayhoola for Investments, the investment fund of the Qatari royal family.
Though control of the company has changed hands over the years, the DNA of the house remains; using only the finest quality materials, employing innovative craftsmanship with traditional techniques to produce Ready-to-Wear, couture and accessories that will last and be loved for a lifetime.
In 2008 Valentino held his last haute couture show in Musée Rodin in Paris, and nominated the house’s new Creative Directors, Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri. Together the duo’s collections were highly regarded in the fashion world, receiving international praise and boasted record sales across all lines.
In July 2016 Maria Grazia Chiuri left for Dior, and Pierpaolo Piccioli was named sole creative director of Valentino.
Instantly recognizable without logos or heavy branding, Valentino bags have always caught the attention of discerning customers, editors and the fashion elite. The Rockstud Tote in soft leather is the perfect tote for work or weekend. It’s lightweight construction is grounded by the studded perimeter which adds edge to a rather classic silhouette.
The popular Glam lock shoulder bag shown above is another signature style by Valentino, featuring covered pyramid studs with a detachable gold-tone chain strap allowing the bag to be worn over the shoulder or crossbody. Known for intricate designs and tradition techniques, the marquetry detailed felt backpack is a great example of blending old with new. The bag usually rendered in leather, and marquetry detail usually seen on hardwood floors marries the two aesthetics perfectly.