Given that Prada began its relentless rise and Gucci started its Tom Ford-driven comeback at roughly the same time, I’ve always seen the two labels as the big rivals among influencer fashion brands.
Sometimes one seems to be coming out on top, but in general, they’re both among the global leaders when it comes to high-end fashion.
Which is why it’s an ongoing shock to me that Prada has been doing so poorly lately and Gucci so well, so very, very well.
Based on the AW18 collection shown this week in Milan, I’d take Prada any day of the week. So why isn’t the world beating a path to its door?
Admittedly Gucci really knows how turn out a huge selection of product that offers something for every taste level in a way that maybe Prada doesn’t do quite so expertly. And Gucci knows how to keep revamping its big winners, although Prada has caught onto that too lately with its feather-trimmed pieces having been a feature for the past couple of years.
Maybe it’s down to pricing. At Prada you have to pay nearly £1,000 for a fairy basic black nylon shoulder bag while at Gucci you can get an Angry Cat tote for around £800. And the most expensive jacket at Gucci at the moment comes in at around £4,000, while at Prada it’s nearly £8,000.
Perhaps there aren’t enough lottery winners, oligarchs, Middle Eastern princesses, and Chinese Millennials with £8k to spare. And yeah, I know that Gucci prices aren’t exactly in bargain basement territory either, but you’d be surprised how many people would pay £4,000 for a must-have piece but would shrink from double that price.
Anyway, how does that relate to the show this week? Well, as mentioned, Prada wasn’t been doing so well of late and it really needs its collection to be hits. It needs to recapture some of the magic it had not so many years ago and make consumers feel that a Prada bag/shoes/jacket/belt/dress is a must-have.
Did it do that with this show? Well if I had a lottery win, I’d splash the cash on it. Forget all the stuff about what was in Miuccia Prada’s head and what it says about women, power, society, art and anything else. You can read about that elsewhere. Let’s just talk about the clothes. They were an often sporty, frequently colourful, sometimes delicate celebration of what Prada does best.
The materials were unashamedly synthetic (which disturbed some commentators thinking about sustainability, even though ‘natural’ doesn’t necessarily mean better on that front). And the colour story screamed synthetic too. Think neons as a counterpoint to black nylons as multicolour print; as socks, gaiters, or a sheer top/hem poking out from under tweeds; or as standalones on a dress covered in luminous green fringe.
The collection veered from ultra utilitarian to light and delicate with plenty of occasion dressing – the sheers with appliqué flowers over simple underdresses were hugely covetable. The wool or soft-sheen bustiers that came with almost everything worked as well with skirts and dresses as with casual pants in a combo of slim-cut layers. And the wide-cut tunics, coats and gilets, felt suitably casual while also having that stand-out-in-a-crowd edge that always helps with clothes that cost more than an average monthly salary.
Of course the big question is whether it will turn around Prada’s fortunes in one go? That’s unlikely, but it still went some way to proving just why Prada’s influencer reputation is so great, even if its profits aren’t quite as big these days.