Tough Stuff: Miuccia x Nylon

“[Nylon] challenged, even changed, the traditional and conservative idea of luxury. I am still obsessed with it.” – Miuccia Prada

Before 1984, when one considered nylon, images of parachutes and camping equipment likely came to mind. However, today, the association with nylon has undergone a profound transformation. Armed with a PHD in political science, the Piccolo Teatro student of mime, member of the Italian Communist Party, and active feminist, Miuccia Prada, has transformed the Prada family business into a symbol of global fashion excellence. Miuccia’s ammunition lies in challenging the status quo, as she intertwines diverse design elements to redefine the perception of luxury and challenge traditional beauty standards. Her innovative incorporation of nylon into high fashion transformed conventional fashion trends, reinventing the utilitarian material into a symbol of luxury.

Commonly used in functional workwear due to its durability, nylon was initially manufactured by Dupont as a silk substitute, introduced into the fashion landscape for stockings during the 1940s. During World War II, nylon became the most widely utilised fabric for war materials resulting in widespread stocking shortages, culminating in a shopping frenzy upon their triumphant return to the shelves in 1946.

Prada, Multi-Pochette Sold for $2,500

A pivotal moment in the evolution of both nylon and Prada occurred almost a decade after Miuccia Prada assumed control of the family business in 1975. At a time when the Italian ‘Sex-Bomb’ aesthetic was flourishing, Miuccia consistently defied popular trends by crafting an anti-fashion aesthetic, creating garments that subverted traditional notions of attractiveness while making a bold statement about individuality. This resulted in a groundbreaking move that would leave a lasting mark on the fashion landscape; the introduction of the Vela backpack, crafted from army-grade nylon. This innovative creation swiftly attained icon status within the fashion realm. Renowned for its durability, functionality, and distinctive look, the Vela backpack became more than just a fashion accessory – it became a symbol of Prada’s forward-thinking design philosophy. Prada transformed the perception of this robust material originally associated with practicality into a symbol of high fashion, consistently elevating the fabric’s status as it was integrated into their collections. From July 2023, Prada introduced ‘Re-Nylon’ – a regenerated nylon that can be indefinitely recycled without affecting the quality of the fabric. This transformation to recycled nylon cemented Prada’s commitment to adapt and grow within social and environmental changes without compromising their design and quality. 

In a fashion landscape often dominated by logos, Prada’s nylon has emerged as a distinctive signature, synonymous with the brand’s identity, arguably more recognisable than the iconic Prada logo. This choice of material formed the very DNA of the Prada brand, shaping its aesthetic and design ethos. Miuccia Prada’s bold decision to embrace nylon set her brand on a trajectory to redefine and shape the industry for decades to come.

Indigo Keane, Luxury Specialist

Banner Image (detail): Miuccia Prada walks the runway during the Prada Resort 2020 Collection, New York / Alamy

February 2024