LOOK­ING THROUGH MRS. PRADA’S EYES By Cathy Ho­ryn. Il­lus­tra­tions by Charis Tse­vis.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - THE NEWS -

Mi­lan, late May: The de­sign home of Mi­uc­cia Prada never looks more like a fac­tory in an Ital­ian ne­o­re­al­ist film than it does in the off-sea­son be­tween shows. Sun­shine fills the court­yard of the sprawl­ing com­plex. In a cor­ner an in­dus­trial-size chute loops in a spi­ral from a win­dow to the ground. It’s ac­tu­ally a slide by the artist Carsten Höller. A zippy es­cape route? That might qual­ify as a sub­ver­sive joke, since nor­mally the fash­ion world is beat­ing to get in to see Mi­uc­cia in the flesh.

We meet up­stairs in a con­fer­ence room next to her of­fice; a light lunch, which will in­clude wine (she par­takes), has been set out. She im­me­di­ately of­fers con­do­lences for the re­cent death of my part­ner, and we spend sev­eral min­utes talk­ing about him. This is not strange, and yet it is. Although I have known Mi­uc­cia for 20 years – I’ve con­vinced my­self that I can re­mem­ber my very first Prada show (pale crepe de chine dresses, a ’40s Berlin essence) – we are not close. I’ve vis­ited her home, a loft-like apart­ment in the same build­ing where she grew up, only once – to write an ar­ti­cle about her and her hus­band, Pa­trizio Bertelli’s, art in­ter­ests. I see her back­stage at her shows, like every­body else.

To the ex­tent that I know Mi­uc­cia, it is through her clothes, though, clearly, that is say­ing a lot. As Michael Rock, a graphic de­signer who is a fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor, says, “Mi­uc­cia has ex­celled at mak­ing her own ques­tions the sub­ject of her work.” For Au­tumn, there is a dis­tinct an­tifancy at­ti­tude in plain silk dresses and the pair­ing of rough shear­ling coats with wispy ’20s-style chemises. And be­cause she was born in 1949, the cul­ture of Europe in the ’60s and ’70s is never far from her mind. But while she may watch all of Rainer Werner Fass­binder’s films to get in­spired, the process for Mi­uc­cia is never that di­rect.

At one point she tells me, in earnest, “Maybe I should change my life. There are peo­ple who are happy with lit­tle. And us, we are never ex­cited with any­thing, or never enough. We’re very am­bi­tious. That com­pli­cates your life, but it’s also the fuel of it. Peo­ple with a sim­ple life can be happy, too.” She laughs a bit iron­i­cally. “Rich peo­ple need to be en­ter­tained more and more. And then I think, ‘Let’s not en­ter­tain any­more. Let’s be sim­ple.’”

Does she mean it? Maybe, maybe not, but such soulsearch­ing speaks to her par­tic­u­lar gift. Very few de­sign­ers

An il­lus­tra­tion of Prada’s run­way shows through­out the years

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