That her sons feel free to express themselves should come as no surprise, parented as they are by two strong-willed, opinionated people. Their father, Patrizio Bertelli—Prada refers to him alternately as “my husband” or “Bertelli”—the company’s CEO and chairman, is known within the industry as much for his volatility and his years-long flirtation with an IPO as for the expansion of his wife’s family’s company under his direction. Recently, in Italy, he has turned tabloid subject as well, having been photographed in a subway station with an unidentified blond woman, the two looking quite cozy.
“Gossip—gossip is everywhere, so what do you do?” Prada responds to a general query. “Of course, I pay attention, but after, what do you do? Nothing.”
Similarly, she admits to paying attention to reviews. “I don’t believe that anyone is not bothered by critics. I think that everybody cares,” she says, but stresses that she does not let criticism alter her approach to her work. “There is a difference between caring and really being changed by it, okay? I care because, of course, I am a human being. That doesn’t mean that I work for appreciation. I work for my ideas and doing what I believe in. But when somebody says that I did a horrible show or that was ‘ehh,’ I’m not happy. This, I think, is just a question of honesty, which is very different from behaving for appreciation. That I don’t do at all.”
Nor will she allow the economic crisis, which has taken its toll on her company’s profits, to dampen her artistic resolve. For the fiscal year 2008, Prada SpA, which owns Prada, Miu Miu, Car Shoe and Church, listed a 22 percent drop in earnings. The group did not break down numbers by individual businesses. “The only difference that I noticed is that you have to be more and more yourself,” she insists. “What is really selling is what is really Prada. You can’t do some generic bulls---.” Nor can you ignore the basics. Prada cites—and her die-hard customers will concur—“the perfect sweater, the perfect black dress, the perfect coat” as being as integral to her ethos as the high-profile runway fare that instantly flags a woman’s au courant sartorial status from one season to the next. “Sometimes you do too much fashion and forget the basics,” she says.
“When you say ‘commercial,’ it shouldn’t be an insult, like something is not beautiful,” she continues. “It has to be best in the sense that [it’s] really what people want to wear to look beautiful and elegant [in]. I wouldn’t have been thinking of all this stuff if there was not a crisis. The crisis obliges [us] to really focus also on what really makes sense.”