‘There’s something wrong about this idea of big brands.’

Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons in conversation.

By Jonathan Wingfield
Photographs by Juergen Teller

Miuccia Prada & Raf Simons. - © System Magazine

Few, if any, designers match the mind and mindset of Miuccia Prada.

At a time when fashion houses seem increasingly judged on their financial form – like some kind of results-based sporting contest – we can sometimes lose sight of just how unique a voice she is. Intimate yet operating at scale, never afraid to contradict or backtrack, and offering a female presence that’s defined only by its wonderfully unpredictable nature – formidable one moment, frivolous the next – there has always been more than one Miuccia Prada.

Which is why we drafted in a few friends – super-stylist Katie Grand, writer and actress Tavi Gevinson, and photographers Juergen Teller and Norbert Schoerner – to help us explore her world and her work, and listen to the designer in her own words.

Meanwhile, in June, we invited Raf Simons to Milan to chat with Miuccia Prada about what it means to be a fashion designer today. The honest, outspoken and revealing three-hour conversation they had covers topics such as self-censorship, scale of operations, the merits of running your own company, and why Miuccia Prada, Raf Simons and Marc Jacobs should all swap brands for a season, just for fun.

(At the time, Raf only had eyes for his own label, but his subsequent appointment as creative director at US giant Calvin Klein now adds an interesting perspective – and frisson – to this unique on-the-record meeting).

Test caption - © System Magazine

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Let’s start the interview by discussing interviews. Love them? Loathe them? Necessary evil?

Miuccia Prada

I generally have a problem with doing interviews because the only way I can talk is if I say what I really think, otherwise it’s impossible. But sometimes what I think – and therefore what I say in interviews – is not always deemed politically correct.
Raf Simons: That’s one of the things I think we should talk about today; I think that designers should be freer to say what we really think. These days, we are no longer able to; we’re supposed to always self-censor ourselves. People express such extreme opinions online about our collections, yet if we dare say one thing that is not politically acceptable…

Miuccia Prada

…we are killed!

Raf Simons

And I find that very problematic.

Miuccia Prada

Me, too. I sense this so much, and I always find myself self-censoring because anything interesting that I want to express no longer seems possible. [As a designer] you don’t always have the time to explain what it is you want to say; you might be thinking about a complex conceptual idea but you want to be lighter, what you say might come out like a boutade, but that boutade becomes the headline – one word becomes your mantra. So you feel you don’t have any control over your thoughts, and very often – sometimes in a good way, sometimes bad – there is less possibility to answer. You can’t say this, you can’t say that, so it is better not to talk. The last interview I did, I took out 80 percent.

People express such extreme opinions online about our collections, yet if we dare say one thing that is not politically acceptable, we are totally destroyed!

That doesn’t bode very well for this interview!

Miuccia Prada

[Laughs] No, no, it is not the journalist’s questions; it is what gets picked up after the interview. If in a context like this, I want to touch on a delicate subject, or express who I am, then I can articulate and discuss that and you will understand, but when a single sentence is taken out of this context – removing any irony or anything else – then it becomes another thing altogether.

Raf Simons

The more visible your position, the more you have to be careful. Having my own brand is different from when I was at Dior; people are not so focused on it. But at that time, I felt like there was all this pressure on how to behave and how not to behave, or how to speak. Not that I was given a list of rules; it just automatically happens like that. I found it very complicated, and [because of that] I started to read less and less about fashion, even though I’m usually really interested in what other people have to say.

Do you feel this is the case across the industry?

Raf Simons

I feel that everybody has become very careful – especially designers, and it is the actual designer’s point of view that I like to read the most. I am far more interested in what designers have to say than people might think. I can be a big fan of other designers, though I can also really hate the work of other designers, even though I am not supposed to say that. Hate is the wrong word, of course, but there are things you just don’t like, which of course, is fine. Personally, I don’t care if somebody hates my work; I have no problem with it.

Do you feel it is important for designers to communicate through words – written or spoken?

Miuccia Prada

I think it is my job to speak through the clothes.

Raf Simons

As designers, we choose to work through clothes and fashion shows and photography and everything. But I think we also have something to say. These days, there are so many people judging the fashion world who I don’t even know – beyond the people we know and respect, like Suzy Menkes or Tim Blanks – and they often have such extreme things to say that I feel they sometimes position themselves above people who have long-term experience. I am somebody who is very into young opinions, young voices, young creativity, but I don’t really know who all these people are.

Miuccia Prada

It depends on who you listen to: sometimes there are very good comments on the Internet, and then there can be something stupid. When you just have these naked anonymous comments you should be able to say to yourself, ‘Who cares?’ The tendency should be not to read these anymore, but I can’t resist being curious.

Raf Simons

Me neither.

Miuccia Prada

It’s our job, we have to know what is happening, but it goes beyond that. I think the complexity we are facing is almost worse than for politicians; up until the 1980s and even the 1990s, there was an audience group in fashion that you basically knew. But now you have to work with everybody, for better or worse.

Miuccia Prada & Raf Simons. - © System Magazine

Do you like the fact that you’re now talking to a wider audience?

Miuccia Prada

I like the idea of sharing my ideas with more people; that’s the interesting part, to work outside the small elite that I know. You are obliged to face the truth of different countries, of different people, but at the same time, the sheer quantity of comments – clever or stupid – that comes with a bigger audience is something that doesn’t work. The whole world is talking, but there is nothing coming out.
Raf Simons: While I have no problem with negative responses towards me, I do have a problem that I cannot be negative myself.

Miuccia Prada:

I completely agree.

Who’s telling you not to be negative?

Raf Simons

No one is telling us, but you get punished for it. By the public.

Miuccia Prada

It is so true that through our job we cannot talk, and yet we are the minds behind all this big industry success. Maybe we don’t take our job into our own hands enough, and we should do.

Raf Simons

I have said things in the past that got me really punished. Publicly. I felt really upset afterwards and I thought, ‘God, man, why do I have to be punished by some anonymous person who writes the ugliest thing about my show? And why am I not allowed to react?’ I guess, because when you are a public person you have to just shut up.

Miuccia Prada

As designers I feel that we are always very strongly accused. Why does no one accuse journalists or bloggers? Why do we have to be the only ones under inquisition? I once said to a journalist, ‘Listen, you judge us, and although we never say it, we judge you, too’. [Laughs]

Raf Simons

I know that if Miuccia and I were speaking in a closed environment, we would speak in more extreme ways, and about other brands, too, because I know that they are speaking about us. It is not about being good or bad, it is about having an opinion, and I have a very specific opinion about other brands. I mean, right now I could throw two words out onto the table – two brand names – and we could have a discussion about them and if you published it, a bomb will go off! [Laughs]

Do you feel you are able to articulate your opinion about what is happening in fashion through the collections and what it is you do as a brand?

Raf Simons

I think with my and Miuccia’s shows they are clearly a reaction to specific things that we see. What I saw onstage yesterday [at Prada’s Autumn/ Winter 2016/17 menswear show] was a very clear reaction.

I could throw two words onto the table – two brand names – and we could have a discussion about them, and if you published it, a bomb would go off!

Does the self-censorship you’ve both mentioned impact the way you design?

Miuccia Prada

No, not at all. I feel that in my job as a designer I have complete freedom.

Raf Simons

Yes, me too. I feel free with the collections. More and more. You just let it all out there, in the collection…

Miuccia Prada

On the subject of self-censorship, I feel like we should create a small group in which we can be free to talk, because I cannot stand it anymore. Because without that freedom to talk, the mind does not progress; if you cannot say bad things – or things that might be considered politically incorrect – how can you even hold a discussion? Being politically correct doesn’t allow you to be objective.

I presume it’s the dissemination of information now that’s at the root of these issues? I mean, you might have said something 20 years ago and it would have been contained in a magazine or a radio interview. But now you’ll say something and 20 minutes later, it is all over the world.

Miuccia Prada

I don’t know if it is just the fact it is so spread out. We probably have to be so politically correct because our business has become bigger; if you are small you can say what you like – whether that’s something super smart or avant-garde or just stupid – and nothing will happen. But if you are a big brand or part of a big group, it automatically becomes more moralistic. And in general, people are becoming increasingly conservative; and so the more superficial and the more generic that you come across as, the less you are criticized. This censorship has a negative effect and is a very serious thing.

Raf Simons

I think Miuccia’s suggestion of discussing these things in a kind of closed group is very interesting. It is important to know that there are other people who are of the same mindset as me, and share the same opinions; to know that I could talk to them about these things is very satisfying. The simple fact that I know Miuccia and a few others are out there is almost enough.

Miuccia Prada

I would love to create that group of people – the ones who respect each other – where we can say what we want. And the group should make a designers’ declaration; that would be so fun and so interesting and so honest! But the difficult part would be how to share those ideas and thoughts with others afterwards.

Raf Simons

Just doing that would already make us appear pretentious.

Miuccia Prada

Can you imagine? [Laughs] It would be impossible!

Miuccia Prada & Raf Simons. - © System Magazine

Raf, you’ve mentioned your interest in other designers, interacting with them, exchanging thoughts, and so on. Why did you want to do this conversation with Mrs. Prada?

Raf Simons

Beyond the small group of people around me – my assistants, my friends, my family – I really feel a lack of dialogue with people I have something seriously in common with. I mean, I don’t think I can relate to absolutely everybody, but I was starting to feel very isolated in this world. When he had this LVMH Prize about two years ago, everybody came to Paris the night before it started, so Marc, Phoebe and I had dinner together at Marc’s house, which was such an eye-opener for me. And for them as well, I think.

Miuccia Prada

Because you were free to talk?

Raf Simons

Yes. It really set my mind in a different way. The three of us reflecting on things 20 years ago, 10 years ago, and how we feel about the future; it wasn’t the kind of conversation I was expecting to have, but everyone felt free. That is, of course, not something that you can do with everyone; you need to have mutual respect.

How do you regard the sense of competition among designers?

Raf Simons

There is obviously competition, but there is also respect. I think we are all competitive, and that is a good thing. I mean, I feel competitive towards Miuccia, and she with me…

Miuccia Prada

Of course.

Raf Simons

But that is a healthy competition, which I think we should always maintain, but then I am also really curious to share experiences, emotions…

Miuccia Prada

Yes, if you have mutual respect. I’m always saying, ‘I’m never jealous of the good ones’. What drives me crazy is when people are successful and I don’t respect them. Or when they are tricky and pretend not to be.
Raf Simons: There’s lots of them.

Miuccia Prada

Many.

Prada is my own company, so it’s my own fault that it’s the size it is. But I don’t have to care if we don’t grow enough for the market. Whatever, who cares.

I get the feeling you’re both wary of the fact that this industry has become just that – an industry. And with that comes so many more brands, more consumers, more magazines, more opinions, and a greater scale of operations…

Miuccia Prada

I think there’s something slightly wrong about this idea of big brands. Raf did the biggest thing by leaving [Dior] – chapeau, respect – because he probably didn’t feel comfortable anymore. Of course, Prada is my own company, so it’s my own fault that it is the size it is, but now I’m at a moment where I really want to focus on what I like, what I care about. I don’t have to care if we don’t grow enough for the market. Whatever, who cares, I really want Prada to stay in a context that I like. Because we grow, grow, grow and suddenly you start to lose control, and there’s something wrong with that, now I think we stopped that.

Is there a moment in fashion when you think structurally a big house becomes too big?

Raf Simons

I think the problem right now is that there is all this freedom in the actual garments and the performance on stage and whatever, but there is no more freedom in the structure [of a house]. Most of us Belgians have remained small and independent, but for many, structure has evolved into this kind of massive octopus where there is no more freedom; the structure itself has becomes too dominant and too defining.

Can you give me an example of how that manifests itself?

Raf Simons

Part of it is this idea of keeping the audience happy, with the events and the dinners and the presents and the advertising systems. Sometimes I think I would like to make it simpler, but more exciting…

Miuccia Prada

…and also more fun. I totally agree with him. One thing that I would really love to do is to work with Raf, and maybe with other people – it would be so much fun. If I could do a show with him, imagine how much fun we would have.

Miuccia Prada & Raf Simons. - © System Magazine

What is stopping you?

Miuccia Prada

Nothing, I think it is an experiment that could really be done.

Raf Simons

Maybe structure might be stopping that. Even my own Raf Simons brand – compared to a big power brand like Dior – is still structured. That gives possibilities, but it also gives a lot of non-possibilities. For me, I would be excited if Miuccia would do the Raf Simons brand for a season, and then I would do a season for Marc Jacobs in New York, and Marc would do Prada; I think the audience would be totally excited by that.

Miuccia Prada

Ah, completely!

Raf Simons

Maybe fashion should operate more like a museum, where you have a museum curator, but you have guest curators come in, too. I think that the fashion business has recently stopped exploring its own possibilities; it should become much more liberated once again.

Miuccia Prada

I totally agree. I really think that’s true.

Raf Simons

But it is up to the big voices to make that kind of decision themselves, because fashion is not a system that sits around wanting that. If Miuccia or Marc Jacobs say, ‘I am going to let this person do my brand for a season, and then I am going there for a season’, then others will follow. But it won’t happen until then.

Miuccia Prada

Yes, and I am thinking more and more about exactly this kind of idea, because it feels like it is needed – not just to get the world talking, but to broaden the horizons of what fashion can be, and also to have fun. What I mainly think is that you have fun when you really do good stuff, and that fun comes with other people.

Raf Simons

But the structure itself within today’s fashion business doesn’t always allow for that kind of idea. You know, typically within the creative structure there is the creative director, then the right-hand, and the other internal designers. Other structures might not be compatible. A couple of years ago I did a collection together with the American artist Sterling Ruby – he is a close friend who I trust very much, which is why I said, ‘Let’s do a collection together, but let’s do it all the way’. His voice was as present as mine, which is not usually the case. When you are in your own structure – even if you have a right hand – my voice or Miuccia’s voice remains the biggest. But when I invited Sterling, our voices were equal, the label had the two names on it, and it was a real eye opener, because I had to step back.

Miuccia Prada

Did that make you feel uncomfortable?

Raf Simons

For a moment, but not personally, because I love him and collaborating together was easy. But in terms of what Sterling brought, it was something that I would not have come up with alone. I kept thinking the collection had to be more special and he kept saying, ‘No, it has to be a normal shirt, and a normal pair of jeans, nothing more, not a special cut or design’. And at the end, when it all came together, I was like, ‘Man, you were right’. Sometimes you just need this different eye and different mindset to break out from your own systematic behaviour.

Could you imagine if, one season, Miuccia did the Raf Simons brand, then I’d go do Marc Jacobs, and Marc would come and do Prada? It’d be so exciting!

Do you think that fashion is losing its sense of fearlessness?

Miuccia Prada

No, I think that still exists in our work, because many designers are quite risky in what they do now. Perhaps we do things that are too strange, and sometimes I think to myself, ‘Is this the right thing to do?’ – because there is that fine line between pure art and fashion. I’ve always wanted to make clothes that people wear, otherwise I’d change my job and become an artist. I am a fashion designer and I do a commercial job, but at the same time we want to be creative and we always want to push limits. Also there is this entertainment aspect: people just want to be excited. For instance, if Raf did the next Prada show instead of me, the whole world would be going ‘Wow!’ But maybe that’s all they would talk about. So you have to be careful that the choices you make are not influenced by this increasing need for entertainment.

Do you feel that fearlessness becomes harder to exercise the bigger you get?

Miuccia Prada

I decided to become bigger, and I like the idea of sharing my ideas with more people, but at some point you lose control of what happens after your show. It’s a very interesting moment right now in fashion, because Raf is right, maybe we should have more courage. He certainly did.

Raf Simons

It does feel like that to me. The whole thing about leaving Dior was not that easy, but I found there was a difference between being a creative director and having your own brand. I am one of the few people who has done both. You have people who are creative directors – they are born creative directors, like Ghesquière, Slimane – who do not know what it is to have their own brand. And then there are the others who only have their own brands, and then there are people who do both. And it is really day and night, I think. The responsibility, the emotion…

Miuccia Prada

Do you have any preference between the two?
Raf Simons: No, I like both. When you have your own brand it is something that you build, it is like your own baby. And when you are a creative director, you also treat it like a baby, but it is not your baby.

Miuccia Prada & Raf Simons. - © System Magazine

Ironically, it was Mrs. Prada and Mr. Bertelli who first gave you that opportunity to work for another brand, Jil Sander.

Raf Simons

Yes, that was a big thing for me; I hadn’t even done womenswear at that point, so I was scared. I was also thinking it would be a long-term thing – in the end it was seven years. Dior was short in comparison, only three-and-a-half years. Going in to these brands, I realized you cannot possibly know what it is like until you are there, being creative director – you just don’t know. And as much as there was incredible beauty in that house [Dior], and incredible people and ateliers and everything, I just felt like, ‘This isn’t for me, I am not the right person for them’. That was very, very complicated.

Miuccia Prada

Do you feel stronger now than you did a year ago?

Raf Simons

No, not necessarily; just the same. It is not something that I see as such a big thing, this whole idea of leaving Dior. I know lots of people were like, ‘Oh my God, you left Dior’, but I don’t see it like that. There was no fight, there was no conflict; it was just a conclusion that I made quite quickly. I don’t know if it is because I am Belgian – because we can be very demanding, I think, regarding what we want and how we see things in terms of our creative input – but I didn’t want to force my thing onto Dior either. I just came to the conclusion that this is where I stand, and this is what I will have to deal with if I sign up for the long term; and it is not how I want it, it’s not how I see things. I have my thoughts about what I think Dior could become over time, and they have their ideas of what it will become. I wish them the best with it, but it just wasn’t my thing in the long run.

Mrs. Prada, what was your feeling when you first heard that Raf was going to leave?

Miuccia Prada

I thought he did something very honest and brave. But I agree, I am sure he sees it as something much less dramatic than how it was viewed from the outside.

Raf Simons

The whole of the fashion world sees these things as like [feigning shock], ‘You cannot leave LVMH; you cannot leave Dior’. But when it comes to things like that I feel that you have to put each other on the same team, on the same level, and I am sure it wasn’t easy for them. Sometimes I hate the whole spectacle that surrounds the fashion world.

Miuccia Prada

Yes, too much attention.

You mean the hysteria?

Raf Simons

Yes, when people go into a new position or leave a position there is so much spectacle; the system pumps it up, and very often the brand pumps it up, too. I’ve always thought, ‘Just give me a little bit of time’. I started back in the days when everything was quite calm. When I started my brand it took years before people took any serious notice.

Miuccia Prada

Now everything is so public, everything becomes a big deal, and that is wrong and not necessary.
Raf Simons: It creates unnecessary pressure.

People like Ghesquière and Slimane are born creative directors, but they don’t know what it is to have their own brand. It is day and night, I think.

Since leaving Dior, do you feel now that you have regained a sense of ownership because the work you’re currently doing has your name on it? And is that ownership and responsibility important to you?

Raf Simons

It is important to me, absolutely. But my own brand structure has always been pretty small, and I think that’s why subconsciously I also took on these big structure jobs – to kind of feel that distinction in scale. Now, after two decades, I’ve started to realize that I am not so unhappy with my own thing being small in scale. Of course, there is very little economic possibility, but with very little you can still do things that are crucial to a certain number of people, and those people react in ways that is really satisfying.

Miuccia Prada

It is absolutely time to rethink these systems and structures that have come to define us.

Raf Simons

Yes, I do think that there is something that we have to rethink. You know, there are a lot of people in charge right now who are not creative, and that is new.

Prada seems to remain an exception. Can I ask you Raf, what is it you admire about Prada?

Miuccia Prada

No, no, no, I don’t want to hear this. I am sure we respect each other, punto!

Raf Simons

That is easy for me to explain: on all levels, I can sense Miuccia’s very clear vision, her mindset, her view of the world, her view of art, her political opinions. And as one person she is able to construct and share that on such a huge scale. I find that mind-blowing.

Miuccia Prada & Raf Simons. - © System Magazine

How important is that when it comes to appreciating fashion design– actual garments?

Raf Simons

The reason I wear Prada is not just because I like the clothes; it’s also because Miuccia has a mindset that I can relate to. You know, there are all these brands in the world today making so many beautiful things – because everybody knows how to make clothes and design patterns and make things look beautiful – but I don’t want all that shit if the mindset is not what I can relate to. So even if a brand has a beautiful coat, if the person who designed it is not the kind of person I can relate to in terms of vision or opinion or culture, then I just don’t want to wear it. And I think that is different from lots of people.

You think for most people garments eclipse meaning?

Raf Simons

I think lots of people just grab whatever they can, simply because it is beautiful. And I think that is where fashion became a very different thing in the last decade. You take a bag from this brand, shoes from that one, a coat from another. When I was growing up, I always liked the fact that in fashion there was this idea of the Margiela woman, or the Dries Van Noten woman, or the Yohji Yamamoto woman or the Helmut Lang woman, or the Prada woman, or Prada man. It was based on mindset and culture. And because I think that the mindset that Prada has is extreme, I am very impressed that it could be scaled up to become this kind of institution. I am a big mess of course, because I have a similarly extreme mindset and yet I am still sitting here with a small brand!

Miuccia Prada

It doesn’t matter. You can have a small brand or a big brand, but the influence you have can be huge, in either case.

Do you recognize what Raf is saying about the clothes needing a mindset?

Miuccia Prada

Yes, I agree. You look at something and think it is a beautiful, but who cares about clothes if the mindset doesn’t correspond to you. Also, without sounding pretentious, I think that while people like us are very demanding, or sophisticated, or whatever you want to say, I think this sense of criticism is quite rare. Most people tend to have such a superficial opinion of things.

Raf Simons

The other outstanding thing about Miuccia is that she is a true pioneer, and there are very few pioneers in the fashion world. There are a lot of followers in fashion, as there always has been. In the 1950s and 1960s it was the same. Now I sometimes think that fashion no longer has a memory.

Miuccia Prada

Oh, yes, yes, completely! These days, the last person to have done something, is the one who owns it. Memory in fashion doesn’t even last six months.

I think that Prada’s mindset is quite extreme, so I am very impressed that it could be scaled up to become this kind of institution.

Why do you think that is?

Miuccia Prada

People get too much information, too much of everything.

Raf Simons

When you are a more-established fashion brand, you are not supposed to say things about new people coming through, because then you are thought to be complaining. But I think it is clear enough to everyone what is new and what is not new, what is a copy; what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense.

How hard is it to continue finding original ideas? Is originality absolutely fundamental to what you do?

Miuccia Prada

I like the idea of doing something that is new, that is for sure. At least I tend towards that. But it sometimes feels like everything has been done, so today it is sometimes more about context and how you choose to put things together. For instance, you can work on something that is pop, and why women like bows, hearts, pink, and so on, and so the collection plays on that sense of obviousness.

Do you like the idea that you are sometimes referencing yourself in your own archives?

Miuccia Prada

I prefer not to, although I sometimes decide to do it. And anyway I have to say one thing about Raf: sometimes I think I’ve had a fantastic idea, and Olivier, who works with me and Fabio on shows and knows Raf’s work so well, says to me, ‘Miuccia, Raf already did that before’. [Laughs]

Miuccia Prada & Raf Simons. - © System Magazine

Raf, earlier you made reference to your Belgian-ness, and I was interested to know how relevant or important you think your respective origins are in the context of fashion design?

Raf Simons

Belgians have no real history when it comes to clothing or designing or manufacturing, so in that sense I think it was quite weird that suddenly there was Belgian fashion, with Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester… And I think it was important not to compare Belgian fashion to Paris or Italy – with no production possibilities, no factories in its history.

Miuccia Prada

Maybe that is why it is interesting.

Raf Simons

I think so, yes. And since there was no history, everybody was feeling the desire to do their thing, but were shy about the exposure they might get. We feel small because we are a small country, but then deep inside a lot can happen when you feel small. That is a psychological thing, so I could feel from that generation that there was so much they wanted to let out, but they were shy and reluctant. I find that in fashion the people who scream the loudest very often have the least to say. Anyway, I think that my generation, which is the following generation, definitely carried the same weight of not really being supported by the country, because there is no system.

Miuccia Prada

It was very relevant for fashion, that different approach, fashion changed after that.

Raf Simons

With the other countries, Italy, America, France, there was a ground and a fashion structure to build from. And I think that a designer like Martin Margiela had a problem thinking about structure during his whole career. He was not structured, he was a creative person, and had he not had his business partner, Jenny Meirens, maybe we would never have even heard about him. I think that’s the case for quite a few of us.

Mrs. Prada, as time goes by, do you feel you have a greater ambivalence or a greater fondness for your Italian-ness?

Miuccia Prada

The way I was brought up was never really Italian. I mean, I’m deeply rooted in Italy, but that was never at the top of my thinking. I just wanted to be in the world, so I never felt this Italian-ness, even though I maybe am so Italian. But last year I kind of decided to be more patriotic….

Raf Simons

Could you see yourself working in another country?

Miuccia Prada

No, I live here. I am very happy and proud of the fact that I live in the home where I was born, and the place where I started to become political is right next door – all my history is here. That grounds me and gives me strength, as do my friends.

Raf Simons

But do you think that your work would look different if you were to design it on a completely different continent?

Miuccia Prada

I have no idea… I don’t think so. But who knows?

Sometimes, I’ll think I’ve had a fantastic idea, but Olivier Rizzo, who works with me and knows Raf’s work, says, ‘Miuccia, Raf’s already done that.

Another question for you both: an auctioneer in Paris recently told me, ‘Fashion no longer has prestige’. It was a comment that’s really stuck with me. I wanted to get your thoughts on this.

Raf Simons: I think the opposite.
Miuccia Prada: Me, too. More and more. I have to say, when I was starting this job, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it felt like it was the worst possible moment to be a fashion designer. This was the feminist revolution and I was leftist, working for the [Communist] Party, yet I loved fashion and that prevailed. But there was a real sense of shame for me to be working in fashion because it felt too superficial. And then, maybe 10 years ago, I noticed so much appreciation from intellectuals, artists, architects and so on. They really respect fashion now, they enjoy my position, and seeing what I can do for them with my Fondazione. I think it is curious how what I learned through fashion has had so much influence on the Fondazione, because fashion is very free – at least in our minds – and I think that one of my challenges now is to demonstrate how my job as a fashion designer can help improve my work in the Fondazione. So I totally disagree that fashion has lost its prestige.
Raf Simons: I agree completely with Miuccia; I think it is extremely prestigious. In my opinion, the only problem with fashion is that it’s become pop.
Miuccia Prada: Completely, like music.
Raf Simons: I didn’t study fashion, but for the kids from my generation who studied fashion in the 1980s, there was a slight feeling of shame about it. Parents would say, ‘Oh God, our kid’s into fashion, why can’t he be a painter or something?’ Whereas these days, I get the impression that all parents want their kids to be in fashion! Because it’s become very popular and mainstream and there is big prestige and there are big-money jobs, and everybody wants to be in that world. So I think it is very wrong what he says. It is not elitist anymore, maybe, but that is something different. I’ve said this before: I don’t think we should feel ashamed that fashion was once elitist, and not for everyone. I don’t think it was wrong. But I also don’t think it is wrong that now it is supposed to be for everybody.

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