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Prada Calling Via Venture With LG

Handbags, shoes, ready-to-wear, beauty products -- now Prada wants to reach out and touch its fans even more.

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MILAN — Handbags, shoes, ready-to-wear, beauty products — now Prada wants to reach out and touch its fans even more.

The Italian luxury goods company said Tuesday that it plans to launch a signature mobile phone early next year in collaboration with LG Electronics of South Korea. Details about design and pricing remain under wraps, but a Prada spokesman said the phone would feature an advanced touch interface that eliminates the conventional keypad.

It has introduced a limited collection of home products in a further extension of the Prada brand.

“As we do with ready-to-wear and accessories, we were looking at a breakthrough,” Prada chief Patrizio Bertelli said in a statement about the mobile phone venture. “Consistently with our approach, we are not branding an existing product; rather, Miuccia and I have been working with LG to give this new phone a very strong character and unique style, both in its contents and in its design.”

The spokesman said LG contacted Prada a year ago and that the fashion house agreed to the venture because, in addition to the South Korean firm’s technological know-how and industrial design prowess, “there was a real interest in working together for a new product on every aspect, from its software and graphic interface to its design and packaging. The phone will exist only as branded by Prada.”

The spokesman said Prada believes “a mobile phone is more and more an accessory, and although it has a technological and practical component, it is increasingly an object of design and style, a status symbol which almost defines a person — definitely one of the most important objects in a woman’s handbag.”

Distribution will hit Europe first, then Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. The Korean version is scheduled to bow in the second quarter of 2007.

The phone will be available at selected Prada boutiques and in telecommunications distribution channels. “This is a true business for us. We want to sell a significant number of pieces, and it’s not a limited-edition accessory,” said the spokesman.

“Prada’s legacy for classic and sophisticated design meant they were the perfect partner to develop this shared vision of innovative technology and ultimate style,” Mun-Hwa Park, president and ceo of LG subsidiary LG Electronics Mobile Communications Co., said in the statement. “We are passionate about developing exclusive phones that appeal to consumers’ desire to express their personality through their choice of mobile and feel very strongly that Prada shares this belief.”

This story first appeared in the December 13, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In home furnishings, Prada has rounded out its successful Heritage accessories line made with vintage fabrics and the brand’s logo from 1913 with four objects for the house or travel: a case with two silver flutes and bottle opener; a silver thermos housed in a leather case; a gardening set complete with leather-piped apron, gloves, tools and shears, and a lunch box with cutlery, linen napkins, glasses, silver plates, an oil-and-vinegar set and containers.

The products can be ordered at Prada’s flagships worldwide and will be delivered in about three weeks.

Retail prices range from $1,500 for the flutes to $ 6,500 for the gardening set.

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