MILAN — On Monday, a day after Prada revealed Raf Simons was joining the brand as co-creative director, company shares opened up 3.5 percent to 29.50 Hong Kong dollars on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, but closed down 2.98 percent as stock markets worldwide fell after the number of coronavirus cases surged in Italy and South Korea. In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1.8 percent.
As reported, Simons is set to work in partnership with Miuccia Prada “with equal responsibilities for creative input and decision-making,” the company said Sunday. Simons starts April 2, and the duo’s first codesigned collection will be unveiled for spring 2021 during a fashion show in Milan in September.
Buyers in Milan on Sunday enthused about the tie-up, as reported, and analysts and observers on Monday were equally upbeat about the change put in place at the Italian company, several seeing a possible, budding succession plan. Miuccia Prada, who is 70, asked if she was eyeing retirement at some point, brushed off the suggestion. “I like working, and I’m very excited and this will bring new wind. Please don’t make me older than I am,” she said with a laugh.
Equita analysts said in a note that they “don’t expect particular changes in the aesthetics of the brand, but the arrival of a creative figure with the weight and following of Raf Simons and the additional energy and creativity that could derive from the collaboration between two of the most important and influential designers in the sector could further support the relaunch of the brand” that is taking place.
A Milan-based luxury goods analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the decision to bring in a designer of Simons’ caliber points to an important change in direction and a possible “next phase. Prada has lagged behind its peers and [chief executive officer] Patrizio Bertelli is taking remedial actions, eyeing a younger customer, distancing the brand a bit from the storied leather goods history because their handbags are still of great quality but are no longer a driver,” in the face of the competition and the fast market changes. “Prada has so far been molded and led by the family,” but the analyst believes that Simons’ arrival “may help them to take a step back and think of the long-term future of the brand.”
“We believe the market will view this news positively on the basis that a change in designer might rejuvenate the brand and help it to catch up with the growth trends of other leading luxury brands,” Jefferies said in a note. “We think investors view the possibility of the company becoming an M&A target as remote.”
As reported, market sources speculate that Prada has been looking for a buyer, although the Italian group has denied the company is for sale. Jefferies also pointed to the risk of the second wave of a new coronavirus outbreak outside China, which has been hitting Italy, Japan and South Korea, and said the former two are among Prada’s key markets. The company is expected to report its 2019 results in mid-March.
Some observers sounded cautious notes.
“Surely the two-way respect is and will be a good foundation to work together. Miuccia already in the past had collaborators with a good track record. This challenge is bigger, given Simons’ strong personality,” said Armando Branchini, executive chairman of Milan-based InterCorporate. “In short, it will be fundamental that their first collection together be immediately successful. Only that way will the collaboration be able to continue.”
“They share a very similar aesthetic vision and they both consider fashion more a form of art that, reflecting life, does not have to necessarily be ‘beautiful’ in the most objective sense of the term but that can have small dsytonic elements, which, however, make it more interesting,” said Alessandro Maria Ferreri, ceo and owner of The Style Gate consulting firm. Simons, he continued, “is used to working with big groups and large teams [at Calvin Klein and Dior] and has a good hand on both elegant and streetwear looks and usually has great ideas on accessories. The only uncertainty is the sentence in the statement that reads ‘with equal creative rights.’ Because both have very strong personalities, either this is a clear and badly concealed passing of the baton or it’s something that can last one or two seasons at the most before someone gets tired of Raf’s presence.”
No matter, “the cross-pollination of such a unique, precise, conceptual and imaginative identity such as that of Prada with the input of another creative genius such as Raf Simons will contribute to an even richer and more diversified reading of Prada’s offer,” said Giovanna Brambilla, partner at Milan-based executive search firm Value Search. “Moreover, cross-pollination is becoming one of the leitmotifs that are more current in the fashion and luxury sector. The ability to intercept tastes, lifestyles, different trends under a single brand is key to bring on board different international and constantly evolving targets. Once again, Prada succeeds in surprising us in experimenting with alternative and unconventional paths.”