MILAN — Raf Simons is the new co-creative director of Prada.
He is 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 co-designed collection is to be unveiled for spring-summer 2021 during a fashion show in Milan in September.
A collaboration between the Italian brand and the Belgian designer, which had been rumored for months, was announced at a press conference at Prada headquarters on the last day of Milan Fashion Week, and during the Boss fashion show.
“We feel the need to join as creative people in a dialogue, to bring emotion and bring co-creation,” said Simons, who was dressed in a blue coat and seated on a podium next to Miuccia Prada, who was wearing a navy sweater, trousers and a major diamond necklace.
Prada’s husband Patrizio Bertelli, co-chief executive of Prada Group, opened the meeting standing and speaking into a microphone in a conference room stuffed with paintings by Sigmar Polke, Frank Stella and Luc Tuymans.
The development suggests Prada and Bertelli are readying a succession plan at the Italian fashion house they catapulted from a historic maker of nylon accessories to a luxury mega brand — albeit one whose performance has trailed its peers in recent years due to various design and business missteps.
Asked if she was eyeing retirement at some point, Prada 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.
Asked about the length of the contract with Simons, Prada said, “In theory, it’s forever.”
Simons clarified that his Raf Simons label would continue in tandem with his Prada project, and suggested that co-creation is an idea gaining currency today.
“It’s hardly discussed openly, lots of designers are questioning their own position in an ever-evolving fashion system,” Simons said.
The announcement underlines the strong complicity between Simons and the Prada Group, which had originally tapped him to become creative director of Jil Sander in 2005.
Prada said she felt a need to reinforce the creativity in her company.
“We like each other, we respect each other,” she said. “I was sometimes criticized for not doing collaborations, so now I am doing one,” she added, flashing a big smile.
Simons suggested “there’s more strength when two creatives believe in it, than when one believes in it,” he said. “If we both believe in it, we’re going to do it.
“I do believe a lot in collaboration,” Simons said. “I think it strengthens the result.”
Simons is a longtime friend of Miuccia Prada’s and has attended several of her fashion shows.
He is best known for his signature men’s wear brand, launched in 1995, and has also done stints as the creative director of Christian Dior in Paris, and Calvin Klein in New York.
His challenge will be to continue improving the performance of the Prada brand.
In the first half of fiscal 2019-20, the Prada brand grew 4 percent to 1.28 billion euros, accounting for 83 percent of total group sales, with largely positive full-price retail sales throughout the period.
The company has also been the subject of takeover rumors, which Prada officials have denied.
Simons suggested creativity is being overshadowed by business concerns and objectives.
He acknowledged that strong businesses can be built without strong creation, but his conviction is that business is better with strong creativity.
“I don’t want to look like we are rejecting our responsibilities,” Simons said.