Jun 24, 2011
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Prada: From Milan boutique to Asian powerhouse

Jun 24, 2011

June 24 - Prada, which began trading in Hong Kong on Friday, is a family-owned Milanese fashion house that has been around for nearly a century and has become one of the global luxury market's top brands.

A woman walks past a Prada shop on a rainy afternoon in Hong Kong (Photo: AFP, Mike Clarke)

The history of the Prada fashion house began in 1913 with a shop in the chic Victor Emmanuel II shopping arcade in the heart of Milan. The boutique sold luxury luggage and became the official supplier to the Italian royal family.

Founder Mario Prada's granddaughter, Miuccia, took over at the end of the 1970s and turned the company into an international powerhouse together with her husband Patrizio Bertelli, who is the CEO of the group.

Under her leadership, Prada evolved into a fashion brand with different price ranges and a wide array of accessories including eyewear and perfumes.

In 1988, Prada took part in the Milan catwalks for the first time.

The company's international expansion began in 1986 with the opening of boutiques in New York and Madrid, followed by London, Paris and Tokyo.

In 1993, it launched the more youthful and economical brand Miu Miu.

At the end of the 1990s, Prada went on a buying spree by snapping up Jil Sander and Helmut Lang, which it later sold off to raise some cash.

It partnered with LVMH to take control of Fendi and then sold off its 25.5-percent stake to the French giant in 2001.

It also bought shoe companies Car Shoe and Church's, which it still owns.

Prada's net profit last year bounced up 150 percent to 250.8 million euros ($359 million) as turnover rose 31 percent to 2.05 billion euros -- thanks mainly to the boom in sales in its main market, Asia.

The company's debt at the end of last year was at 375.4 million euros.

The group employs nearly 1,900 people and has a network of 319 shops.

Following its initial public offering (IPO), the company is still majority controlled by the Prada family and Bertelli.

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