Prada, Miuccia, 1949–, Italian fashion designer, b. Milan as Maria Bianchi. She studied political science (Ph.D. Univ. of Milan, 1973) and then studied and performed mime at Milan's Teatro Piccolo. In 1970 she joined the Prada family business, which crafted elegant if somewhat stodgy leather goods, introduced leather-trimmed, waterproof nylon backpacks, which proved popular and fashionable. In 1979 she inherited the business, and in 1985 began making handsome, durable handbags that became a fashion staple. Prada launched her first clothing collection in 1989; her simple, elegant clothes contrasted with the self-consciously sexy garments of many other designers. Her high fashion Miu Miu line of clothing and accessories had its first showing in 1993. Since the mid-1990s Prada has been an important fashion designer, creating elegantly understated, cooly minimalist clothes that often border on a beautiful ugliness. The firm now has stores worldwide, and has acquired such fashion houses as Helmut Lang and Jil Sander.
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