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Prada will stay in family, made in Italy, CEO says

STICKING TO PRINCIPLES:The luxury fashion house’s chief executive said the firm owns 35% of its factories and 80% of those are in Italy, bucking the industry trend


A Prada employee on Friday works at the company’s new industrial headquarters and factory designed by architect Guido Canali in Valvigna, Italy.

Photo: Reuters

Prada has no intention of selling, CEO Patrizio Bertelli said on Friday, adding that his elder son with co-chief executive and creative director Miuccia Prada is being groomed to take over the family-owned Italian fashion group.

During the unveiling of a handbag production site near Florence, Bertelli said that his 30-year-old son Lorenzo “is preparing so that one day he can become the head of Prada,” assuming that once he has learned the ropes he also still has “the desire to do it.”

Lorenzo started working in the communications department in September.

While other Italian companies, including fashion brands, have sold when facing generational change, Bertelli, 72, said: “I have no intention to sell.”

Nor is he looking to expand the Prada Group, which includes the Miu Miu fashion brand, Church’s and Car Shoe footwear brands, and the Marchesi pastry company, with fresh acquisitions.

He did not say when he or Miuccia, 69, would consider stepping aside.

“I think that retirement is tied to the physical and mental state of a person, and if one is efficient,” he said. “Retirement is a silly myth of a society that is old in principle.”

Past examples show that the transition from the founding generation is not always a successful one, with the creative transition often being the toughest.

The Gianfranco Ferre brand has virtually disappeared after a period of receivership and then purchase by a Middle Eastern group. Jil Sander, which Prada briefly held, has changed designers several times since Sander gave up control. Roberto Cavalli is on its second designer after the founder turned over control to a private equity firm.

The new site in the Arno Valley is where the fashion group is to develop the sought-after Prada and Miu Miu handbags and leather accessories.

The handbag is key to Prada’s success, comprising 60 percent of its revenues, with the rest split largely between ready-to-wear and footwear.

Prada has forecast a return to sales growth this year after several years of profit decline.

Bertelli said that the best way for the brand to respond to trends is to completely control its production sites.

Prada owns 35 percent of its production sites, 80 percent of which are in Italy — bucking what the sector trend of outsourcing production, he said.

He would not disclose how much the Valvigna plant investment cost, only saying that it was less than 70 million euros (US$82.47 million) — 2 million euros of which were for the greenery.

Like other fashion brands, Prada is targeting millennials, the generation born before 2000 who are up to 35 years old — encompassing the ages of Bertelli’s two sons.

They are responsible for 60 percent of Prada sales and will inevitably tip the luxury market even more toward China, where there are 400 million millennials, compared with 80 million in the US, Bertelli said.

After Gucci — owned by the French conglomerate Kering — presented the investment community with a video showing a robot making shoes this week, Bertelli said such production does not fit his notion of luxury.

“To make a luxury product, like a handbag, it is not possible,” Bertelli said, but added that it could be done for more casual footwear, such as sneakers.

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