Patrizio Bertelli, the CEO of the Prada Group (Prada S.p.A.), was born in Arezzo, Tuscany in 1946 in a family with a long-standing legal tradition.
In 1968, when he was still very young, he started his very first business in Arezzo: a small firm producing belts and bags that would lay the groundwork for his future entrepreneurial activity.
In the late 1970s, at a trade fair, he met Miuccia Prada, who would later become his wife, and with her he set up a plan to expand the Prada brand by bringing the manufacture in-house and an innovative business model based on direct control over the entire supply chain and with a sharp focus on quality and attention to detail at every stage of the process.
Moreover, Patrizio Bertelli’s ability to sense shifts in society and in the market, and to understand their aspirations, prompted him to revamp Prada’s image without altering its DNA, combining the brand’s know-how and centenary history with a modern take.
It was the beginning of a famously successful partnership, illustrated by the very history of the Prada Group, one of the world’s leading luxury goods firms.
From the 1980s Prada grew steadily, creating its women’s shoe collections in 1983, launching the Prada women’s wear collection in 1988 and, in 1993, Miu Miu – a brand whose personality is as strong, provocative and sophisticated as it is breezy and cutting-edge – and the Prada menswear collection. Church’s, the leading brand for luxury classic footwear, and Car Shoe, the inventor of the driving loafers with the soft rubber-studded sole (patented in 1963), are subsequently acquired in 1999 and 2001 respectively, followed by the luxury pastry shop Marchesi 1824. In the year 2000, the Prada and Miu Miu Eyewear collections are launched, shortly followed by fragrance collections for both brands.
At the same time, the distribution network was developed for all brands based on an international expansion plan, through the opening of a growing number of directly operated stores. Furthermore, in the late 1990s, Patrizio Bertelli and Miuccia Prada decided to revisit the concept of shopping from an innovative angle, in collaboration with leading architects such as Rem Koolhaas and Herzog & de Meuron (both Pritzker Prize winners). Thus the stores complementing the network of traditional Prada shops, called “Prada Epicenters”, saw the light and became veritable urban landmarks where luxury goods, design and state-of-the-art technology are skilfully brought together in a range of exclusive experiences and services.
On 24 June 2011, Prada S.p.A. floated 20% of its shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKSE).
The Prada Group currently has 634 directly operated stores in 70 different countries (as of 31 December 2018), a 3.1 billion euro turnover and over 13,000 direct employees worldwide.
Patrizio Bertelli combines his business activities with cultural and sporting interests, which he shares with Miuccia Prada.
Fondazione Prada was launched in 1993 with the aim of organizing and sponsoring contemporary art exhibitions, film festivals and several other cultural activities with an international appeal, hosted at various venues owned by the Prada Group. From May 2011 Fondazione Prada started growing; an exhibition space was opened in Venice, in the 18th-century palazzo Ca’ Corner della Regina, on the Grand Canal, which was also restored for the purpose. In 2015, the Fondazione’s permanent headquarters saw the light in Milan, with 19,000 square metres of exhibition space, also including a cinema. They were created in a former early-20th-century industrial complex – revamped by Rem Koolhaas – which has swiftly become one of the leading centres for art and culture worldwide and a veritable catalyst and landmark for the city. Lastly, in December 2016, Osservatorio, a space devoted to photography, was opened in Milan in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
A keen sailor, in 1997 Bertelli created the “Prada Challenge for the America’s Cup 2000” and presented its challenge for the America’s Cup, the oldest trophy in the history of sports and the most legendary international sailing competition.
Prada participated as a sponsor of team Luna Rossa in four editions of the America’s Cup (2000, 2003, 2007 e 2013), winning the challenger selection in 2000 and going through to the final in 2007 and 2013.
In June 2017, Luna Rossa once again presented its challenge for the America’s Cup, becoming the Challenger of Record for the 36th edition, set to take place in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2021.
Prada has also been given the role of Title Sponsor for the Challengers’ Selection Series – now named the “Prada Cup” – and Presenting Sponsor for the 36th America’s Cup.
Patrizio Bertelli received an honorary degree in Business Economics from the University of Florence and an honorary Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the CUOA Business School; in 2006 the American magazine Time ranked him and Miuccia Prada in the top 100 most influential couples in the world and in 2012 he was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame, the first Italian ever to receive the accolade.