In 1984, just a few years after taking the helm of her family business, Miuccia Prada launched a backpack made from Pocono nylon.
The use of an industrial fabric (she had them made in a factory that made parachutes) went against everything that was considered luxury at the time.
In an era of Versace and Gucci, high gloss and power shoulders, Miuccia’s now-iconic nylon backpack was revolutionary in its un-sexiness. "I was searching," Prada told Vogue, "because I hated all the bags that were around. They were so formal, so lady, so traditional, so classic."
Now, decades later, Prada’s signature nylon appears on the runway season after season and the house uses around 700,000 meters of the material annually.
However, to use such vast amounts of a plastic-based product is, in the current climate, not so chic, which is why today the Italian house has announced the launch the “Re-Nylon” collection, a range of six classic bags made out of nylon reclaimed from ocean plastics, fishing nets and textile fibre waste.
“It’s a massive reduction of nylon and a big impact in terms of sustainability,” Lorenzo Bertelli, head of marketing and communication at Prada Group told the Business of Fashion.
Prada, which earlier this year announced it would not use fur in any of its collections, worked with textile yarn producer Aquafil to make the regenerated nylon, called Econyl.
Econyl is obtained through the recycling and purification process of plastic waste collected from oceans, fishing nets, and textile fibre waste and, perhaps most importantly, it can be recycled indefinitely, with no loss of quality. Brands like Gucci and Stella McCartney are already using Aquafil’s trademarked Econyl thread, which it claims saved 70,000 barrels of oil for every 10,000 tons of thread made.
While the initial capsule will feature just six unisex bag styles: a belt bag, a shoulder bag, a tote bag, a duffle and two Prada backpacks, Prada’s ultimate goal is to make the entire nylon collection from Econyl nylon by the end of 2021. The brand says it will also donate an undisclosed percentage of proceeds from the Re-Nylon capsule to a project it is developing with UNESCO related to environmental sustainability.
The bags in the eco-capsule will initially sell for approximately 20 per cent more than their plastic counterparts, but Prada says it’s working to reduce the price difference so consumers will not have to pay more once the line transitioned to fully recycled material.