Prada owners, the world’s most influential luxury industry power couple

In a rare interview to the New York Magazine, Miuccia Prada and husband Patrizio Bertelli, owners of luxury giant Prada, open up their manufacturing facilities, creative studios and offices. Some of the key insights of the interview:

The eponymous figurehead, Prada has always been the charismatic creative force—were it not for her designs, and indeed for the foundation of her family business, Prada would not exist at all. But the architect of the empire is her peerlessly driven husband, Bertelli.

He has built the machine behind the brand: a living, breathing organism so vast, so well-oiled, and so intricate that it would be the envy of Thomas Edison. Bertelli is imperious by profession but iconoclastic by nature—a combination of seemingly contradictory qualities that has enabled him, as Prada’s chief executive radical, to reimagine its luxury-goods industrial production line as a sort of artisanal utopia.

Bertelli has compared himself to Steve Jobs—for his freakish levels of quality control, rather than his asceticism, which Bertelli doesn’t remotely share. He is a committed—indeed, encyclopedic—foodie. He drives a Porsche, sails a 75-foot yacht, and travels by private jet. He has broken mirrors because he thought they made people look fat.

Bertelli met Miuccia Prada in 1977, the year she took over the leather-goods business founded by her grandfather in 1913. Bertelli had dropped out of an engineering course at the University of Bologna when he realized how expensive his peers were finding the belts they needed to hold up their flares.

About his two sons with Miuccia, Lorenzo, 26, and Giulio, 24. “They’re doing what I want them to do. The older one has graduated with a degree in philosophy, and now he’s a rally car driver.” A philosophical race-car driver? “Yes,” he said proudly. “Typical of the Bertelli family. The other one has done three years of architecture in London, and now he’s sailing around the world.”

“I hope I’m educated enough to realize that we’ve been dragged around too much by consumerism,” he replied, “which is a little useless at times.” He paused for emphasis. “I said useless. The word is important.”

There was a digression then, about the history of department stores—a phenomenon that came to Italy relatively late. When I asked if Prada wasn’t also in the business of consumerism, Bertelli paused. “Yes and no,” he said. “I think of consumerism without a purpose to be a purely financial view of things, without consideration. If you take finance and compare it to, I don’t know, culture or the environment, it’s not necessarily a given that finance has to prevail.

select quotes from The New York Magazine

Patrizio Bertelli and Miuccia Prada