This GQ interview with Miuccia Prada may be one of my favorite interviews ever conducted. So well worded and unpretentious.
GQ: My first memory of an Italian woman is Sophia Loren. Do you have a first memory of American men? Maybe how they dressed?
MP: I’m not interested in how people dress. Of course, I recognize if somebody’s elegant. But fashion doesn’t interest me. People interest me. If you ask, do you like strong men or weak men, I’d say, I like who I like.
GQ: Okay, so no fashion questions. Who was the first boy you were ever in love with?
MP: I will never answer that question. [laughs]
GQ: How old were you when you first…
GQ: Do you remember the first boy you had a crush on?
MP: I started kind of young. I think around 13. Twelve.
GQ: What did you learn?
MP: [laughs] I will never answer.
GQ: Okay, look—I’ll go first. You know what I told a girl the other day?
MP: That you had another girl and she should give it up?
MP: What did you say to her?
GQ: Well, I was on a date—
MP: The process of a date, I think, is terrible. Horrible. Because everything is banal and predicted.
GQ: It’s like this interview—it’s sort of a bad date. You certainly don’t want to be here, right?
MP: No! This is not true. I just hate talking about myself.
GQ: The problem with dates is that they’re programmed seduction—you have to show up and try to seduce the person. Right? And life isn’t like that. Life is about the accidental, unscheduled seduction.
MP: Seduction is a matter of feelings and people opening themselves. I don’t think it’s something tricky—it’s being human. And everybody is seduced by something different. You want a little bit of champagne?
GQ: Champagne? Yeah, that’d be great.
MP: Good. [A minute later, an assistant enters with champagne and two glasses.] Tell me about dates and dating. Is it true what you read in magazines—that there is the thing you have to do on the first date and the thing you have to do on the second date, and then by the third date you can get—what do you say, carried over?
GQ: You mean, have sex? In New York, yes. That’s how it goes, usually.
MP: Yes? New York really must be terrible.
GQ: You know that show Sex and the City?
MP: Embarrassing! I was thinking New York is like that. I have the impression that the people are like that—the women, the bitchiness.
GQ: The thing is, too many women see that show and they think that’s how their life should be. Rather than create their life, they imitate a stupid show. And that’s the worst thing you can do. Right?
MP: Oh no, it’s terrible. Also the way of total and sure unhappiness. It’s what I say all the time to my girls in the office here: The more they dress for sex, the less they will have love or sex. These girls throw away so much energy in this search for beauty and sexiness. I think that the old rules were much more clever and better than the rules now. The trouble is, most people are not so generous. Everybody wants love for themselves. I hear this all the time from the women I work with. I hear them say, “I want, I want.” I never hear them saying what they want to give.
GQ: Do you tell them that?
MP: Yes, of course. They don’t listen. With women, the more unhappy they are, the more undressed they are. This is true. Dignity’s another very important part of this. Sex and the City is the opposite of dignity. You have to have dignity for your body—this is with men and women. You need to have dignity towards how you are, how you dress, how you behave. Very important. Men are always much more dignified than most women.
MP: Because women have the stress of being beautiful, of age and youth. Men don’t have all that. And with women, that stress causes a lot of mistakes and bad choices—a lot of not being their true self. You know, the older I get, the more I prefer to talk to old people. Old people or kids.
GQ: So you want me to leave?
MP: [laughs] Because what they say is more spontaneous.
GQ: They have the freedom to tell the truth. Kids haven’t learned how to lie, and old people just don’t care anymore what people think.
GQ: What do you remember about being a kid?
MP: That I had no fun. My family was too serious. They didn’t take care of me—it was a very serious and severe life. Not severe in a bad way; just boring—like totally neutral. I felt no emotion. I remember total flatness, and I didn’t have many friends. Also, when we were on vacation, we had to go to bed in the afternoon. We had to come home at seven o’clock, and all of the others stayed out. My parents were truly severe.
GQ: You had to go to bed in the afternoon?
MP: I hated it. [laughs]
GQ: You probably just lay there and thought about escaping.
MP: No, I was not even that rebellious.
GQ: What do you remember of your father?
MP: I don’t talk about him.
GQ: You don’t like to live in the past.
MP: I like the past very much!
GQ: Only for vintage clothes, I think.
MP: Exactly! [laughs] I like getting older and being the person who people ask for help.
GQ: Being the wise woman.
GQ: You know, you weren’t always so wise—can we talk about when you used to be a mime? What’s with that? I mean, in America, being a mime is like admitting you are a certified freak.
MP: In America many things that are interesting are seen as odd.
GQ: Well, I had a theory about how it relates to your success: Mime is all about observing people and feeling what’s inside, right?
MP: I did mime because it was the time in life when you search. There were all these crazy, strange things to do at that moment, and mime had kind of a strange ambience, strange people, so I liked it. It was about self-control and being able to control your body and mind. It was a school of discipline. That’s what has stayed with me, discipline—to spend three days to focus on learning to move one little part of your body the right way. [She holds up her index finger and moves the top third back and forth.] To practice that for hours. This has stuck with me because it is what I do now—focus. To stand in one place and get it right.
GQ: That’s funny—you went from being a mime to being the spokesperson for the Prada Foundation, which supports art and artists.
MP: It’s very interesting: Because of the Prada name, I can do things that people normally would not care about in the culture. I can have an exhibit by some forgotten artist who I love, and because it’s Prada, people will come see it.
GQ: But isn’t that exciting for you? That power?
MP: Yes, very much. Also very embarrassing.
MP: Prada is something that should be so mundane, like clothes.
GQ: Why are you so insecure, Miuccia?
MP: For many years, I thought my work was so…not stupid, but I had the sense it was not real. I am trying to get past this feeling. You want some more champagne?
GQ: Yes, I would.
MP: Good. I need some. I respect my work. But also I think it’s very superficial. So that’s why we are doing all these other activities, because I’m a moralistic person in the end. But I am in a key moment. I kind of understand that I have to use my work more completely without being ashamed. [raises her glass] Chin-chin, yes?
GQ: Chin! So what is the point of fashion? The average GUY pictures a few strange people sitting around indulging their bizarre whims, and I’m not sure you disagree.
MP: Clothes can be important. I am learning this. For instance, often when I design and I wonder what is the point, I think of someone having a bad time in their life. Maybe they are sad, and they wake up and they put on something that I’ve made, and it makes them feel just a bit better. So in that sense, fashion is a little help in the life of a person. But very little. After all, if you have a serious drama, who cares about the clothes?
GQ: I believe in uniforms—finding a look you like and sticking to it.
MP: I love uniforms because they allow you to hide. No one knows what you are thinking, so it’s a very appropriate and correct way to be yourself.
GQ: You seem haunted by some voice in the back of your head, A voice telling you that you’re not good enough.
GQ: Where does that come from?
MP: From Catholicism first and Communism after.
GQ: And your parents?
MP: My parents—yes, yes, oh, my God, yes.
GQ: Back to Communism for a second. in the ’60s you were a member of the party, and you’re still political. Do you ever think about running for office?
MP: [laughs] When I am really old and no longer a designer.
GQ: But people must talk to you about that, right?
MP: Yes. And it is something I think about. But in the future. Right now, maybe I can be political in my work. We will see. I like to be useful to people. I want to confront myself. I challenge and doubt myself. Basically, what I don’t like is to get bored.