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Prada

Miuccia, Miuccia, Miuccia (or "Mrs. Prada," as she's sometimes called with affectionate respect): The name is always on everyone's lips. It's not a stretch to say that retailers and editors collectively hold their breath each season in anticipation of what the industry's favorite contrarian will send down the runway. Will it be inspired by fairies? Dowdy housewives? Or something more abstract, like "beauty in the face of war"? Will it bear ideas that reverberate throughout the entire industry?

Miuccia is the granddaughter of Mario Prada, who founded a leather-goods company in Milan in 1913. She inherited the family business in 1978 but was a rather unlikely successor: Prada was, of all things, a mime with a doctorate in political science and no formal design training. All she had to offer was a passion for the clothes in her closet—which included the Yves Saint Laurent she wore to pass out Communist party leaflets in the seventies.

But in 1985, Prada designed a black nylon handbag that became a sensation; the world took notice. A ready-to-wear collection followed in 1989, and since then, she along with her husband and business partner, Patrizio Bertelli, have built the company into a $2 billion empire.

Though her contributions to fashion are legion—diamond granny brooches on finest-cashmere twinsets, the bowling bag, the ubiquitous black nylon backpack of the nineties, unlikely drab colors like bottle green, to name a few—Prada's influence goes beyond any one accessory or article of clothing. The New York Times' Cathy Horyn credits her with teaching people "to look at fashion in the abstract, and in relation to art and culture." Sarah Mower has dubbed her "fashion's most restless creative force" on Style.com.

In 1993 and again in 2004, Prada took home the CFDA's International Award, and the following year, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

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