Black is back, and is the official colour for winter. And when Miuccia Prada pushes a colour as strongly as she recently did in her almost entirely black, women’s Autumn/Winter 2005-2006 collection, then the fashion world is sure to notice and follow in her fashionable footsteps. There is good reason to believe that the Milanese-born lady is the most influential fashion designer of our time. Last April Time magazine put her on the list of the “100 most important people in the world”.

Prada has thoroughly changed today’s understanding of contemporary fashion. Without Prada, people would be less brave about mixing conventional with unconventional things, combining gaudy colours or wearing artificial fibres, as if they were cashmere or silk. “Everyone who has been to one of the 165 Prada shops with their mint green walls must concede that the way many people think about clothes has changed,” Time said.

Nevertheless, the fashion designer is not prone to red carpet behaviour, and doesn’t live a rock & roll lifestyle like many of her contemporaries. In fact, Prada is a sceptic who sometimes calls her own profession dim-witted. It is hardly an industry that contributes to the well-being of the world, she muses.

Compared to her eccentric colleagues such as John Galliano, or Donatella Versace, she comes across as understated, demure, and of course intelligent. Still, she occasionally matches a lime green skirt with a purple top and black socks to express her sense of quirkiness and style. But the Italian with the aristocratic nose, antique earrings and long hair always seems stylish and perfectly turned out, if quirky. Prada, who met her husband (and now business partner) Patrizio Bertelli in 1978, began to develop the family’s quality luggage and leather goods company into a global brand upon his insistence.

Black nylon Prada rucksacks became legendary and a must-have item in the early 1990s. Prada’s 1995 wallpaper clothes, reminiscent of old shower curtains and wallpaper, were still ultra-hip. In the late 90s, the launch of Prada Sport had every respectable fashion editor and celebrity wearing the now iconic red stripe trainer. Her Milan-based company is now an empire, and the brand name can be seen in many variations, from book titles to expressions such as “Pradaism”.