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Inside The Wardrobe Of A Prada Superfan

In the fickle world of fashion, what keeps one repeatedly going back to a particular label through the years or even decades? For interior designer Florence Lim, it all boils down to good old loyalty and a singular, dogged love for her chosen designer Prada – trends be damned. Here, we get her to turn the cameras on herself and (a portion of) her carefully amassed treasure trove.
What attracts you to Prada?
“I love Miuccia Prada’s aesthetics. It isn’t about being flashy with big logos nor overtly sexy a la Versace. It’s intellectual yet interesting; it can be ironic, deliberately unattractive and subversive. It’s a brand favoured by people who don’t follow fashion trends. I love the fact that for every collection, there is a transformation. Her clothes are about groundbreaking experimentalism each season.   Miuccia Prada’s looks are timeless. I can wear a piece that was purchased 10 or 20 years ago (if I’m lucky enough to still fit into it) and it would still look au courant. The label is not really about fashion. It is never about superficial beauty. In fact, more often than not, some designs are deemed unfeminine, eccentric, even strange. Her clothes make a statement in the most visceral sense – and where Miuccia leads, women follow.” How were you first introduced to the brand?
“I don’t remember exactly but I must have read about it in fashion magazines. I was obsessed with reading Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in those days and devoured the articles relating to fashion. The fashion press was going on about the ubiquitous black nylon rucksack in those days.” When did you buy your first piece?
“From recollection, I must have bought my first Prada bag in 1987 when I went to Milan on my first shopping trip. I went with my friends who were based there and they took me to the first and only Prada shop then at the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle which had been in existence since 1913.    Buying a Prada bag was on my wishlist. I knew that if I was to get it in Milan, I’d make considerable savings rather than purchasing it in Hong Kong, where I was living then. In those days, Hong Kong was the fashion capital of Asia. It stocked the most sophisticated designer brands and had the best boutiques with the best choices like Joyce.   When Miuccia launched her first collection in 1988, a tiny shop in Central Building stocked a very small selection of her clothes. I immediately saw how simple and quiet the collection was – a pair of black skinny trousers, a beautiful cashmere jumper, and some flat shoes. The quality and cut were beautiful and yet very subdued.  Would it be accurate to say you mainly collect Prada?
“I would say that Prada is my go-to brand. I am a loyal customer; it’s my first port of call. Following which, I would add pieces from other designers that I am into for the moment like Saint Laurent, Valentino, and lately, Dior. How many Prada pieces do you own?
“I honestly don’t know how many pieces I have. Some of my older pieces are in storage as I can’t fit it all at home but I’d normally buy between 10 and 15 items including accessories each season. I guess you can do the math since I have been buying for 30 years.   I have a real weakness for shoes. Perhaps it is because it’s so difficult to find shoes that fit me that when I spy a pair that comes in my size, I’ll immediately seize the opportunity to do so and end up buying more than I need – just in case.” What are some of the unique, one-of-a-kind and treasured Prada pieces in your wardrobe?
“Where do I start? After buying the brand for over 30 years, there are just so many collections that I’ve fallen in love with.   Starting from the Spring/Summer 1996 collection, Miuccia started showing her signature avocado green/chartreuse colour combination as a striped pattern which is still being re-issued from time to time. It was also the beginning of the era of the chunky flat shoes which are synonymous with the brand – they highlighted the deliberate ugliness and intellectual subversion that Mrs Prada is well known for.   Spring/Summer 2004 was one of Prada’s most seminal collections. It was the first tie-dye, dip dye collection by the brand. I bought all the cardigans in their various combinations – they were asymmetrically-buttoned with a bejewelled raffia brooch. The colours were beautiful. The pieces were easy to wear and not too complicated and I still wear them today. Nothing beats wearing a vintage Prada: you feel like a part of a special tribe who actually had the foresight to buy these pieces years ago.   I love looking at the gold baby doll dress with a feather print from the Spring/Summer 2005 collection.  I bought that dress while I was still in a cast after breaking my patella. I wore it to my sister’s garden party that summer and paired it with flat sandals and I still felt utterly glamourous (it also helped that I am tan.)   There is a gorgeous coat in lace crochet and in pastel pink and aquamarine colours from the Spring/Summer 2012 collection. Pastels, lace and crochet can look saccharine sweet but in Prada’s hands, it’s a great look to be strutting around The Beverly Hills Hotel feeling Hollywood perfect.” How do you store and maintain your pieces?
“When I moved to Singapore, I never had enough closet space so I had no choice but to place my older unused things in an air-conditioned storage. With the humidity, you need to safeguard your assets. I still have not gotten around cataloguing all my stuff. It’s on my to-do list.” What’s one collection or design you’ve always wanted to get but could not find?
“Prada’s furs are fabulous. There are special trunk shows featuring special-order furs and I have attended a few of them and have purchased a number of fur jackets. I’ve also bought a great stole in turquoise mink with navy blue daisies.   However, the one thing I never bought and deeply regretted are the gorgeous astrakhan coats which Miuccia has done over the years.  She has stopped producing fur since 2019 so I will never be able to buy them. The good news is that my mum has one and we are practically the same size so maybe one day I can get to wear the coat.” What is the most extreme thing you’ve ever done in the name of collecting?
“I am quite a sensible character – I don’t go to extremes. However, I am quite an organised individual, so before the season starts, I make sure I check out what I like from the lookbook and send images to my sales adviser to try to get the looks down for me to try.    Often times, some of the looks I like during the show are only made for the runway and not produced for the sales floor. If that is the case, then it’s fine. Otherwise, it is up to the sales adviser to locate the look and size I want if it exists anywhere in the world. I just need to be patient. If it’s meant to be, I will have it.” Do you have any tips for those who are new to collecting Prada?
“I think the most important thing in buying any fashion item is to trust your salesperson. One definitely needs to work with a good sales adviser. If they know you and your style well, they will alert you to pieces that they think would be perfect for your shape and taste. I am not a great online shopper as I need to touch and see the fabrics. Sizing varies by styles so it is often difficult to know the right fit unless you try things on.     I have been the client of Prada at Milan’s Galleria boutique for over 30 years and I especially love shopping there as the service is excellent.  They prepare the VIP room for my timed arrival with all the things they want to present for me. I feel like I am in a candy shop – they have clothes, shoes, bags, belts, and jewellery in the room. The seamstress is always on standby for me as 90 per cent of the time, the garments are altered to fit me. They go through the looks and I tell them what appeals to me and what doesn’t. Sometimes I even end up buying things I never thought I would like, but in fact, look great – that is the skill of an excellent stylist and retail staff.     Another great thing about shopping at the Galleria is that the manager of both the shoe and bag department sare at my disposal to recommend the right accessories to go with the clothes I have chosen. In the old days, I could always order bespoke shoes in my size (34.5 is uncommon).   From experience, Italy’s prices are always the lowest. However, I don’t always have the opportunity to fly to Milan, so I also shop in London’s Bond Street boutique and have a very helpful salesman there as well, though prices are slightly higher. When I am not in Europe, I also shop at Prada’s Paragon store or at its Hong Kong’s Alexandra House boutique. They all provide good service but nothing ever beats the ambiance at Prada’s Galleria store.”