Prada signs on Raf Simons as co-creative director to shake up their look

Prada SpA named the Belgian designer Raf Simons as its co-creative director, adding an industry star to its ranks in an unprecedented shakeup for the Milanese fashion giant.

Simons, who was previously head designer at PVH Corp.'s Calvin Klein brand and LVMH's Christian Dior, will work side-by-side with Miuccia Prada, the brand's iconic designer and co-chief executive officer. Her signature mix of sporty and bourgeois looks has long driven success at the brand.

"I am committed and excited," Prada told reporters in a press conference in Milan. The 70-year-old designer insisted that the move was not a signal she was preparing to step down. "This is not a succession. This is a way to boost creativity."

Prada returned to growth in 2018 after several years of slumping sales, but the recovery has been facing fresh challenges in recent months in the form of political protests in Hong Kong, a key luxury-shopping hub, and in the coronavirus outbreak that has put the brakes on spending by key Chinese clients. Chinese shoppers make up more than one-third of luxury spending and two-thirds of the industry's growth.

Simons, who is known for conceptual runway shows inspired by youth sub-cultures like punk and rave, has long been a respected figure in the fashion industry. In late 2018, he left Calvin Klein after less than two years as his runway collections failed to reinvigorate demand at the underwear and jeans-maker's more affordable divisions.

While creative directors rely on extensive behind-the-scenes resources to design, market, and merchandise collections, the move by Prada is a bold attempt to have two major stars share power at the top.

Simons said he hoped the collaboration would "send a message to the world that we should not forget creativity."