This book is probably not for everyone, but if you collect, wear or just appreciate Prada, you must have this. The book itself is beautiful, solid and well-made, and presented in classic Prada styling (understated logo, deep blue-purple color packaging).
I am so happy that this book exists. It's thrilling to look at Prada's collections throughout the years: in this format, you can see her incredible talent and creativity, and her delightfully perverse, political sense of humor. Also very apparent in this format is the vast reach of her influence on other high-fashion designers over the last 20 years. Every season, you can spot Prada's direct thematic and/or acute influence--sometimes two or three years out--somewhere in some other designer's work (the most consistent and blatant culprit is Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton) but I can't think of a single Prada collection where one of her contemporaries was an obvious touchstone. Prada's work clearly cycles and is self-referential, if anything, and it's nice to know that the Prada shoes, coat or skirt suit that you bought five years ago is going to make its way back onto Prada's runway, in some updated form, in another three or four years. Considering the cost, these clothes should last for years, both in terms of wear and not making you look like a runaway from a wax museum six months after your purchase.
Some collections reproduced here stand out more than others, such as the iconic Leaf Collection (I spent my first paycheck on those green boots! and I still have them! and I still wear them!), the Brocades in Spring '02 and 03, and the Holliday & Brown collaboration. Even the "off" seasons have something to offer, usually by way of accessories: the amazing, absurd bamboo platforms in Spring 2006 and the wacky lucite chandelier shoes of this season both anchor neutral palettes for the pret-a-porter. This is not to say that there are no missteps: the goofy bowling bags in the late 90s, for example, and the satin turbans from a few years ago.
Central to Prada's brand and appeal and mystique is the environment in which the clothing and accessories are presented, and the book showcases many of Prada's beautiful stores. Prada's epicenters are like museums and art galleries, and meant to be so. Even the more ordinary boutiques are obsessive in their attention to detail. It's a fascinating concept, given that it's probably very off-putting for consumption (the idea in an art gallery is NOT to touch). Rem Koolhaus and Hertzog et De Mauron have built modern Prada palaces to stand aside the flagship in the Galleria, and if you are not in NY, Tokyo or Milan, here's your chance to visit. Time delay changing room mirrors, round glass elevators and secret corridors--there's no other designer with a patch on Prada's real estate or pitch.
I wholeheartedly concur with the previous reviewer who wished for the inclusion of more critical text. For those who just care how they look, or for those of us whose appearance is critical to our professions, clothing is aspirational as well as practical: you put these things on to be who you want to be, or how you need/want people to perceive you that day, not necessarily to be who you are. What's Prada's message? For a brand that positions itself as intellectual and smart, there is not enough said about that. Also, there have some insightful pieces elsewhere on the creation and mass-production of "luxury" as a substitute for meaning and good taste, and Prada clearly has a place in that. Isn't making your label extremely small and discrete, so only those in the know (and with money) will recognize what you are wearing (and how much disposable income you have, really obviously elitist and offensive, maybe more so than smearing gigantic logos all over everything? Isn't the idea of mass-producing quirky individuality, so that thousands of people can buy it, a profoundly cynical concept? What about Mr. Prada's unspeakably nasty comments about dumping older customers, or not making larger sizes so fat people won't be seen in these clothes? Pretty despicable.
Lack of critical reflection aside, this book is still required reading/viewing for collectors and fans. Whatever misgivings you may have about thinking of clothes as art, or about the elitism of high fashion, Prada is the finest designer and innovator working today, and this book is a showpiece to her talent and her will.