Leather is the oft-quoted material for a luxury handbag. The rarer or suppler the leather, the more desirable the handbag is and the higher the price it commands.

In the late 1970s, however, shortly after taking over the family business, Miuccia Prada (1949-) had shaken this equation. She first introduced an unorthodox material in a range of totes and backpacks. These were made from nylon, a synthetic silk replacement whose highest sartorial claim-to-fame were stockings. What remained of the equation, however, was the high price.

Miuccia was a former Communist, a feminist and a mime student with a strong academic background in political science (a PhD, nonetheless), she was the unwilling apprentice of the industry and was resolute to make her own mark. Luxury, for her, was not solely found in decadence but in austere simplicity and utilitarianism.

Kate Winslet with a crossbody nylon Prada bag

The black nylon bag was ultimate embodiment of this new Prada design philosophy. It was an object of absolute discretion, embracing modernity but still had deep roots with the artisanal craftsmanship of northern Italy.

The black nylon bag that Prada has spearheaded inevitably acquired its own allure. In the mid 1980s, it came in a range of styles, from backpacks, shoppers and handbags, becoming a must-have for the fashion connoisseur.