MILAN, Feb 23 — Italian fashion icon Prada said Sunday they have appointed Belgian designer Raf Simons as their co-creative director.

Prada said Simons, considered one of his generation’s most talented designers and a veteran of Dior and Calvin Klein, would take up his post on April 2.

Miuccia Prada unveiled the surprise news on the fifth day of a Milan Fashion Week disrupted by a clutch of coronavirus cases barely an hour away from the event.

“I am not here to announce my retirement to you nor my succession — on the contrary, this is a new breath of fresh air for me, a very exciting new adventure,” Prada said. 

“And I’m probably going to have to work even harder than before,” she added, looking visibly elated at the prospect of welcoming Simons aboard.  

“We hold each other in high regard, we respect each other and we are very much looking forward to seeing where this collaboration will take us,” said Prada, 70.

A statement said that Simons, 52, would have equal responsibility both for creative input and business decisions.

The pair’s first collection will be for spring/summer 2021 and is to be presented in Milan in September.

Simons explained that “we have known each other for a long time, since 2005 when I headed Jil Sander. Since then, we have been exchanging views on fashion, politics, art.”

He added that they had expanded upon their “dialogue” and ultimately concluded that they should work together.

“We want to place creativity back at the heart of fashion, without ignoring commercial imperatives and our responsibilities to them — but with a joint approach that might question the system and be creatively stronger.”

“It is the first time in the history of fashion that two such important stylists and of such statures will be working together,” said Patrizio Bertelli, Miuccia Prada’s husband and company chief executive.

“The Prada group has always been capable of anticipating global changes in fashion and we are still showing as much today,” he told a hastily convened press conference.

Prada said in a statement that the new partnership “is born from a deep reciprocal respect and from an open conversation — it is a mutual decision, proposed and determined by both parties” who would seek to be innovative and “push boundaries.” 

The firm added that Prada and Simons would bring “a new approach to the very definition of creative direction for a fashion brand — a strong challenge to the idea of singularity of creative authorship.”

In addition to heading Jil Sander, Simons created his own brand, Raf by Raf.

He left Calvin Klein, where he had been chief creative officer, in December 2018 after the firm alluded to differences in their respective creative visions. — AFP