Bi-Coloured For The Back

The classic Prada nylon backpack takes on two solid colours



By Ray Zhang

I am finding love with the backpack. Second time round. The tote was my bag of choice for a long time, but these days, I like the backpack more, as carrying one, strapped over the shoulders and secured close to the vertebrae allows both my hands to be free for my smartphone. I am not one of you dexterous millennials, good at one-hand use, Tik-Toking and Snapchatting and selfie-taking at one go, with one hand.

And the backpack that has caught my attention recently is Prada’s nylon two-tone, in a sort-of-khaki and inky black. Well, actually, a quadri-tone, if you consider the brown Saffiano leather trims and the grey nylon straps. The bag is generously sized, with one massive pocket in front and one on each side. It is made of what to me appears to be Prada’s classic nylon once known as pocone although the brand now calls it a “technical fabric”.

Prada’s backpack in their unmistakable nylon has a special place in my heart. The first time I encountered them was in Paris, some time in the early ’90s. One of my closest friends and I were in the French capital, coincidentally during fashion week. We readied ourselves early one spring morning (despite dancing till just three hours ago) to go to a cafe at the Carrousel du Louvre, perched above where in those days one accessed the show venues, situated inside the bowels of the newer part of the museum.

From our vantage point, we could see the attendees—industry and media folks, none from the celebrity and influencer circus that dominates today—hurrying to the show sites, their rear revealing Prada nylon backpacks on nearly every one of them. We counted, and while I can’t remember the figure now, I do recall that the number was staggering. It was the only bag that mattered.

Miuccia Prada first introduced the pocone in 1984 (some reports say earlier—1979) in the form of the Vela backpack for women, with their double front pockets and leather straps to secure the flaps, but this challenge to the dominance of Hermes’s Birkin didn’t become massively popular (and copied) until around 1990. By then, the Vela, initially available only in black and brown, became a major obsession, with women abandoning their dainty bags for something associated with more tough-and-tumble pursuits.

I bought my first Prada backpack two years after that Paris adventure. I do not know if there is a revival now, but I really like returning to something that has historical heft and is made of a light yet seriously durable fabric and is truly useful. Looking at this nylon and Saffiano two-tone, I see that it looks nothing like the first I owned. It is a lot handsomer, and that is definitely a lure.

Prada nylon and Saffiano two-tone backpack, SGD2,910, is available in stores. Photo: Chin Boh Kay