If there’s any singular thing you’d associate with Prada, it’s nylon. It’s something that’s visible in just about every collection and their near-seasonless range of nylon goods with the unmistakable Prada logo. Frank Ocean even wore it to the Met Gala. Its newest sustainability initiative, Re-Nylon, is based around making its signature fabric workable for today’s society. In a statement for Re-Nylon, the press release called nylon “A vital component of Prada’s heritage and a hallmark of its approach to contemporary fashion” as well as “an emblem of the brand.” But just how did Prada arrive at such a fabric?

Nylon’s history is inextricably linked to another luxury fabric. Silk is widely renowned as a high-end fabric today but, before the advent of man made fabrics, silk was in everyday usage. The one constant between now and yesteryear is that silk is expensive, mostly due to the U.S. having to import it from places like Japan. The tension between the two countries was the driving force behind the goal to replace silk which, during the early 1900s, had a wildly varying price point due to poor trade relations.

It took several attempts—and the creation of Viscose along the way—to arrive at the nylon you’re familiar with today. In 1928 fabric company DuPont hired Dr Wallace Hume Carothers to head its experimental department, which eventually produced nylon, officially patented in 1935. The fabric became the go-to for stockings, which was previously exclusively made using silk. By the ’40s nylon was used in a variety of methods -- such as underwear, toothbrush bristles, sewing thread and sportswear. During World War II, the production of nylon was diverted for military products, specifically parachutes, tents, ropes and tires.

The usage of nylon only increased from there. By 1965, 40 percent of fiber production in the U.S. used synthetics and intense marketing sold the fabrics as creations of the future, available today. This ubiquity led to pushback, with the counter-culture movement of the late ’60s leading the charge against man-made fabrics. By the 1970s, a full-on backlash was in effect, with critics pointing out lack of breathability as well as the abundance of chemical dyes and processes in nylon’s creation.

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