10 giugno 2022
by Ilaria Conti

Extra-ordinary, just Prada

Lorenzo Bertelli, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility in Prada Group
Lorenzo Bertelli, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility in Prada Group

He wears almost exclusively ‘Made in Italy’ labels (or rather Prada) but his love of sport means he is very often in a rally suit or soccer boots. His competitive instinct has refined his taste for ‘healthy’ competition even in the family business, which he entered in 2017. Lorenzo Bertelli, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for the Prada Group, born in 1988, has very clear ideas despite his young age: the shift towards sustainability is a necessary choice for the luxury sector and not only. Lorenzo didn’t go unnoticed also by Forbes, which in fall ranked him among the 50 most influential marketing directors in the world.

In 2019, he launched the project Sea Beyond, an educational program promoted in partnership with the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, with the aim of raising awareness on the issues of sustainability and ocean preservation. The project is supported by a percentage of the sales of the Prada Re-Nylon collection: creations made using Econyl, a regenerated nylon thread that can be endlessly recycled without loss of quality.

With his passion for speed, you must always be in the game if you want to keep up. Lorenzo indeed states: “We must defend the ‘Made in Italy’ label to guarantee an economic future for the country, because it is the greatest value we have as a national economic system and there is no guarantee that it will last forever.” Growing up in a family that he defines as “normal” (“we dressed like everyone else and went to public school”), he certainly had that something extra that is now reflected in his dedication to the green challenge, starting from raising the awareness among children and young people: “You must never give up.”

Sustainability “is fundamental for our sector but not only; I have come to believe that there is no business or company in the future that can exist without a vision and a point of view on environmental and social issues. Like all sectors, we too have to do our bit; indeed, I think that the luxury sector, even more so given its dynamics, must contribute more than other industries. I think this evolution of things is natural and we must and we are all doing our duty,” he says. 

The Asilo della Laguna is a further step by Prada towards sustainability and care for the environment, an initiative that is part of the broader project, Sea Beyond: “The priority,” says Lorenzo, “is to carry the Group into an increasingly sustainable decade, not only from an economic point of view, but also from a cultural, social and environmental perspective. Sea Beyond is particularly close to my heart because it combines all these aspects and is strongly rooted in our corporate and family identity. In 2019, we launched the Re-Nylon project with the aim of converting one of the most iconic materials of our brand into a completely sustainable material. It was a very demanding challenge: we managed to achieve the total conversion to regenerated nylon in 2021, despite COVID-19, and this project allows us to finance the partnership with UNESCO. This is not a spot project; instead, it is intended to be something ongoing, because when it comes to culture and education, you must be patient, you must not give up and this also means continuing to work with the UNESCO Oceanographic Commission on this program of ocean literacy targeting future generations. We are not jealous of our program; we would like to create a platform open to other companies and other partners to finance it.” 

Lorenzo then explains the recipe for success in such a competitive industry, which has had to face first the crisis caused by COVID-19 and now the difficult international situation: “We cannot ignore the crisis; it affects everyone. There are no shortcuts other than trying to work, give it all you have and do your best to pursue the projects and ideas you have. Then, if there are such disruptive events as the pandemic or worse, let's hope not, we are all in the same boat. It is important to be focused on your own goals, on daily life and to remind ourselves that there is no excuse for taking a step backwards on projects concerning sustainability and corporate responsibility.”

From rally racing to the reins of the family business: “My love of sport has certainly taught me the role of healthy competition and therefore the competitive spirit that is part of my being. I think and hope that our Group in general can be an inspiration for other Italian businesses. If we manage to be successful in this Sea Beyond project dedicated to sustainability, we will show other groups in Italy that these projects help create value for the company and society in general.”

Many major luxury brands have been absorbed by foreign groups but it is important to protect and preserve the ‘Italianness’ of the product: “At the moment, almost all the French luxury groups produce in Italy, so as a national economic system, we must be able to defend the ‘Made in Italy’ label because let's remember that fashion is the second most important sector in terms of export value in Italy and, at this rate, it will even become the first. So, we must defend Italian production in order to guarantee an economic future for the country, because it is an example of Italian excellence and an expression of values that set us apart us from other countries. However, this is not something that can last forever, so we must know how to preserve it. The legislators and the government must also help us to protect Italian production.”

Then, on a personal note: growing up with a fashion designer mom was not so different from the others: “We had an absolutely normal life: we went to public school and dressed like everyone else; there was nothing different. In terms of values, I think my parents did a good job. They are simply two parents to me, with all the complications that can be involved in working with your parents; although I do I feel very fortunate.” 

Finally, his wardrobe doesn’t just contain articles from the family brand. In fact, Lorenzo admits: “I mainly dress in clothes from our group; I like to, because we make them, so I do in fact dress 100% Italian. But when I play football, I also use sneakers by other brands.”

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