Part of Miu Miu's renaissance is thanks to a more focused aesthetic as well as expanding its offerings to include more gender-neutral pieces and collaborations.

Miu Miu’s predominantly women-centric fashion hasn’t stopped it from encroaching into the men’s wardrobe. Those of us who lived through the 1990s may remember Miu Miu’s menswear line launched for the Spring/Summer 1999 season through to its final collection for Spring/Summer 2008. The brand has since sneakily relaunched menswear without explicitly calling it as such, but instead, began introducing a number of male models on the runway as well as offering select designs in a bigger range of sizes.

The quiet repositioning of the Miu Miu brand runs in tandem with its sneaker collaborations with New Balance. Also offered in slightly larger sizes—they go up to a IT46—each drop has progressively grown to be so coveted that they are sold out within hours on official launch days, despite the hype around sneakers no longer being what it was years ago. Miu Miu’s collaboration with Church’s that began for the Autumn/Winter 2023 season also followed suit.

The marketing strategy for Miu Miu has in turn, shifted to skew towards a genderless approach. Musician and actor Troye Sivan walked the Spring/Summer 2024 runway show, and in Singapore, the brand has expanded its roster of influencers to include those who identify as male.

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As slow and steady (and subtle) as Miu Miu’s renaissance has been, it has undoubtedly worked to its favour. Like an unforgettable earworm, Miu Miu has grown to be at the top of consumers’ minds. The Lyst Index—a quarterly report of the “hottest” brands as tracked by fashion technology company Lyst—sees Miu Miu climbing up a rank, replacing sister brand Prada as the number one brand for the first quarter of 2024. It’s a stark contrast from two years ago when Miu Miu didn’t even make the list’s top 20. The brand only managed to crack the list for the last quarter of 2021 and has remained on it since.

The Lyst Index has grown to be an industry-accepted indicator of a luxury fashion brand’s popularity. The platform boasts at least 200 million users annually and is primarily used to search for fashion items across multiple e-commerce sites. Think of Lyst as the fashion equivalent of Skyscanner. A quick search on Lyst results in a seemingly endless number of, well, listings of the same item available on online stockists ranging from SSENSE to Harrods. This data is part of the information Lyst collects in order to form its quarterly The Lyst Index. Lyst also takes into account searches outside of its own platform as well as social media statistics for a more rounded view of consumer trends.

The reality is that the business of fashion isn’t a bubble contained to just how a product is moving or not. Much of a brand’s popularity is due to a combination of external factors as well. In the case of Miu Miu, its Spring/Summer 2022 collection became a kind of cultural phenomenon owed to its Noughties-inspired aesthetic of branded boxers peeking through the tiniest of bottoms. It became such a hit that the collection graced multiple editorial magazine covers and fashion spreads—the latter at times featured on hyper-masculine male models. For Halloween the year of the collection’s runway show, it became a viral sensation after recreations of the now-signature Miu Miu look made the rounds on social media.

Gucci creative director Sabato De Sarno's collections are getting noticed, even if they're not helping revenues yet.

Gucci’s ranking on The Lyst Index proves that sales figures don’t exactly maketh a brand’s popularity. The Italian fashion house maintains its 11th position on the list, buoyed by the campaign launch of creative director Sabato De Sarno’s first Ancora collection, his first menswear show in January, a Horsebit campaign featuring actor Kingsley Ben-Adir, and more. Lyst also notes a 10 per cent increase of searches (as compared to the previous quarter) for Gucci accessories among its users following the Autumn/Winter 2024 womenswear runway show in February.

However, financially, the figures tell a different story. Gucci parent company Kering Group reported an 18 per cent decline on Gucci’s revenue for the first quarter of 2024. Its revenue across its direct retail operations as well as its wholesale business both suffered a hit. At the same time, Kering Group proffers that De Sarno’s first collection (dropped from mid-February) “have been very well received, particularly in the ready-to-wear and shoes categories”—although it did not disclose the metric used to come to this conclusion.

The Lyst Index isn’t the only list that has cropped up over the years. Business of Fashion released its second The BoF Brand Magic Index co-created with data insights company Quilt.AI in May 2024. Unlike The Lyst Index’s more trend-driven metrics, The BoF Brand Magic Index identifies and ranks brands based on their impact on customers. It measures this based on three metrics—alignment (how clear a brand is to customers), engagement (how effective a brand is at inspiring customers), and intent (how effective a brand drives customers to search for it). Brands are ranked based on these individual metrics; the combined scores determine their overall ranking with the lowest total at the top. The report covers a six-month period from October 2023 to March 2024.

It’s not surprising that given the differing methodologies used in both reports, the results are different. The BoF Brand Magic Index determines the alignment metric by using Quilt.AI’s proprietary AI models that detects content by both brands and customers, categorising them based on 12 Jungian archetypes, and determine similarities between the two. It’s this consistency between brand and customer content that ranks Dior, Balmain and Tod’s as the top three for alignment—their brand values are being received and replicated by their target audience. Business of Fashion believes that “alignment is a leading indicator of commercial success” in the long-run.

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Take it this way, there is reason why Beyoncé and Taylor Swift are two of the biggest musicians in the world right now. One can argue that the songs are not immediately addictive such that they would be stuck in a person’s head all the time, but the concepts and storytelling surrounding their albums draw people in. It’s this overarching narrative beyond the songs and lyrics that keep people talking and engaged. The same goes for luxury fashion. Fashion has grown to be more than just good, wearable design—how it’s being communicated and marketed play important roles on the success.

This is the reason why brands like Jacquemus and Loewe have constantly managed to be talked about both for their collections as well as the stories built around them. Jacquemus, for example, drives virality with its uniquely shaped products such as a literal Nike Swoosh crossbody bag and impossibly tiny bags that spawned a multitude of memes, while at the same time, working with artists to stir online conversations via eye-catching stunts. An eight-second clip in 2023 of vehicle-sized Jacquemus bags seen driving around Paris was so realistic (it was the work of a 3D artist) that it had people questioning if it was a real-life brand activation, because it felt pretty much in line with what Jacquemus would do.

Loewe’s consistent craft-centric approach to all it does translates exceptionally well on social media where it breaks down the make of an item—all without revealing too much of its in-house secrets—for all to witness. But at the same time, its constant dabble with the art world and surrealism allows it the freedom to not take itself too seriously. The brand has crafted a niche on TikTok where it works with content creators, giving them carte blanche to create content in their own vision. At the same time, its own campaigns aren’t typical product pushes, but instead rely on creative storytelling while embedding the collections into them.

Good design and storytelling are most often related although not necessarily so. As much as there are the Beyoncés and Taylor Swifts of the fashion world, there are the legends—the Mariah Careys, the U2s, and the Stevie Wonders that don’t necessarily partake in the hit-making agenda. Instead, they have built such strong legacies that they don’t have to market as much to be desirable. You’d go to a concert by these legendary musicians clamouring more for their best hits from decades ago than their newer releases. It’s not that the new songs are not great, but rather, the old ones carry such weight and are just so eternally beloved. And these legends were the blueprint of greatness at one point and have influenced generations after.

Hermès, Chanel and even Louis Vuitton are such brands. The latter is constantly on the top 20 of any list because it continues to enact creative change in the contemporary sense, but just like Hermès and Chanel, the Louis Vuitton name is already historically synonymous with luxury that the desirability is always top-of-mind. You don’t necessarily see Hermès and Chanel aiming to create viral content or use marketing gimmicks to draw attention—they’re just simply not on-brand.

There’s undoubtedly a need for fashion brands to be more all-rounded in their approach to create desirability in order to cut through the noise. We are living in a society where access to information is wide and getting hold of our attention increasingly becomes a difficult task as swiping through content after content has come to be almost second nature. The existing fandoms will stay for the new releases but it’s attracting a new audience to listen in and be part of the community that takes real work, especially for more contemporary brands.

Tod's Spring/Summer 2024 menswear.
Tod's Spring/Summer 2024 menswear.
Tod's Spring/Summer 2024 menswear.

Being at the top—whether it’s for the quarter or the half—is how one deciphers the position. Fashion moves at such a fast pace these days (even for luxury fashion) that the rankings can fluctuate quite dramatically. It means little to have a viral accessory or moment that spikes engagement and interest, unless a brand takes the step to develop the narrative further.

At the end of the day, it is consistency in both design and narrative that are key in creating any meaningful impact on a bigger scale and for a longer time. No brand wants to be a one-hit wonder; every brand wants an evergreen discography to bank on for years to come.