There's a glaringly obvious pattern emerging in luxury fashion - embrace the digital or risk becoming irrelevant to the consumer. Over the past 18 months, the digitisation of fashion has seen Gucci, Balenciaga and Nike repeatedly come out on top. Their genuine and consistent embrace of digital technology has resulted in these brands returning to economic growth following a tricky 2020. The new Lyst Index report for the third quarter of 2021 suggests little has changed - brands' digital activations have only gotten better.
BEING DIGITALLY SAVVY
Analysing consumer behaviour on the Lyst shopping platform, across 17,000 brands throughout July to September 2021, the index reports that Balenciaga have overtaken Gucci as 2021's hottest brand, having started the year out in fourth place. This comes as little surprise following Kim Kardashian's meme-worthy Met Gala appearance which resulted in searches for the brand spiking 505%. This year, creative director Demna Gvasalia revived the brand's couture line after 53 years, shifting his focus to reframe the luxury offering at Balenciaga, moving away from the hype of the 'Triple S' sneakers. After presenting the A/W 21 ready-to-wear collection in a video-game scenario Afterworld using AR technology, in 2021 Gvasalia teamed up with the cult gaming platform Fortnite to create Balenciaga skins and an accompanying IRL capsule collection, finding the sweet spot between virtual and real worlds, a defining feature of the Metaverse fashion is moving towards.
Closing Paris Fashion Week by making the fashion industry walk the red carpet before screening a special Balenciaga episode of The Simpsons featuring Anna Wintour, how Gvasalia has approached questioning what luxury means and who it belongs to has resulted in an undeniable internet buzz. Ultimately, Balenciaga is in the lead when it comes to creating covetable clothes people want to wear, both on and offline.
Gucci have undeniably been a pioneering force in legitimising the gamification of fashion, launching their virtual sneaker hub at the end of last year and hosting spaces on gaming platforms Roblox and Zepeto. During Milan Fashion Week in September 2021, they launched Vault, an experimental online concept store where visitors can explore the brand's past through archive pieces and even 'paint' themselves wearing the clothes, and uncover emerging designers such as Priya Ahluwalia whom they mightn't have come across before. In the second quarter, Gucci sales grew 86% in the last quarter, despite slowing Asia sales.
Prada's S/S 22 womenswear show saw co-creative directors Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada host physical shows in Milan and Shanghai, live streamed simultaneously with models walking in time with their digital siblings. This reflects the trend towards the Asian market which has emerged over recent months due to their previously accelerated recovery from COVID-19.
Reporting a 66% increase in revenue for the first half of the year, despite lukewarm responses from the industry's critics, what could be argued as a more commercially-driven design approach from Simons seems to be working for the brand, which has long struggled to match industry hype to sales. Bottega Veneta will also use live streaming to invite viewers to watch the S/S 22 show in Detroit this Thursday 20 October, which viewers can watch via SHOWstudio.
CREATING CULTURAL MOMENTS
By successfully engaging with URL spaces such as gaming, brands can realise ample opportunity to create significant cultural moments which resonate with consumers. That's exactly why Balenciaga was the winner, if you will, of Paris Fashion Week S/S 22. However Gvasalia has also harnessed the power of celebrity and music to do so, with Kardashian's Met Gala appearance preceded by Kanye West's Donda listening party. Decking out West in a spiked jacket from Balenciaga A/W 20, Gvasalia's role as creative director for the night was the catalyst for the viral Kardashian re-brand we've seen since.
In Milan, Donatella Versace tapped Dua Lipa to provide the soundtrack, opening and closing the S/S 22 show. The Medusa Aevitas platforms she wore are Lyst's second hottest women's product, whilst as Lil Nas X's internet-breaking metallic suit of armour has gone down in Met Gala history. Teaming up with Fendi for their surprise Fendace collection, Versace and Fendi place eighth and ninth in the Lyst Index's hottest brands.
Elsewhere, Givenchy places 17th on the list. Matthew Williams dressed Beyoncé and JayZ for their controversial About Love Tiffany & Co campaign, and premiered two tracks from Young Thug's then-unreleased new album at his first show with an audience in Paris. LA-based brand ERL is a new-comer in men's hottest products, placing fifth - likely a result of being adorned by musicians such as Justin Bieber and A$AP Rocky.
Read the report in full The Lyst Index Q3 2021.