How Prada And Miu Miu Became The ‘Hottest’ Brands Of The Year (So Far)

Once considered the youthful, affordable alternative to Prada, Miu Miu has since emerged from the shadows of its big sister and made a name for itself among the who’s who of fashion.

In the first three months of the year, retail sales of the Italian luxury label led by Miuccia Prada surged 42 percent year on year following a successful Fall 2023 fashion show and a star-studded Spring 2023 campaign. Together with the Prada brand, which recorded a 21 percent year-on-year sales increase at constant exchange rates, Miu Miu helped its parent company surpass the 1 billion euro revenue mark. 

These results come as no surprise considering the strong momentum of both brands, even during the pandemic. According to The Lyst Index — a quarterly ranking of fashion’s top brands and products based on searches, product views, sales, and social media engagement — Prada was the “hottest” brand in the world in Q1 2023, followed by Miu Miu.

Here’s a closer look at how Prada and Miu Miu have recalibrated their strategies over recent quarters to become powerhouses of their own accord.

Picking Asian stars that augment visibility and mitigate risk

The two fashion giants have turned to big-name stars, particularly from the Asia Pacific region, to stay in the headlines. Prada was the brand that generated the most media impact value (MIV) during February’s Milan Fashion Week, with half of the top 10 posts featuring South Korea celebrities such as Song Kang and members of K-pop girl group Twice, according to marketing platform Launchmetrics

Success in Milan was further boosted by brand ambassador Cai Xukun, a Chinese singer-songwriter who attracted $3.6 million in earned media value during the week, according to He later went on to dazzle fans at the 2023 Met Gala in a sequinned Prada suit. 

Cai Xukun wears a custom Prada suit to the 2023 Met Gala. Photo: Prada

However, the house has learned not to rely too heavily on these high-profile faces. In 2021, Prada was forced to drop actress Zheng Shuang as a brand ambassador after her surrogacy and child custody battle incited a public backlash. The following year, it cut ties with actor Li Yifeng after he was arrested for patronizing sex workers, which is illegal in China.

Given its bad luck with its celebrity picks — plus Beijing’s ongoing scrutiny of the entertainment industry — Prada has diversified its endorsements by adding more athletes to its roster. Last week, the house appointed Olympic Chinese basketball player Yang Shuyu as its latest face. She became the house’s second sports star ambassador after Chinese table tennis player Ma Long. Prior to this, the brand had worked with Yang and other national athletes on a Douyin campaign that leveraged the wave of national pride that emerged before the Winter Olympics. 

Prada’s latest ambassador, Yang Shuyu, is known for helping China score a bronze medal in the women’s 3×3 basketball tournament in the 2020 Olympics. Photo: Prada

“Two drivers of collaborating with athletes over traditional entertainment celebrities is that they tend to be involved in fewer scandals (though they aren’t scandal free), and their image aligns more with Guochao as they quite literally represent China in their respective sports,” notes Allison Malmsten, marketing director of Daxue Consulting. “A more wholesome character like Yang Shuyu is a safer bet for the Prada brand.”

The Pocket Bag and other products of the moment

Meanwhile, Miu Miu climbed to the second spot on the Lyst Index in Q1 — its highest ranking ever — largely thanks to a lineup of strong products, including its Spring 2023 Pocket Bag and a second collaboration with New Balance.

Over the last few quarters, Miu Miu has established itself as a trendsetter, arguably ignited by its viral mini skirt in 2022. Embodying a provocative early noughties aesthetic, the low-rise, pleated mini skirt quickly sold out after being plastered across global magazines and proliferating on Instagram feeds. The item even boosted demand for mini skirts to a three-year high, according to Lyst. 

Miu Miu was named Lyst’s Brand of the Year in 2022 thanks to its viral mini skirt, ballet flats, and handbags. Photo: Miu Miu

The womenswear label later proved it was no one-trick pony when it launched satin ballet flats on the Fall 2022 runway. Online searches for Miu Miu’s ballet flats surged 1,100 percent in Q3 2022, while searches for the ballerina style skyrocketed by 1,566 percent on Pinterest. The hype made its way over to China too, where the hashtag #balletshoes on Xiaohongshu generated over 88 million views.

“The brand’s ballet flats quickly became its most popular product on Lyst following their release, having been worn by the likes of Sydney Sweeney, Bella Hadid and Rosalía. A simpler, Gen Z-friendly version of its 2016 counterpart, it plays into the balletcore and ‘indie-sleaze’ trends that have been dominating the year,” states the Lyst report, which named Miu Miu the hottest brand of 2022.

Boosting organic engagement through unique experiences

Offline, Prada and Miu Miu were among the first to jump on the opportunity to host events in China when lockdowns were lifted. 

“We were proud to be the first luxury brand to host a physical runway show in China in 2022, repeating our Men’s and Women’s Fall 2022 collection,” noted Prada Group’s executive director Lorenzo Bertelli in a call with investors in March 2023. 

In addition to runway shows, both have developed unique experiences across fashion, art and music spheres to deepen their connection with local consumers. In April 2023, Prada hosted a weekend market at its restored mansion in Shanghai, where guests could purchase seasonal flowers, fruits, and vegetables wrapped in the brand’s green and white wrapping paper. Attracting nearly 3,000 guests, the two-day event garnered 870,000 mentions on Xiaohongshu.

Prada’s weekend market at the Prada Rong Zhai in Shanghai attracted nearly 3,000 guests. Photo: Prada

“After its vegetable market, Prada has brought us a market again, showing us the Italian lifestyle of relaxed luxury,” wrote one Xiaohongshu user. “When you are tired, you can lie down on the grass quietly, listen to music, and start your rare weekend off in a relaxed and joyful way. This is true luxury.”

That same month, Miu Miu landed in the scenic water town of Wuzhen for a dinner party and screening of the 25th film in its Women’s Tales series. This was followed by a panel discussion featuring film director Han Shuai, award-winning actress Ma Sichun, and artist Peng Wei on the role of the female narrative in contemporary Chinese films. 

“It’s great to see events gradually returning to China,” said attendee Jeff Lee, a Shanghai-based stylist, in a previous interview with Jing Daily. “Since the pandemic, we haven’t really been going to the cinema – watching the film at night sitting outside in the spring weather was a very meaningful experience for many.”

This combined strategy of high-profile endorsements, viral products and diverse events ultimately helped the Prada Group achieve its best year in business last year — and this was during a period impacted by multiple lockdowns in China. That said, Prada Group isn’t alone in its robust performance, with competitors like LVMH and Hermès similarly boasting a record year and even higher revenues.

While Prada and Miu Miu can claim the title of “hottest” brands in the world for now, what goes up must eventually come down. With Chinese consumers not particularly loyal to individual brands, as Nielsen reports, just how long the two can defend their positions and stay at the center of culture will be the challenge of the year.


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