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Gucci and Balenciaga were the most influential fashion houses of 2017. Consumer data analysis shows that Balenciaga was ahead in H2 2017, but Gucci won the overall standings, ranking first in Lyst Index "The Most Popular Brand" for 2017. Under the lead of a strong duo of creative director Alessandro Michele and chief executive Marco Bizzarri, the Italian brand successively ranked in the top three every quarter of the year.

Balenciaga’s performance was quite impressive as well with a 50% increase in search traffic annually. However, the top place in Lyst’s “Hottest Brand” Index in Q3-Q4 wasn’t enough to outperform Gucci overall.

The success of Gucci and Balenciaga relied on talents. Their creative directors – Alessandro Michele and Demna Gvasalia – used an expressive and clearly recognizable design language to ‘program’ consumers what to expect from the evolving brand while keeping them interested. The brands’ top merchandisers – Jacopo Venturini who joined Gucci in 2015, and Cedric Charbit who became chief executive of Balenciaga in 2016 – helped boost the houses’ sales.

The synergy of design and merchandising translated into top-selling products, including four products by Gucci and one by Balenciaga in the top five.

According to analytics, in 2017 Gucci was the number one searched for brand on Google and Lyst, and added 8 million Instagram followers.

Gucci nurtured relationships with creatives such as Coco Capitan, Petra Collins and  Helen Downie. The brand also appointed a group of advisors under 30 to be able to inject the perspective of digital generation into its strategies.

At the same time, high online engagement alone wouldn’t be enough. It’s the conjunction of mass digital coverage and relatively affordable prices that allow consumers to buy its key products. Democratic pricing helped reach those typically unable to afford luxury products, and secure four positions in the top five of best-selling products.

Although Balenciaga was outranked by Gucci, Demna Gvasalaia’s effect on the Hottest Brand is still very impressive. The strong connection with younger consumers helps with sales and wider digital reach. Search traffic keeps growing, and two of the brand’s products made it to the top 10 selling products of 2017.

Gucci’s preeminence is likely to continue this year, whereas Balenciaga may grow at an even faster pace. Consistency used to work in Gucci’s favor but the tides may change. Maintaining a sense of style and taste will thus call for innovation.