How Moncler reinvented its luxury skiwear with help from the world's top designers
All appears calm within Moncler’s gleaming Milanese headquarters, where cream and black surfaces are polished to perfection and everyone speaks in hushed tones. Yet somewhere within this oasis of tranquility, the top-secret Genius project is coming to fruition.
I’m here to learn more from Remo Ruffini, the company’s billionaire chief executive, today dressed in grey trousers and coordinating cashmere jumper. He clasps his hands in front of him and leans back in his chair.
Moncler is just weeks away from launching an audacious new strategy, he tells me, which will reimagine how it sells its distinctive padded jackets – seen everywhere from business-class airline cabins to hip coffee shops and the world’s chicest ski slopes.
"I felt that what we’d been doing for the past seven years was very strong but it was getting old," says Ruffini. "We are cancelling the idea of seasons and replacing it with a monthly, weekly, daily approach." He has been working for two years to create an eight-part collaborative project that will see seven of the most influential names in global fashion and an in-house team take it in turns each month to present a new collection in stores, pop-ups and online; men, women, children and even dogs will all be catered for.
"I always think that in our store s there should be everyone from a kid with a skateboard to a lady with an Hermès bag. Every kind of customer gives energy to the other," he adds, explaining how collections by the likes of Craig Green, the London lad known for avant-garde menswear, and Pierpaolo Piccioli, whose dreamily romantic designs for Valentino have redefined modern eveningwear, will come together to offer something for everyone.
Another of the collaborators on Genius is London Fashion Week wunderkind Simone Rocha, with her holy grail combination of ladylike prettiness and functional but cool comfort. Back in London just days before the unveiling of the first Genius collections, during Milan Fashion Week, Rocha says that partnering with the label was a natural fit.
"I was already a customer," she confides, on a quick break from putting the final touches to her own collection. "I always admired Moncler because it’s so luxurious. It makes me think of nature, protection, refinement and activity."
The label was founded in 1952 in the Alpine town of Monestier-de Clermont, but Rocha’s references look even farther back. "I researched 19th-century women climbers who scaled mountains in their petticoats. I thought this was so strong yet feminine," she reflects.
Her collection comprises those signature jackets but with trails of ruffles, bustles, exaggerated sleeves and lampshade skirts; beading "grows out of seams" to reflect the "moss and foliage that springs up in cracks in the rocks".
So where does Rocha imagine we might wear her intrepid interpretation of Moncler? "I’m half Chinese, so I was remembering when I climbed the Great Wall of China, about 15 years ago. It was freezing." It could be time to make like those Victorians and take a hike.