- Peter Howarth
How to wear Moncler in summer
It’s the ultimate winter status brand. Now the label has created a collection that works when the sun is shining too
Moncler’s spring/summer 2023 collection incorporates more lightweight styles
I first heard of Moncler in the early Noughties when I met the Italian who had recently acquired the company and was planning to revive its fortunes. Back then I listened to Remo Ruffini as he explained how Moncler had started out as a maker of gear for climbers. The name is an abbreviation of Monestier-de-Clermont, in France, where the label was founded in 1952. The brand cut its teeth equipping mountaineering expeditions before supplying the 1968 French Olympic downhill skiing team for the Winter Games that took place that year in Grenoble. The host nation won eight medals in alpine skiing, four of them gold. (Pub-quiz fact: the Moncler logo, with the rooster and mountain peaks forming an M, was created for these Olympics, the Gallic rooster representing La France.)
Moncler still has a technical skiwear line (Moncler Grenoble), but if anyone thought that the Italian owner’s vision was limited to outfitting sports enthusiasts they’d have been very much mistaken. You see, for an Italian of a certain age Moncler is not so much a sign of downhill prowess as a badge of cool.
The Moncler padded jacket has become a menswear staple, reimagined here in a lighter version for summer
During the 1980s there was an Italian youth cult known as the paninari — remember the Pet Shop Boys’ song Paninaro? These kids would congregate in the Piazza San Babila in Milan wearing a certain make of jacket.
“Saturday afternoon everybody went there with their motorcycles, and the Moncler jacket was like a status symbol,” Ruffini told me. “It became very fashionable, especially for the young generation — something you must have, like Ray-Bans and Timberland boots.” Ruffini’s mother bought him one in light-blue quilted nylon, and it’s no exaggeration to say that the memory of that jacket and how it represented the perfect mix of fashion and function prompted Ruffini to buy the French outerwear company in 2003.
His reboot of the label was masterful, managing to successfully straddle Moncler’s twin aspects of style and substance. It was adopted in ski resorts as well as on Milan’s Via Montenapoleone and its equivalents around the world. Moncler was back — as a fashion statement and as a provider of technically functional clothing. Pop-culture credentials came care of collaborations with the musician Pharrell Williams (in 2010, and again last year for the brand’s 70th anniversary), the visual artist Karo Akpokiere, the Rolling Stones and Inter Milan, with fashion endorsement from working with Comme des Garçons, JW Anderson and Palm Angels, and designers including Nicolas Ghesquière, Giambattista Valli and Thom Browne. And there have been strategic partnerships with many other designers, including Off-White’s Virgil Abloh, Craig Green, Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli, Rick Owens and Mary Katrantzou.
The Moncler 70th anniversary show in front of the Duomo di Milano, in September 2022
GIOVANNI GIANNONI/WWD/PENSKE MEDIA/GETTY IMAGES
Then there are the shows during fashion week in Milan that are more like surreal performances than a normal catwalk presentation. One season Moncler-wearing cyclists rode around a velodrome, while for others models were in a fencing club or circling a boxing ring. Sport underpins the proceedings. Moncler’s 70th anniversary show last year, held in front of Milan’s Duomo, had 1,952 performers — to reference the brand’s birth year — all in a limited-edition white version of the label’s signature Maya glossy padded nylon jacket. These extravaganzas are not confined to Italy, though — I once attended a huge flash mob at which a choreographed troupe of 163 dancers sported Moncler at Grand Central station in New York while 200 extras “played” members of the public to help to manage the proceedings.
Lauros short down jacket, £1,070, moncler.com
And in February Moncler came to London, to Olympia, to stage an event entitled The Art of Genius (the brand’s collaborative work with other creatives is badged Moncler Genius). The official ticketed invitees numbered 10,000, although apparently the police estimate of those trying to attend came to four times that. Inside the venue, eight co-creators imagined immersive experiences that embodied the Moncler Genius mission to “challenge the boundaries of possibility at the intersection of art, design, entertainment, music, sport and culture”. Alicia Keys performed, Roc Nation and Jay-Z engineered a musical project in which guests could record themselves, Pharrell Williams conceived a camping installation with moss and trees, and Palm Angels held a foam party.
But beyond the theatricals, at the core of everything is the nylon padded down jacket, a variation on the piece that the young Remo Ruffini wore for posing on the streets of Milan. And what is remarkable is that the Moncler-style puffer has become a menswear staple, joining jeans, T-shirts, trench coats and the like in the pantheon of classic pieces.
If you’re looking for the cloud accompanying this (padded) silver lining, consider this: Moncler’s down-filled look has always faced a challenge during the summer. If you are famous for making a product that keeps people warm and protects them from the elements, what to do when the skies clear and the mercury rises?
For spring/summer 2023, Moncler has tackled the conundrum by reimagining core items of its collection for warm-weather wear. Jackets become more lightweight — including the distinctive padded style — and they are complemented by layers designed for transitional periods and more temperate climes. The look is given variety by the use of shiny and matt materials in monochrome tones.
Lancer shield sunglasses, £340, moncler.com
It may be more space station than ski resort in terms of aesthetics, but Moncler’s new collection still delivers on the core promise of the brand: look good and be confident that your clothing will do the business come rain or shine. moncler.com