Throughout the years, many garments have defined what is fashionable and what isn’t in different eras. At the turn of the 20th century, for example, well-cut and exquisitely-tailored three-piece suits were all the rage for men of the upper class. But by the mid-century, during the 1950’s, leather jackets and denim jeans became the new must-haves for fashionable men. It was around this time that skiing also became fashionable, and so did the clothes people wore for such. Enter Moncler, a French-Italian brand specializing in winter sportswear, and has since become one of the best-selling luxury sportswear brands in the industry.
It was founded by Rene Ramillon in 1952, who was previously a manufacturer of mountain gear and clothing. He also supplied attire for the French partisan brigades Chantiers de Jeunesse during the Second World War. The name itself, Moncler, is an abbreviation of Monestier-de-Clermont, a small village in the Isère area of southern France. It began as a shop of quilted sleeping bags and camping tents, specifically for those who travelled to the mountainous areas near the city of Grenoble. They eventually started selling jackets, which then caught the eye of mountaineer Lionel Terray.
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Moncler and Lionel Terray
Not long after, the brand released a special collection just for Terray, named “Moncler pour Lionel Terray”, consisting of quilted jackets, gloves, and high-resistance sleeping bags. Through the endorsement of Terray, the brand gained more attention and attracted more customers. In 1954, their quilted jackets were also chosen by an Italian expedition, led by Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli, to the Karakorum, the earth’s second highest summit after Mount Everest. That expedition was one of the most famous during that time, which enabled Moncler to gain even more popularity. Subsequently, Terray also used Moncler products during his expeditions in Alaska in 1964.
By 1968, Moncler had become a well-known label for outer sportswear, defined by their exquisite quality and high durability. They eventually gained worldwide fame when they were chosen to supply the official attire for the downhill skiing French national team during the Grenoble Winter Olympics. Around the same time, the brand changed its logo to become its current image of a rooster and two mountains forming the letter M.
Shine and Rain
In the 1980’s, Moncler jackets became somewhat synonymous with the “Paninari” subculture that started in Milan and spread throughout different parts of Europe. They became symbols of the Milanese youth’s political stance of patriotism and nationalism. They were worn proudly and unapologetically by teenagers on the streets, specifically in the Al Paninos sandwich bar in the Via Agnello district in Milan, which inspired the movement’s name. During this time, the Milanese youth frequently showed off their Moncler duvet jackets, some in vivid hues to attract even more attention, a purpose of their political movement. The movement was a peak moment for the label and its products, up until 1987 when the whole subculture toned down and disappeared.
In the years that succeeded, especially in the 90’s, Moncler had fallen out of the fashion sphere of conversation. Italian fashion had been taken over by a multitude of superstar designers, from the bombastic and electric Gianni Versace to his purported rival Giorgio Armani, whose look was more refined and sophisticated. When it came to sportswear, American brands took over that category, with the likes of Ralph Lauren and Perry Ellis giving their own take on the puffer jacket, Moncler’s signature piece. While elite skiers and the upper class who frequently took winter vacations still bought and wore Moncler, it didn’t have the same impact as it did in the 60’s and the 80’s.
Moncler Boutique at Nagashima Outlet Mall in Mie, Japan. Credit: Phuong D. Nguyen
It was only in 2003 that Moncler was revived and put back on the fashion map with the help of Italian entrepreneur Remo Ruffini. Aside from its classic duvet jackets, the label launched two “haute couture” lines for more upscale offerings. One is Gamme Bleu, a menswear line designed by American designer Thom Browne and is presented during Milan Menswear Fashion Week, while the Gamma Rouge is an haute couture line designed by Giambattista Valli and shown during Paris Haute Couture week.
Under Ruffini’s leadership, Moncler has again become a brand to watch out for in the fashion sphere. On December 16, 2013, the brand’s IPO was introduced on the Milan Stock Exchanged, instantly reaching a market capitalization of €4 billion on its first day. Aside from those two main lines, they’ve also started collaborating with various artists within the art and fashion industry. They’ve collaborated with brands like Fendi, Comme des Garçons, and Off-White’s Virgil Abloh, as well as having their ad campaigns shot by the likes of Annie Leibovitz and Bruce Weber.
Because of such massive hype, and the new trends of athleisure nowadays, there have also been cases of counterfeit of numerous Moncler products. As a response, fashion blogs have started helping online customers determine if a product is authentically Moncler or is actually a counterfeit product. With such clamour for their items, Moncler is regarded by many in the industry as one of the most inspiring success stories of a revival of a brand.