THE MONCLER LUXURY SKI APPAREL
MONCLER GAMME ROUGE WOMENS SKI JACKET COLLECTION
In 2006 the first high-end collection dedicated to women carrying the Moncler brand, named Gamme Rouge, was launched with the aim of continuing diversification of the range of products from the viewpoint of exclusivity. The garments in the Gamme Rouge collection met the highest criteria in terms of quality, design and attention to production which the collection revolves around.
MONCLER GAMME BLEU MENS SKI JACKET COLLECTION
In 2008, pursuing a strategy to further diversify its range of products following the recent launch of the Gamme Rouge range, Moncler rolled out a new collection for men called Gamme Bleu. The ready-to-wear couture line for men was launched by Thom Browne, and two years later, after the launch of Moncler Grenoble, another two new collections – Moncler V and Moncler S – were released. Moncler V was a collaboration with Hiroki Nakamura, the founder of the Japanese label Visvim. Moncler’s classic 1970’s pieces were reinterpreted for the modern market. Moncler S was created via a partnership between the Isère , France label, and designer Chitose Abe, the founder of Sacai.
MONCLER GRENOBLE OUTDOOR SPORT JACKET COLLECTION
In 2010 the first Moncler brand Grenoble collection designed for men and women and destined for outdoor sports was launched. The collection, which is technical but still features elements of fashion, is inspired by the brand’s time-honoured garments, particularly for skiing.
BRAND STORY: FEAR AND COMRADERY
The story of Moncler and its rise to the top of luxury ski apparel began during the second world war. At the time France was occupied by Germany. Young men were required by law to join an organization called “Chantiers de Jeunesse”. Located in Grenoble, France the groups’ mission was to train young people for basic survival skills specifically for the geographic terrain of the Alps. For young men it was a challenging time with abrupt displacement from their place of birth coupled with gathering winds of fear blowing through the northernmost areas of France. To address ones inner fears comradery replaced family bonds – forged out of shared experiences and the most basic human need – the goal of survival.
At that time a 33-year-old named Remillon Grenoble was a major manufacturer of snow equipment. Another 26-year-old businessman named Andre Vincent had become a manager of a printing plant just prior to the war. He was also a guardian of the mountains and ski coach. Finally, a 22-year-old named Lionel Terray, who came from one of the best families in Grenoble, had risen to become an Alpine ski champion. The three comrades, brought together by the war, had formed a spiritual friendship based on a shared love for nature, outdoor living and skiing.
POST WAR AMBITION
After the war Ramillon and Vincent returned to France to continue growing their business. The origins of the the Moncler brand comes from an abbreviation of Monestier de Clermont, a mountain village near Grenoble in France. Soon after they had opened two sporting goods stores to sell their products. At the same time Terry went to the Canada to pursue his passion for mountain exploration. As the economy began to grow again, a shortage of natural resources combined with the war rationing had caused leisure sport participation to decline dramatically. Nature lovers were swapping more expensive activities like alpine skiing for cheaper ones like outdoor camping. Even without adequate supplies of equipment for the outdoor experience demand continued to grow. Ramillon and Vincent decided to start production of tents and sports gear to supply the gap in the market. They found a business in the Monestier de Clermont, 30 kilometers away from Grenoble town that would provide sewing for the production. By 1952 they had decided to buy the factory outright. In the same year ion April 1st they founded Moncler S.A.. The company began with capital of eight million francs and Ramillon as president.
The first years of operation proved to be very difficult. The company was constantly faced with market instability while trying to build a loyal base of customers. Patience, flexibility and persistence were necessary to survive. At the time Moncler produced a line of tents for high altitude camping as well as sleeping bags and mountaineering equipment. Unique at the time, their product featured waterproof nylon and cotton inside the tent as well as other relatively innovative materials. Their tent opened automatically, weighed only a few kilograms and could fit three people at the same time. A pattern that would repeat itself throughout the history of the company had begun. Moncler would produce superior and timely products with an eye towards incorporating new technologies when appropriate. They would not be looking to produce inexpensive products, rather they would make the best products.
Meanwhile, while abroad, Lionel Terray had willed himself to new heights. He had become the first French person to scale Mount Everest. Along with the achievement came fame as one of the worlds most renowned mountaineers. Upon returning to France Lionel paid a visit to two of his old friends and offered to test their products. He became particularly enamored with a duck down-filled jacket. Designed to resist the winter cold, this jacket offered surprising warmth yet allowed complete flexibility to participate in vigourous alpine activities.
I was born in Como, Italy which is close to the border with Switzerland. In the morning when you woke up it was 10-15 degrees below every day….but with a Moncler winter jacket on you felt incredible.
In 1954 Moncler was selected as the official ski jacket supplier for the Italian exploration of an ancient Mongolian Empire site. In the same year the first Moncler down jacket was made and its outstanding technical performance made it an instant hit.Following that in 1955 they again were chosen to supply an exploration team – this time the French expedition to Makalù.
TECHNOLOGY & CREATIVITY
At about the same time science and technology had gifted the skiing industry a new way to ascend the mountains – the cable car was born. A transformation in the way traditional skiing could be enjoyed occurred. The emergence of cable car technology created new opportunities for ski clothing that could resist the cold. In fact, the man-made water-proof fabric at the time of use could not guarantee adequate heat, and the prices of duck down and could not fill a large number of quotas. Seeing the opportunity, Ramillon set out to test a number of man-made materials that could would provide the missing qualities and found one in a new polyester fiber called Tergal. Ramillon began filling the nylon material with duck dow and launched an improved line of products. A series of major campaigns in magazines soon followed.
In 1957 the company needed more raw materials and decided to relocate tof Grenoble. The goal was clear – address the shortage of filler products and improve Moncler’s labor efficiency. Moncler as a brand began to take-off in the 1960s as a result of an accumulated effort to improve operational efficiency and at the same time promote the brand at important sporting events. Today, such an approach is seen as normal but at the time it was visionary.
In 1968 Moncler bacame an official sponsor of the French National Ski Team at the 10th Olympic Winter Games held in Grenoble. The rooster design had become the trademark symbol of the French team and Moncler’s identity began to emerge. Moncler’s ski jacket designs were seen, by those most important in the sport of skiing, as better quality than the competition. So effusive were they that Moncler was asked to design a customized jacket with less duck down fill that would allow athletes to warm-up their muscles more effectively prior to racing. The first duck down ski suits created were named “Nepal” and included in the design were two water-proof leather shoulder pads. Each new and unique layer added to Moncler’s design added to the aura of uniqueness. Steadily, over time an identity was being forged that would carve a niche in the ski apparel market that Moncler could call its own.
By the early 1970’s Moncler’s production no longer included tents and camping equipment. Rather, they had a specialized focus on the production of ski apparel. It was precisely this new found focus that abetted the rise of Moncler in the ski apparel market. Founder Rene Ramillon had overseen the evolution of a brand from humble beginnings fraught with danger in WWII to one which had strong identity and growing aspirations. It was the sort of stable platform young entrepeneurs dream about reaching one day. At 70 years old it was the right time to hand over the company to his daughter Anni Charlon’s care.
In 1980, Chantal Thomass was appointed as a creative designer of the company. For the next 10 years she shaped Moncler into the stylish luxury ski apparel brand it is today. She set about overhauling the appearance of the quilted jacket by replacing the front zipper with buttons and adding fur and satin trim, to pockets. More colorful facbrics from Japan were also introduced, further blending the brands technological origins with a new zest for style. Thomass’s act encouraged the ski crowd to wear Moncler quilted jackets “off piste” and in the comsmopolitan city. Moncler broke new ground entering into the consciousness of the metropolitan fashion scene as a result of her vision. Moncler had begun appearing in women’s high fashion magazines in London, Paris and New York. Elle France and Madame Figaro in particular had embraced Moncler’s vision of winter fashion.
FINDING A SWEET SPOT
Much of the credit for Moncler’s financial health ought to be directed towards Italian entrepeneur Remo Ruffini who bought the company in 2003. He introduced a global strategy that would alter Moncler’s course forever. Quickly moving Moncler beyond the ski shops in Chamonix to the highstreets of New York while simultaneously defining its brand image to a sweet spot nestled between luxury and hi-tech. Apparel brands like North Face, tend to focus on function and less on luxury. At the opposite end, luxury brands like choose to add expensive traditional materials like fur, cashmere blends or waxed cotton. Splitting those strategies has Moncler on a tear. Private equity giant Carlyle Group (CG) bought a 48 percent stake in Moncler in 2008, validating Ruffini’s chosen strategy and enabled a rapid global expansion.
Trying to be both a luxury and technology company is not as easy as it may seem – even for a deep pocketed company like Apple. Today one of the great technology companies of our time is embarking on precisely that strategy with its launch of the iWatch. Early impressions reinforce just what a challenge it is. Offering expensive watches that are neither the most beautiful, nor the best performing (not waterproof and short battery life) yet charging a generous premium seems like a tall mountain to climb for most consumers. Time will reveal whether or not Apple will succeed in threading the needle of the watch category but Moncler would provide a worthy study on just how this can be done.
In 2006, the luxury ski apparel brand opened their first boutique in Paris at 5 rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, followed with the store openings in Megève, France (2007); Milan, Italy; Aspen, USA (2008) and Gstaad, Switzerland (2010). In 2007 the first directly-managed Moncler store set in an urban location was opened in Paris. The Paris boutique signalled the start of a series of stores opened in key cities throughout Italy, Europe, Asia, Japan and the Americas.