By  on February 13, 2006

MILAN — Alessandra Facchinetti has traded sexy dresses and high heels for duvet jackets.

Facchinetti is now a consultant for Gamme Rouge, Moncler's new line of one-of-a-kind down jackets with sartorial details. It is her first project since March 2004, when she left Gucci after two seasons designing the women's ready-to-wear in the post-Tom Ford era.

The link stems from a dinner last September at which Facchinetti met Remo Ruffini, Moncler's chief executive officer. "Remo explained how he wanted to complete Moncler's gamut and I found his approach a very innovative one for duvet," said Facchinetti.

The 15 fall styles will bow on Feb. 20 with a presentation and launch party with Italian Vogue. The designs are feminine renditions of an otherwise bulky fashion item that many women view as unflattering and unexciting.

Facchinetti has lopped her jackets into body-skimming bombers, parkas and car coats, designs helped by the fact that Moncler uses only first-class baby feathers to stuff its jackets. The ducks that produce these feathers come from the south of Bretagne in France, an area particularly rich in rivers and lakes that stimulate the animals' duvet production, the designer said.

That translates into warmth, softness and, above all, lean silhouettes. "Moncler has a 50-year experience in making down jackets so that they are extremely warm without being bulky," said Facchinetti.

She also used unconventional fabrics, namely lacquered silk organdy, tulle, sheared mink and wool tweeds, adorned with such embellishments as appliquéd costume jewelry from Moncler's new line, Lurex and gold sequins. "The details are very sartorial and the quilting is all done by hand. Every piece is a one-off and has its own history," said Facchinetti.

Colors include butter, honey beige, pearl gray and black. Retail prices range from $1,200 for silk styles and climb to about $3,500 for the fur ones.

"This collection closes Moncler's circle so that our production is diversified," said Ruffini. "The idea is to make what we do best unique so that women will wear it with anything from jeans to a champagne silk evening dress."

Gamme Rouge comes in the wake of a successful co-branding project by Moncler that started with Junya Watanabe, who designed one men's wear collection in 2004, followed by the artsy touches of Balenciaga's Nicolas Ghesquière for this past fall's women's looks.Gamme Rouge will be distributed to a select 150 sales points worldwide, most of which already carry Moncler. In the U.S., the retailers that will carry the line include Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York and Jeffrey.

Most of Moncler's $95.7 million in sales derive from its basic styles, reminiscent of the brand's jackets in primary brights, pastels and neutrals that have an entry price of $400 at retail.

Moncler was established in 1952 by René Ramillon in Grenoble, France. The firm at first built its reputation by supplying warm jackets, tents and sleeping bags for expeditions on the Makalu', K2 and Karakorum peaks in Nepal, and the trek guided by renowned French skier and hiker Lionel Terray to Alaska.

"Over the past two years, we worked on the product, design, quality and distribution, and played up Moncler's history without being too sporty," said Ruffini.

In 1998, Moncler was acquired by Groppo Fin.Part, now gone bankrupt, which broadened distribution and introduced a total look. That all changed five years later when entrepreneur Ruffini acquired Moncler, got rid of the total look to focus on the jacket and drastically whittled down the number of doors to 1,600 worldwide, with the intention to subtract another 400 stores in the near future.

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