MILAN — Moncler has a new design strategy — and it appears to be based on “the more the merrier.”
Having ended the 10-year run of the Moncler Gamme Bleu and Gamme Rouge lines, designed by Thom Browne and Giambattista Valli, respectively, chairman and chief executive officer Remo Ruffini is now getting ready to unveil “a new creative strategy” that appears to be centered around eight designers, each creating a collection for the brand. While the names of the eight designers could not immediately be learned, it is understood many of them are relatively unknown.
Moncler officials declined to comment on the new strategy, but the brand will reveal the designers’ first collections for fall when it kicks off Milan Fashion Week at 7 p.m. at the old fairgrounds. The show will combine men’s and women’s wear.
Not that the label is keeping the strategy much of a secret. Moncler has been teasing it on social media and billboards here ahead of its show. One billboard proclaims “Genius at work,” while another states “A new creative chapter” and shows eight people — and a dog — all wearing puffer jackets and disguised by blocks of ice. Genius Building was how Moncler first dubbed the “material and symbolic hub representative of the new course of the brand,” and digital graphic effects tease the building concept with eight windows — another reference to the eight designers glimpsed under the ice.
The collaborations with the eight designers are simply an evolution of Ruffini’s M.O., as Moncler has over the years collaborated with several designers and brands, ranging from Comme des Garçons, Chitose Abe, Junya Watanabe and Craig Green, to Christopher Raeburn, Greg Lauren, Pharrell Williams and Kith. Some of them might actually be under the casings of ice.
But while the fashion world will have to wait until Feb. 20 to see the results, analysts are already watching the brand’s new development. The company, which is publicly listed on the Italian Stock Exchange, will report its year-end financial statements on Feb. 26, followed by a capital market day on Feb. 27.
“This is a very interesting way to communicate the news, and it creates buzz among consumers and fashion insiders. I imagine the idea is to have a multicollection attitude, rather than a single selling proposition,” said Armando Branchini, deputy chairman of Milan-based InterCorporate. “Presenting more than one collection in parallel helps Moncler in its ongoing strategy to increase sales of the spring collection, since the fall season has always been the main driver of business. A diversified approach allows to be more effective. With more — and presumably smaller — collections, which can rotate in the season or in the year within the stores, you can target different customer profiles. This is all very interesting and generates attention and significant traffic in stores.”
Smaller collections with more frequent drops also fits in with the fashion world’s latest strategy to try to excite consumers beyond the main seasons twice a year. Picking up from streetwear brands like Supreme and Kith, luxury labels from Givenchy to Kiton are adopting the concept.
“I think the idea to bring a breath of fresh air to the Moncler collections is very timely,” said Luca Solca, managing director at Exane BNP Paribas. “Constant product and merchandising innovation help the brand avoid the risk of turning banal — an issue that needs to be managed, for a brand so exposed to a single category. Moreover, fashion shows have in general become less relevant, in a world that lives off wholesale. Moncler and Ruffini could once again be pioneers of a change that is mature and necessary.”
Analysts have repeatedly asked Ruffini for updates about product diversification. Knitwear, for example, is a category that the entrepreneur has been developing, as well as footwear. In October, reporting nine-month results, chief corporate and supply officer Luciano Santel said knitwear was “growing faster than outerwear. We are confident, consumers are asking for them and we get credibility.” Shoes are also expanding, but at a slower clip. “Step by step, season after season, the other categories are growing very nicely,” he added. Moncler reached the $1 billion in sales milestone in 2016.
A Milan-based luxury analyst said “the market is expecting comments on virtual creativity, merchandising and communication hub,” during the capital markets day. The analyst gave a thumbs-up to Moncler’s communication strategy, which is “effective, creating hype around the show through social media and billboards.”
“Anything goes in fashion now and the changes and evolutions are super fast,” said another luxury goods analyst, who requested anonymity. “After so many seasons of well-oiled shows, it makes sense to break with the past and do new things. Trying new formats can generate buzz and interest.”
The analyst contended that the new strategy may imply “a shift from a focus on long-lasting product to marketing initiatives, but it’s a sign of Ruffini’s intelligence. Whether it will work or not, we’ll have to see. Look at what Gucci is doing, Alessandro Michele offers new products all the time, but it’s part of the brand’s strategy. Moncler was never a trendsetter and never aspired to be.” The analyst concluded by saying that he imagined this kind of strategy would allow more online penetration and visibility, but cautioned against “the risk it could all become a potpourri.”
In October, Santel touched on the brand’s online business, which is “growing faster than brick and mortar,” he said. “We know the potential is higher than what we are able to deliver now.”
While the Gamme Rouge and Gamme Bleu collections have allowed the company to be part of the international fashion weeks, Ruffini first hinted at a possible change of course in a WWD CEO Talks last June. “This market needs its own strategies. The customer is tired of these ratified fashion caravans,” said Ruffini at the time. “Yes, what we do for the industry is important, it gives prestige, but I strongly believe that we must be closer to consumers, remove the filters between us and the customer. I don’t know how many of our customers even see our shows.”