“I know very well what he wants,” Mandrino said at the Moncler store at 99 Prince Street in New York’s SoHo. “He doesn’t speak so much at the meetings, but I understand. He always gives me all the chances I want because he believes in creativity.”
So when Ruffini told Mandrino, “You have to do something wrong for the ski,” the Grenoble designer knew exactly what he meant.
In town for the launch of 3 Moncler Grenoble, Mandrino held court in the shoe department of the new SoHo unit. “I started working with Remo in 2010,” Mandrino said, referring to the year Grenoble launched. “He wanted everybody and started collaborating with Thom Brown and Giambattista Valle. He said, ‘we need something that’s close to the main line and tells the story of the brand’s heritage.’ The main line is so important for our company. With Moncler, everything is done in a classic direction, but not connected to the history of [skiing].”
Mandrino started a small part of the collection called Neige. “Most names are from the French. It was five styles,” the designer said. “We understood that there was a really big space for growth. Everything you can do with a sport line you can do with Grenoble. It’s for weekends in the mountains, but also can be worn in the city. We were translating something in a new way. It was more playful. In the mind of the people, the collection is fun.
“We don’t want to do very technical direction,” Mandrino said. “We’re starting to work with some ski schools to understand what’s absolutely important for us to include while still maintaining the personality of the brand.
“I really try to translate what Remo Ruffini loves,” the designer said. “At Moncler, we always use color in a playful way. Often in the main line, you can find something more urban that’s connected to the city. Grenoble is much more relaxed and mountain and weekend-oriented. We work on the fabric. Remo loves to do something that’s not used in the right way, like a down jacket in wool. We can work with something really unusual with Genius and approach what’s different and of course we do something that’s technical.”
For example, a short jacket in a black cotton velvet fabric covered with red poppies doesn’t look particularly performance-oriented, but all the bells and whistles can be found inside, including a waterproof membrane, black Lycra cuffs and snow gaiter that blocks snow and wind. Mandrino said lightweight fabric is the new luxury in performance skiwear.
“We increased the down face by using really small stitches,” Mandrino said, referring to the black and red cotton velvet jacket. “There’s pockets for goggles with an attached wiper and phone, cable holder and slot for ski passes. The jacket is lined in light nylon with down at the collar. It’s supertechnical jersey around the neck to protect from the wind. An invisible zipper holds a thin, double-layer hood.
“The idea is to translate technical in a quite new way, a modern way,” the designer said. “Grenoble is not in one direction only. It can be very much a fantasy. We love to use sophisticated colors.”
The Moncler Genius collection of limited-edition pieces is designed by Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, Simone Rocha, Craig Green, Noir Kei Ninomiya, Hiroshi Fujiwara for Moncler Fragment and Francesco Ragazzi for Moncler Palm Angels, and includes Moncler 1952 and the Moncler Grenoble range, under the banner 3 Moncler Grenoble.
It would be easy to overlook the performance features in designs that pack so much style, so the brand has begun attaching hang tags to garments to indicate their intended use: High Performance, Style and Performance and Apres Ski. The 3 Moncler Grenoble Resia belted jacket in a Baroque-looking French floral double-layer nylon gabardine print, $3,000, and matching pants in Grenoble’s signature Seventies flared silhouette, $1,050, fall into the Style and Performance category, while Moucherotte, $4,240, another Genius design that combines natural shadow fox knitwear with dyed long-hair lamb fur around the collar is an après ski look.
This season, 3 Moncler Grenoble collaborated with Kask for helmets and Reusch for gloves. “Our challenge is to do something for a snow brand. Every year there is some sort of challenge such as handmade skis made entirely of wood. We’re working on goggles, but they’re not ready yet,” Mandrino said. “Maybe next year. The goggles have been two years in the works. We’re only missing shoes for ski.”
With that, Mandrino picked up a short, fitted jacket from the 3 Moncler Grenoble line featuring turquoise-dyed sheared lamb fur with white and pink dyed fur chevrons, called Lamar, $8,325.
Moncler Grenoble designed apparel and equipment from a purely technical perspective for the Italian scientist Francisco Sauro, a speleologist and geologist specializing in planetary geology, who studied caves and glaciers, and has the goal of penetrating the abysses of ice that form in Greenland’s ice caps. “Grenoble is dressing all the people in the expedition,” Mandrino said. “We also work with a ski school every year. They wear our products and give us a report on what works and what doesn’t.
“Now, we proved so much with our technology. It’s important to never stop,” Mandrino said. “We started a new branch in our company a few months ago, R&D. We’re putting things to the test in our collections. We know we’re not like other brands that are recognized for technical and performance. Remo requests that we don’t need to know what others are doing.”
Mandrino easily identifies with the milieu of snowy slopes. “I love to ski,” he said. “I was born not so far from Milan. My parents liked to go to the mountains. It was very easy to learn to ski. The big test is Remo Ruffini, he loves to ski. I like to ski alone, on Monday.”