With Moncler nearing its 60th anniversary next year, chairman Remo Ruffini has a global growth plan that is forward-thinking yet respects the brand’s heritage.
This story first appeared in the November 16, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
That combo appears to be working, considering last year’s sales topped $522 million, compared to $408.6 million in 2008. After showing a corporate video that encompassed images of the brand’s earlier jackets as well as Bruce Weber’s far more recent short film, “Steal This Jacket,” Ruffini emphasized how now more than ever it is essential to stay tuned to the people who buy the brand’s outerwear, wherever they live.
In reference to his predecessors at Moncler, Ruffini said, “I have stood on the shoulders of giants. I am working to bring economic growth, the creative process and the brand’s image all together. If you strip the brand bare, under so many layers and functions, what remains is beauty. I believe there is no present or future without the past.”
Decades ago, Moncler’s “strong, safe and highly protective clothing” was used to suit up climbers at Mount McKinley in Alaska, as well as France’s Olympic ski team at the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble. Developing what it claims was the first waterproof down jacket proved to be a turning point for the company, Ruffini said. In the Seventies, the brand built on its growing popularity by courting young European trendsetters. But by the Eighties, there was the need for restyling and the brand was redesigned, and in the Nineties, executives took more of a back to basics approach. “We were not exactly on top of the mountain,” he admitted.
There was further tweaking around 2003, when Ruffini bought the brand, with concentration on product development, reorganization of distribution, amped-up sales, taking on a more global approach and finding the time for staffers to enjoy the ride, Ruffini said. The aim was and remains to create outerwear that appeals to a variety of different lifestyles from outdoor enthusiasts like skateboarders and snowboarders as well as businessmen. To that end, Moncler broadened its reach beyond major sporting goods stores to include major department stores and specialty stores. “A good product without good design is like a kite without a wing,” Ruffini said. “We also pick beautiful locations to stay tuned to your people.”
Moncler is currently carried in 34 countries in the world, with retail accounting for about 50 percent of the company’s overall volume. The outerwear company opened its first freestanding store only five years ago. The fact that there are boutiques in ski resorts like Chamonix and on Paris’ Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré illustrates the brand’s wide-ranging approach. Ruffini described China as “a market for everybody,” and Moncler has four stores there.
As examples of how Moncler aims to evolve as a brand, Ruffini mentioned the company’s previous collaboration with Pharrell Williams and the development of a down jacket that weighed in at 200 grams. There also are the Gamma Rouge, Gamma Bleu and Moncler Grenoble collections for women and men that are very high fashion and hold runway shows during fashion weeks. “Being contemporary means being able to see the original idea in the product,” Ruffini said. “I want Moncler products to be contemporary with top quality. Most of all I want them to survive fashion.”