Moncler transformed from competitive outerwear with French origins into a global luxury brand that specialises in puffer jackets and high-end sportswear that can just as easily be worn in the slopes as in the city — after Remo Ruffini acquired it and transformed the brand identity.
Founded in 1952 by René Ramillon and Andrè Vincent in Monestier-de-Clermont, an Alpine town in France, Moncler produced outdoor equipment like tents and sleeping bags and a line of quilted down jackets to protect workers from the cold. The first to realise its potential was legendary mountaineer Lionel Terray and the result was capsule collection, “Moncler pour Lionel Terray”. In 1954, Moncler was selected in the French expedition to K2, where by Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli conquered the earth’s second highest summit. It was also worn in the French expedition that reached the summit of Makalu in 1955. In 1964, it was official supplier for expeditions in Alaska and at Grenoble Winter Olympics in 1968, Moncler was the official supplier of the French national downhill skiing team. As Alpine holidays grew popular, the brand was associated with ski glamour.
In 2003, the heritage skiwear label was nearing bankruptcy and was acquired by Italian entrepreneur Remo Ruffini, transforming it into a fashion brand that reportedly generates over a billion dollars annually. The Chairman and CEO positioned Moncler as a unique product made in Italy; each part, be it smooth-running zips or shiny nylons, were made specifically for the brand. Since he spent most of his life sailing or in the mountains, the focus was on lightweight zip-front high-neck quilted down jackets that maintained the same standard of warmth and comfort since its origin. The most remarkable is lightweight collection ‘Longue Saison’ that transformed quilted down jackets into a cold-weather style statement worn by Jackie Kennedy, Madonna and Cate Blanchett. ”I think what keeps attracting customers is the quality and the perfect combination of style and performance” he said, per The Standard. Next, Ruffini used hi-tech, man-made fabrics to revive the duck-down puffer jacket that was gathering dust in the archives.
Moncler expanded overseas in partnership with Carlyle Group and the quilted down jacket migrated from ski slopes to the city. ”It was absolutely unique and rare to find a brand with deep roots in tradition. Our aim was to roll out down jackets all over the world and to make it as popular in towns and cities as they were in ski resorts… to turn them into a classic must-have that could be worn by anyone, anywhere in the world” he explained, per The Standard. In 2015, the Group turnover reportedly exceeded one billion euros.
2018 witnessed project Moncler Genius: One House Different Voices. It was the Italian luxury fashion brand’s most ambitious overhaul, replacing its seasonal fashion collections with monthly collaborations featuring a collective of guest talents, including Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli, Craig Green and Simone Rocha. They were given free reign to create capsule collections that were rolled out through the year; though the capsules have little in common stylistically they all reinterpret the essence of the fashion brand. Why did he create this disruption? Per Gq, ‘Moncler Genius is one of Ruffini’s most daring moves since buying Moncler in 2003, when it was a struggling heritage brand nearing bankruptcy. Since then, Ruffini has turned it into a billion-dollar company based by putting everyone in a simple, classic Moncler puffer. Why risk potentially alienating core customers by handing over the keys? According to Ruffini, “To continue to play a leading role in the industry today, means to be as flexible as possible while keeping a strong vision, as well as remaining faithful to the company’s DNA. There is no reason to fight the change: change must be embraced and welcomed. I believe that you must be open to change, even when you are successful, without waiting for problems to come along. It’s key to evolve rather than merely adapt.” ‘ That year, Remo Ruffini was named “Knight of Labour”, the highest recognition by the President of the Italian Republic. Till date, Moncler Group continues to rethink its values and purpose.
While jackets remain Moncler’s focus, Ruffini perceived footwear and knitwear as categories ripe for expansion. The fashion brand launched its new footwear line, led by a former Nike designer, with a focus on sneakers that work well in the urban environment where most people wear their Moncler jackets. The results are stellar. Per BoF, “Moncler’s revenue in the third quarter reached 638.3 million euros, slightly topping a company-provided analysts’ consensus forecast of 637 million euros.”
Creating lightweight quilted, high performance down jackets that remain steadfast to the brand heritage and is as relevant on the ski slopes as in city life.
To combined style with constant technological research aided by mountaineering experts.
Remo Ruffini, Chairman and CEO of Moncler controls Ruffini Partecipazioni Srl that owns 19.3 per cent of Moncler.
Remo Ruffini has been named “Knight of Labour”, the highest recognition by the President of the Italian Republic.