It’s safe to say Moncler has a moment. The brand recently hosted 10,000 visitors at London’s Olympia for it
This luxury brand has cut through culture and earned its status both on the catwalk and on the streets; but it has an equally rich heritage of snow-capped peaks and ski slopes, and has been equipping world champions and Olympic athletes for over 70 years. Now, amidst accolades and cultural collaborations, the brand is looking for unconventional ways to improve its products.
Moncler was founded in the small French commune of Monestier-de-Clermont in 1952 and from the very beginning sought to achieve a particular balance of style and substance. Within two years, the brand’s down jackets had climbed to the top of K2 – the second highest mountain in the world, but widely regarded as the most dangerous – when the brand equipped the Italian expedition of 1954, during which Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli were the first to reach the summit . A decade and a half later, Moncler was chosen as the official equipment supplier for the French ski team for the 1968 Winter Olympics.
Both cases are a testament to the mission that lies at the heart of Moncler’s DNA: to design and manufacture top-notch sportswear for those who perform at their best. Aiming to continue its success in this field, in 2010 the snowy city of Grenoble became the namesake of the brand’s high-quality skiwear line – Moncler Grenoble.
In an effort to perfect their product, sportswear brands often partner with athletes to test and test – and Moncler Grenoble is no exception. It includes freeskier Richard Permin as well as Olympians Shaun White and Perrine Laffont. But a lesser-known partnership – spanning nearly two decades, which began in 2006 – may just be the ace up its sleeve that sets them apart: the ski school, or should I say St. Moritz. Founded in 1929, it is the largest in Switzerland, as well as one of the oldest, and St. Moritz could not be a more suitable city for a brand like Moncler. Situated in Switzerland’s Engadine valley, the luxury alpine resort has hosted the Winter Olympics twice, is home to the world-famous Cresta Run and has been described as the “Monte Carlo of the skiing world”.
So how do the worlds of Moncler and ski school in Switzerland come together? Hypebeast recently met with Tiziano Zeller, executive director of St. Moritz to talk about skiing and the symbiotic relationship between the two, where Moncler equips the organization’s instructors in exchange for feedback that has a direct impact on the product they make.
Zeller, a former Swiss Army Special Forces soldier, has been working at the school for 10 years. He has been skiing most of his life and compares the sport’s popularity in Switzerland to the love of football in Brazil. “It’s normal, every city has its own ski club,” he says. Now, although he directs all ski school operations, Zeller and his team can still be found hours in the snow. But while professional athletes have teams of people looking after them, things are different when you’re the one doing the grooming: working all day non-stop is a daily routine for ski school instructors, and as a result, creating an outfit that’s comfortable and practical in action is even more important.
With that in mind, Zeller’s discovery that waterproof uniforms weren’t standard until his collaboration with Moncler is quite surprising. In fact, they were impractical in more ways than one. “We had pretty heavy ski suits. And then in 2015, Moncler changed it to a high-performance, much lighter one [uniform]. It was a big change for us.” Just as gloves, balls and cleats are for the soccer player, a sturdy slope outfit is part of your toolbox. Moncler’s pursuit of perfection in high performance is conveyed by those who not only wear this product, but put it to the test.
But content without style can only get you so far, at least according to Zeller. “Everybody’s looking at us,” he says. “We’re famous because we’re red here in St. Moritz. So it’s because of the design [that we are recognized]”. There is something distinct about the white mountain in the red patches that snake through the snow. This is where Moncler’s tailoring references come into play. Brand – with whom he recently collaborated from Adidas Originals AND Mercedes-Benz — found a balance between a product that looks great and a product that performs well in extreme conditions. The Montgirod ski jacketfor example, it is a wind- and water-repellent insulated ski jacket that also has a built-in jacket RECCO reflector — a small, battery-free, passive transponder that helps rescuers locate you in the event of an avalanche. Overkill for the average city dweller, but a potential lifesaver for those in the mountains. Asking what the former head of the Special Forces Ski School thinks about it is quite a practical answer in itself: “Yeah, that’s nice,” he replies matter-of-factly after a long day in the snow.
Ski School Moritz is one of the few Moncler Grenoble is a partner and the brand has a strong position in renowned ski resorts around the world. These include Verbier and Zermatt in Switzerland, Cortina in Italy, Courchevel and Val d’Isère in France, and Japan’s Niseko, among others, allowing for an unrivaled and almost limitless pool of talent from which to try and test their product. It’s a mutually beneficial, cyclical relationship that has helped keep the brand on top for over seven decades.