In a rare interview, Moncler Chairman and CEO Mr Remo Ruffini dives deep on Moncler past, Moncler present, and Moncler eternal.
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Since its inception in the Alpine mountains in 1952, Moncler has delivered a masterclass in staying power, versatility, and collective cultural conscience, from the summit to the city. Existing as a hyper-real microcosm of the world around us, Moncler consistently pre-empts the competition and pioneers innovative new ways to remain on the very tip of the global zeitgeist. A future-facing ideology and an unwavering commitment to developing the ultimate technical down jacket and positioning it as an interminable symbol of status and style underpins every decision at the Franco-Italian powerhouse. This strategy - one that interweaves product, campaigns, high-culture moments and era-defining collaborations - flows down from the top; a strategy that has seen Moncler build an aspirational brand universe that has veritably destroyed the glass ceiling that previously excluded sportswear companies from competing in the luxury arena. The architect of that universe? Chairman and CEO, Mr Remo Ruffini.
Born and raised near the Italian-Swiss border, to parents (and grandparents) in the textile and clothing industry, Ruffini's destiny to helm Moncler seems to have flowed naturally into his blood the way water flowed down the mountains of western Europe: the backdrop to his childhood and looming forebears of a future to come.
Moving to New York in the 1970s to work on the family clothing business, Nik Nik, as it set out to capture the US market, Ruffini's business acumen has always been firmly footed at a global level, while his commitment to design and quality remains quintessentially Italian. Since acquiring Moncler in 2003, Remo Ruffini has transformed the technical sportswear outfit with his elegant infusion of charm, creativity, cultural clout and commercial cognisance. Distilling the strengths of what was already there and repackaging them with a global fashion-led mindset, Ruffini has given us some of the most iconic collaborations of the age and with the recent 100% acquisition of Stone Island is set to create one of the most dynamic and product-focused brand fraternities the industry has ever seen.
In a rare interview, END. sits down with Remo Ruffini to talk legacy, relevancy, and what it means to be a visionary in an era of unprecedented change.
Moncler Past | 1952 - 2003
Moncler was established in 1952 – nearly a decade before your birth – and has thus been a presence throughout your life. What is your first memory of or your first interaction with the brand? How did it first enter your life?
My first memory of Moncler is a personal one. I was a teenager and I used to ride my scooter to go to school every morning. In Como, my hometown, it gets very cold in the winter: to make sure I was warm while driving, my mom gifted me my very first Moncler jacket. It was light blue and from that moment on it became a true winter staple.
A pioneering force right from the beginning, Moncler was one of the earliest adopters of collaboration and endorsement with French mountaineer Lionel Terray – how do you think this fateful partnership shaped the Moncler we see today?
This fact is the demonstration that collaboration is something that is part of Moncler DNA since forever. Genius arrived many years later and perhaps it can be seen as an evolution of this openness to collaborations and contamination.
The legacy of Moncler has been built on the idea of designing and producing the ultimate down jacket. How important do you think a core product is to building a legacy around a brand?
The product is everything. It is the DNA of the brand, its essence, its purpose. When I started this adventure, I wanted to make sure to always be respectful of the brand’s core product, the down jacket. Over the years, we put all our creativity towards this item, combining heritage, design and innovation. While we are also putting our focus and efforts into developing other categories such as cut and sew and accessories, we always have to be faithful to the down jacket that has made us known over the world.
Moncler Present | 2003 - 2020
"The vision that has inspired me over the years is to nurture a brand aligned with the spirit of the time while remaining faithful to its origins and ethos."
When you took the helm in 2003 you embarked on a mission to create the ‘global down jacket’ – can you talk a little bit about this strategy and how it laid the foundation for Moncler as a global fashion brand?
Since the beginning of my journey in Moncler, I had a clear idea in mind. I wanted the down jacket to become the jacket for every generation: for the young guy with the skateboard to the sophisticated lady going to the theatre. A jacket for all ages, all occasions, a jacket of different weights and different warming power, a jacket beyond trends and fashion. I also concentrated a lot on what the brand had to represent, on its positioning. The first objective was to move it from sport stores to a selective and exclusive retail network. I invested a lot in a distinctive communication and put lots of effort in improving the quality because for me luxury is a product that lasts over the years. This integrated strategy is what helped me positioning Moncler in the luxury world, becoming a brand to watch.
What was your early vision for a Remo Ruffini-owned Moncler? How has that vision changed since 2003 and how do you continue to keep the brand at the very forefront of global fashion and lifestyle relevance through time?
The vision that has inspired me over the years is to nurture a brand aligned with the spirit of the time while remaining faithful to its origins and ethos. I have always seen Moncler as a brand in continuous evolution and inspired by different worlds and cultures.
Over the years there have been many lines and iterations of Moncler – perhaps most notably Giambattista Valli’s Gamme Rouge collection, Moncler’s take on haute couture – what inspired the decision to transform the brand from a bastion of performance into the upper echelons of high fashion?
Moncler has always had the desire to experiment with contemporary forms of expression and with different talents from fashion, design, photography, art and music. I wanted to explore new territories, go beyond the sportswear world and expand into the segment of luxury. In order to do that, I needed to keep the technicality of the down jacket while making it more sophisticated: that’s why I teamed up with some of the best designers there are: Giambattista Valli for Gamme Rouge and Thom Browne for Gamme Bleu. We wanted to push beyond the sportswear idea of Moncler and create a new idea of the down jacket and of the brand.
Let’s talk Moncler Genius – what was the original concept for the initiative? How did you go about selecting the inaugural roster of geniuses?
When I started conceiving the Moncler Genius idea, I was in Japan and I was walking along the street. I felt that luxury districts were losing energy and capacity to stay tuned with people. As a brand, although we were showing collections five times per year, I was feeling less and less connected to the consumer. That was the moment when I understood that something needed to change. I always put creativity as the core value of every project and I wanted to create a hub of creative minds, of geniuses, that could reinterpret the Moncler DNA through their own point of view for different targets of consumers.
Each one devoted to a singular project, aimed at adding facets to Moncler’s brand. When choosing a designer for the Moncler Genius’s roster, I look for a unique aesthetic and a keen sensitivity towards our brand in order to have very different interpretations from each designer. Every designer has to talk to a different consumer. Curiosity, creativity and a unique point of view are what make a Moncler Genius.
How long do you anticipate the Genius programme will run? Are there any names or emerging designers you would like to see added to the lineup over the coming years?
Worldwide markets and consumer habits are changing radically and at an unprecedented pace. Especially true for the past year, our industry has changed and is changing more rapidly than ever before and companies must be ready to react at digital speed. In my view, to continue to play a leading role in the industry today means to be as much as possible flexible while keeping a strong vision as well as remaining faithful to the company’s DNA. I believe that you must be open to change even when you are successful. It’s key to evolve rather than merely adapt. That said, the Moncler Genius project has proved to be very successful and I feel it is still strongly linked to the spirit of the time. It may evolve but I still consider it a very important part of our strategy.
The next phase of the Genius initiative takes an even bigger step into the broadcasting and entertainment arena, where the cultural moments and the content served to audiences around the world is just as important as the products themselves. Do you think brands as media companies and broadcasters is the next step in fashion and retail?
As Netflix and Spotify did for the film and music industries, I truly believe that the fashion world has to update its communication and its distribution: the consumer is now at the center and it’s up to the brands to reach him, to find a way to communicate with him. With Moncler Genius 2021, we want to reach a worldwide community. We went from having exclusive parties with one hundred people to events with thousands of guests attending. Now, we want to talk to millions. To do that we will leverage on broadcasting. You will not need to go to Genius, Genius will come to you.
Moncler Eternal | 2021 - ∞
"What Moncler and Stone Island have in common are the values. This acquisition is a celebration of the resilience of a country that no crisis can stop."
The Stone Island acquisition set the industry on fire – how long was this partnership in the making behind the scenes? Why did the acquisition make sense to you from a Moncler perspective?
In the past, I have had a lot of proposals but I had refused them all. I was missing the feeling of a shared culture and attitude. One day, my son told me that he had heard a speech held by Carlo Rivetti that reminded him of myself and of my passion for Moncler. Then Carlo and I met in person and we just matched. After a year of back-and-forth negotiations, we reached the final agreement, which also marks the first acquisition for Moncler.
What Moncler and Stone Island have in common are the values: we have the same management rigour, the same passion for innovation, the same love for our people and the same desire for the future. In these hard and unprecedented times, this acquisition is a celebration of the resilience of a country that no crisis can stop.
Is further acquisition part of the future strategy at Moncler or was the Stone Island scenario just a result of the clear synergy between two Italian labels at the very forefront of tech-meets-fashion coming together as one?
After the acquisition of Stone Island, I feel that we need to focus on making the best of it. My priority now is to bring value to the deal and enhance the equity of both brands keeping their identities strong and unique. I do not have the energy to do something more. I always say: “do less but do it well”. And this also applies today.
Moncler’s commitment to tomorrow also hinges on the global conversation around sustainability. Tell us about the Moncler Born to Protect initiative and the five pillars?
Nowadays, sustainability is no longer an option. Consumers, investors, employees, designers and our sons, they all helped me to realize along the way that sustainability is the path to follow. Since 1952, Moncler is born to protect and that mission is where we started to create a structured plan to protect the environment and the people. We focus on five themes: climate change, circular economy, responsible sourcing, diversity and inclusion and give back to the local communities. Among other commitments, we are becoming carbon neutral at our own sites, we have started to recycle our down and nylon scraps, we will eliminate single-use plastic and increase the use of recycled nylon. We are doing this for the future generations, for the children that look up to us: we can’t let them down.
What do you think are the key challenges?
The real challenge is to understand that such huge issues, like climate change, can be tackled only if we are able to gather around collective efforts. Fashion Pact is a good example that big problems need collaborative approaches.
You’ve spoken in the past about moments needing new inspiration and new energy to build our tomorrow – what does the future of Moncler and Stone Island look like to you?
When I think about the future, I’m excited. When I look at Stone Island, I see Moncler ten years ago: I’m sure that we can create the right synergy to help Stone Island in many areas, such as developing a direct to consumer approach strengthening its retail network. For sure, the communication and marketing side will be separated from Moncler: it’s crucial that Stone Island maintains its identity that made the brand so beloved by consumers over the years. We don’t want the consumers to feel that the core of the brand has been lost or has been changed in the acquisition: we just want to help Stone Island in those areas where our expertise can make a difference.
There’s much industry and cultural conversation about a new era of luxury or ‘new luxury’ – what does this concept mean to you at Moncler? Do you think luxury is changing or do you think it’s the same as it’s always been?
The consumer is changing and the idea of luxury is changing with him. I strongly believe that there is a new concept of luxury emerging, far from the traditional stereotypes in which young people no longer recognize themselves. I believe in an open and engaged universe, which thrives on community, experiences and cultural exchanges, where communication is always interaction and where the aspirational goes beyond possession to become “being part of” and “belonging.” There is a clear shift from “aspirational” to “inspirational”.