Like many outdoor sports brands, Moncler was founded by the people who needed gear. In 1952, Alpine climber René Ramillon and entrepreneur Andrè Vincent formed a company based on their mutual love of mountaineering and the outdoors. They named the company Moncler—an abbreviation of Monestier-de-Clermont, a city favored by Ramillon for it’s ideal location for outdoor activities. The company started out producing protective gear for climbers braving the elements such as tents with external covering, lined hooded capes and sleeping bags.
It wasn’t long before Moncler caught the attention of French mountaineer Lionel Terray. Terray’s early endorsement of Moncler helped raise the profile of the brand and in 1954, “Moncler pour Lionel Terray”, a collection designed to endure extreme conditions, was released. Terray and his peers field-tested the gear and their feedback went into developing future products. Later in 1954, Moncler was chosen to outfit the Italian expedition to K2, the world’s second-highest mountain. The expedition was successful and Moncler’s profile was given a major boost all over the world, leading to the sponsorship of many other mountaineering expeditions. Moncler was made a household name when it was chosen to be the official supplier to the French downhill ski team at the 1968 Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble.
What separated Moncler from its competitors was that its apparel wasn’t made solely with performance in mind, but aesthetics too. In the 1970s, the brand developed what is known as the “shiny lacquered effect,” a combination of specific fabrics and finishes designed to replicate snow’s reflective properties—a technique used to this day. Parisian designer Chantal Thomass was hired by Moncler in 1980 to redesign the brand's classic down jacket. Thomass replaced the zipper closure with buttons and added details like reversible fabrics, fur trim and satin lining to bring a modern twist to the now-classic Moncler look. Despite being beloved by mountaineers, Moncler found itself struggling by the turn of the millennium. When the company was on the verge of bankruptcy, creative director Remo Ruffini purchased Moncler, becoming CEO and head of the board. Ruffini’s plan was to broaden Moncler’s niche audience and offer something for everyone through subdivisions and collaborations.
In 2010, Moncler launched its Grenoble line, named after the city where the Olympics put the brand on the map over 40 years prior. Grenoble offers urban reinterpretations of high-performance ski gear and apres-ski wear.
Moncler made its first attempts at runway fashion with Gamme Rouge in 2008, designed by Giambattista Valli, and Gamme Bleu in 2009, designed by Thom Browne to critical acclaim. Despite the warm reception, both collections came to a close in 2018. Their end marked the beginning to a new kind of designer collaboration: Moncler Genius. An eight-part capsule collection series, Moncler Genius brought the vision of six guest designers (and two Moncler sub-labels) to the masses. In addition to Pierpaolo Piccioli, Kei Ninomiya and Simone Rocha, Craig Green, Hiroshi Fujiwara’s Fragment Design and Palm Angels made particularly sought-after collections. While Genius makes up a small fraction of the Moncler’s revenue, the collaborations introduce the brand to a consumer it may not have otherwise reached.