The American Eddie Bauer may have invented the down jacket in 1939 but it was Lionel Terray and Moncler in the 1950s that took its potential to the high mountains.
Heading south from Grenoble you take the old D road to get to the commune of Monestier-de-Clermont or you’ll find yourself on the bypass with the impressive Viaduc de Monestier. The founders of Moncler - climber René Ramillon and entrepreneur Andrè Vincent used to meet here and created the abbreviation MON - CLER from its name.
The two made climbing gear which found attention from noted climber Lionel Terray, leading to a collection - Moncler pour Lionel Terray designed to endure extreme conditions. Down jackets, overalls, gloves and sleeping bags were all field-tested by Terray and his peers and their feedback was used to improve the products. Many expeditions followed including Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli’s first summit of K2, the world’s second-highest mountain. The French wore Moncler to the summit of Mount Makalù and in the 1968 Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble, Moncler was the official supplier to the French downhill ski team.
In the 1980s, Moncler jackets became popular in Italian street fashion thanks to a group of affluent teens creating a subculture with an unlikely mix of American and European styles. By the end of the 1990s, Moncler was on the verge of bankruptcy as multiple multinational brands moved into the outdoor space. It was saved by creative director Remo Ruffini who purchased Moncler and appointed himself CEO and head of the board. Ruffini managed to turn the company around by taking the company public and pivoting Moncler to the fashion side of the brand.
Ruffini’s strategy was rewarded in an unlikely turn when in 2015 when Drake wore a Moncler down jacket in the video for his song Hotline Bling. Sales spiked for the €1150 Maya jacket and as meme culture took hold, that Drakeposting meme appeared everywhere, front and centre with the Moncler logo. Moncler’s ascension was complete but this time in Hypebeast culture.