Interview with Remo Ruffini, chairman and creative director of Moncler

Interview with Remo Ruffini, chairman and creative director of Moncler

Game changer

Text: Andrea Sim

The man who reinvented the down jacket discusses Moncler's innovation and his collaborative relationship with designers Thom Browne and Giambattista Valli

If the mention of a down jacket brings to mind an unflattering, bulky contraption often accompanied by lurid hues, Moncler will change that off-putting perception. The French-Italian brand purveys high performance ski slope goodies in sleek silhouettes and covetable colours like none other, and Remo Ruffini — chairman and creative director of the company — is the ingenius powerhouse behind the young empire.

Buying over Moncler in 2003, Ruffini revived the business originally founded in 1952, and has since broadened the company's horizons exeedingly within the span of a decade. Apart from expanding the brand's presence across Europe, America and Asia, the birth of fashion lines Gamme Rouge (womenswear) and Gamme Bleu (menswear) has earned the Moncler name a spot on the fashion roster — both collections command runways at Paris and Milan Fashion Week respectively. 

A man most distinctively armed with utmost foresight and creativity, Buro learns from Ruffini the importance of innovation, discusses his love for collaborations, and also, finds out more about his recent experience working with famed photographer Annie Leibovitz in Iceland. 

Every talent I work with brings to the brand his vision and personal touch, but we all work with one central idea and language in mind: The Moncler world

Remo Ruffini, chairman and creative director of Moncler

Starting from only one jacket when you first acquired Moncler, it has since come a long way. What was your vision for the company and brand when you took over?
The heritage and history of Moncler was unique and that's what attracted me. It was rare to find a brand with such deep roots in tradition. The quality and performance of the jackets make them unique. The goal at the time was to take the brand into the future starting from its origins, and such an evolution is still the most attractive challenge to me. Moncler is a perfect balance between style and performance.

In your opinion, what are the elements that were critical to the success Moncler enjoys today?
Our DNA was and still is the most important asset. The intuition of every changing combination of technology and nature, mountain and city, functionality and aesthetics made Moncler the quilted jacket by definition.

Giambattista Valli and Thom Browne design for Moncler Gamme Rouge and Moncler Gamme Bleu respectively. What are the qualities of these two designers that drew you to them?
I think both Giambattista Valli and Thom Browne are incredibly talented designers with a sensibility for couture and tailoring that perfectly encompasses the collections respectively.

Do they have complete creative control over the collections?
They normally come up with a collection mood or a concept on their respective lines, and then we work very closely on the development. It is an organic process of mutual visions and sharing of ideas. I am directly involved in every creative aspect of the brand, from the product to the communication. Every talent I work with, be it a designer, artist or photographer, brings to the brand his vision and personal touch. But, we all work with one central idea and language in mind: The Moncler world. 

Your presentations and runways definitely gives people something to talk about. What can we expect to see at the FW16 shows?
Moncler's innovative research is a very important asset, not only within style and design, but also in communication. That is why our presentations express a highly creative attitude and is always in perfect harmony with the brand's DNA and philosophy. They are performances that go beyond the conventional codes. We have started brainstorming on the events for the upcoming FW16 shows, but I cannot unveil anything yet... it's always surprising!

The Moncler down jacket has gone from a ski slope essential to a cold weather fashion statement. What steps did you take to change the perception of the jacket?
Above and beyond pre-set trends and outlines, Moncler has constantly found new ways of expressing its offering through the years. New interpretations of the quilted jacket for example, proposed individual and unrestrained style. It has now become an integral part of the world of upper sport style.

You've done so many collaborations. What do you particularly love about working with external creatives for Moncler?
I like how the Moncler world, seen through external creative eyes, can generate so many  different and original interpretations. It's refreshing.

Growing up in Lake Como, can you share with us your top must-sees and must-dos there?
An espresso in Spring or Autumn early morning by the lake river; a summer boat ride around Villa del Balbianello; sunsets at Villa d'Este while sipping an Aperol spritz; a bike ride alongside the river from Villa Olmo to Cernobbio, are surely some of my musts. I still live in Como with my family and it's my birthplace. It's the place I call home and the residence of my memories.

We've read that you asked your mother for a Moncler jacket as a teenager. What made you want one?
In Como, if you wake up in winter at seven o'clock, it's freezing cold and slightly icy outside. When you have to ride a bike to get to school, the only thing you are dreaming of is something that can keep you warm. And a Moncler jacket was and is what you really need.

What was your best memory wearing your very first Moncler jacket?
The warmth it gave me. I still remember very clearly that first morning that I used it.

It's Moncler's first boutique in Singapore where it's summer all year round. What are your thoughts?
It's a city with strong energy and more visitors a year than residents. I think that an international brand like us that prides itself in lifestyle wear could do well all year round. 

Moncler Ion Orchard store

What are your favourite winter sports and locations?
When I need an escape I usually go skiing at St. Moritz. It's my weekend getaway and definitely an escape from the city.

There really is a strong sense of adventure and fantasy in Moncler's FW15 campaign. It told a story. Tell us more about the shoot.
Working with Annie Leibovitz on that campaign is a great achievement for Moncler. The FW15 campaign she shot for us is magical. On the set in Iceland, Annie appeared wearing her vintage Moncler jacket, which she told me she's very fond of and wears all the time when shooting outdoors in winter. I still feel such a huge sense of pride when I hear that from someone, especially a person whose work I admire so much.