HEROES OF MENSWEAR

With a shiny new Toronto bou­tique, the Mon­cler CEO’S down jacket em­pire is heat­ing up

Sharp - - CONTENTS WINTER 2018 - By Bradley White­house

How Mon­cler’s Remo Ruffini turned the French ski brand into a lux­ury pow­er­house.

REMO RUFFINI is fix­ated on en­ergy. “It’s one of the most im­por­tant words for us,” says the CEO of lux­ury sports­wear brand Mon­cler, known around the world for its puffer jack­ets. “If I feel en­ergy from the peo­ple who work in our stores and the cus­tomers who come in, then we’ve reached the goal. That, for me, is the ther­mome­ter.”

In Toronto to launch a new bou­tique on Bloor Street, Ruffini is dressed in a soft navy blazer, grey wool crew­neck sweater, and dark denim. Over the last decade, he has chan­nelled his ob­ses­sion with “en­ergy” into se­ri­ous dol­lars, tak­ing Mon­cler from a mere alpine out­fit­ter to a fash­ion pow­er­house. “At the be­gin­ning, we said the com­pany must be in­ter­na­tional,” he says. “We have to sell all over the world, not just to make more rev­enues but to gain en­ergy from dif­fer­ent mar­kets.”

Launched in 1952 in Mon­estier-de-cler­mont (the brand’s name is a port­man­teau), Mon­cler gained a solid rep­u­ta­tion on the slopes, out­fit­ting French skier Jean-claude Killy when he swept the 1968 Win­ter Olympics. The vi­brant Mon­cler puffer then be­came pop­u­lar among Ital­ian youth — in­clud­ing Ruffini, who wore one on his mo­tor­cy­cle ride to school in his teens. But a decade later, the boom was over.

“Af­ter this pe­riod, the brand to­tally dis­ap­peared be­cause they didn’t have any tech­nol­ogy. The jacket was very heavy — so when I bought Mon­cler, I started work­ing on qual­ity.”

Grow­ing up among the tex­tile mills of Como with par­ents who each had a fash­ion line, Ruffini re­ceived his ed­u­ca­tion by os­mo­sis. He dropped out of univer­sity in his first se­mes­ter to launch his own cloth­ing line in the 1980s, which he sold a few years be­fore buy­ing Mon­cler.

Us­ing his tex­tile ex­per­tise to boost the jacket’s lux­ury ap­peal, Ruffini up­graded it from a warm but cum­ber­some coat to an ob­ject of de­sire wor­thy of high-end bou­tiques — with a price point to match. And rather than branch­ing out into an as­sort­ment of prod­uct ex­ten­sions, he’s stayed fo­cused en­tirely on the jacket. The ma­jor­ity of the com­pany’s sales come di­rectly from their core prod­uct — a rar­ity in a fash­ion world that re­volves around li­cens­ing and ac­ces­sory sales.

Ruffini is a mas­ter mar­keter, too. His fash­ion shows for the Mon­cler Greno­ble line, a tech­ni­cal ski col­lec­tion he re­launched in 2010, have be­come New York fash­ion week high­lights — pack­ing a flash mob of 363 dancers into Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion or stag­ing an ice skat­ing ex­trav­a­ganza in Cen­tral Park.

“Tech­ni­cal ski­wear pre­sen­ta­tions can be bor­ing,” says Ruffini. “I knew I had to find an­other way to show the col­lec­tion.”

Since we’re in Toronto, I have to ask about Drake’s “Hot­line Bling” video, in which a red Mon­cler jacket plays a star­ring role. Ruffini ad­mits that it was his first in­tro­duc­tion to Drake but says he was proud to have his jacket on a “su­per celebrity.” The two have been in touch ever since, dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity of a col­lab­o­ra­tion — some­thing that causes an ex­cited Ruffini to re­turn to his favourite word.

“It’s still on the ta­ble. I’ve never met him in per­son, but I think it could give us a lot of en­ergy for the fu­ture.”

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