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.”