They used to be reserved for ski slopes and the school playground but now the quilted coats originally known as Puffa jackets have been embraced by the masses. In 2018 the search engine Lyst, which features 12,000 brands and retailers, reported a 59% year-on-year rise in searches for them, declaring them a global bestseller.
Their popularity chimes with the rise in sportswear and “normcore” – the trend that sees designers mining everyday items to drench high fashion in irony. Where once hiking boots were functional footwear and anoraks were most commonly associated with trainspotting, thanks to big-name brands such as Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton, they are now two of the trendiest items to own.
With quilted coats, the reason for increased sales lies largely at the door of Italian brand Moncler, which has redoubled its efforts at making the aesthetic relevant to a new generation through a series of high-profile collaborations.
Last February, Moncler launched its Genius project, for which a group of the world’s most influential designers – including Simone Rocha, Craig Green and Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli – created capsule collections blending their style with the technical expertise of the brand.
Aimed at targeting a growing appetite for newness from global consumers who increasingly – and impatiently – absorb trends through social media, each collection became available in highly publicised monthly “drops”, rather than being traditional seasonal offerings.
Last week, the brand announced that, for its third season, returning designers would be joined by two of fashion’s most talked-about creators: the Kanye West protege and Dior Menswear collaborator Matthew Williams of Alyx, and Richard Quinn, who last year was presented with the inaugural Queen Elizabeth award for design at his London Fashion Week show by the monarch herself.
“When talking to customers in a digital world, brands need something unique and strong, and you need to talk to them every day. This monthly strategy is a strong opportunity to change the model of luxury companies like Moncler,” says chief executive and chairman Remo Ruffini who joined the company in 2003. “These days the mood, the attitude and the energy are more important than the product for me, and perception is much more important than everything … If you are able to mix product and energy, I think that’s a modern company today.”
Ruffini’s strategy of raising the profile of the quilted jacket brand has proven successful so far.
Last year, Moncler’s online traffic rose more than 50% each month following the Genius launch, while in the first nine months of the year total sales were up 23%, reaching €872.7m (£674.2m).In turn, one of its largest retailers, Matchesfashion.com, says that it has “seen strong client engagement with the designer collaborations, which has had a positive halo effect across the rest of the Moncler collection,” according to head of womenswear buying Liane Wiggins.
“Moncler is ahead of the game with its motto of ‘one house, different voices’,” says Quinn. “It’s the opposite of one person dictating how things should be done – the modern world is different and there’s a need to work with and support each other.”
Now the trend is trickling down to the high street, where prices are considerably more accessible than Moncler’s £500-plus. Zara, for example, has no fewer than 100 new-season styles across its men’s and womenswear collections from £29.99. It informs customers that they are “ideal for a sporty look… [and] provide extra warmth, while lightweight pieces take up almost no space”. It also points out that that they are “ideal for travelling” – whether on the slopes, or, as is now normal, on a mild daily commute.