MILAN, Italy — In 2018, luxury outerwear brand Moncler chose to abandon seasonal fashion collections with a marketing model built around a series of limited-edition designer capsules released via monthly drops.
The Genius project, spearheaded by Moncler President and Chief Executive Remo Ruffini, was designed to spark a buzz around the brand; a way to recruit new Moncler customers — particularly Gen-Z and Millennials who crave constant newness — while simultaneously strengthening ties with existing fans through a strong social media presence.
Moncler seeks out Genius collaborators with a strong creative identity that will translate well to Instagram, but who will also be adept at incorporating Moncler’s core DNA into their aesthetic. Each capsule is intended to appeal directly to specific customer segments, though Moncler won’t divulge how it defines them.
While the Genius collections aren’t just about driving revenues (the collections do generate sales, but make up a sliver of the brand’s €1.4 billion total for 2018), the strategy does appear to be working. According to Moncler, it's successfully boosted brand awareness and traffic both on- and offline, and has generated millions of euros in earned media value.
Moncler has enlisted a range of collaborators since the project launched, including Valentino designer Pierpaolo Piccioli, Simone Rocha, Craig Green, Noir’s Kei Ninomiya, Hiroshi Fujiwara and Palm Angels’ Francesco Ragazzi, 1017 ALYX 9SM’s Matthew Williams and British designer Richard Quinn.
But the Genius model is one that requires constant feeding. Its future success will, in part, depend on the brand’s ability to continue recruiting the right talent.
So who could be next? BoF explores a list of potential candidates to add to Moncler’s Genius roster.
Since Simons’ departure from Calvin Klein, the fashion world has been waiting to see if he would head to another high-profile fashion house. Instead, he doubled down on his namesake menswear line and collaborated with Danish fabric company Kvadrat. A Raf Simons x Moncler tie-up would no doubt benefit from his ability to adapt house codes into his vision of creativity, as seen during his tenure at Dior. Simons would surely get bonus points for enlisting his long-standing collaborator painter Sterling Ruby to work on the collaboration.
As leader of K-Pop boyband Big Bang, the superstar has enormous social media reach across Asia, a prime market for Moncler (the region accounts for almost half the company’s annual revenue). But slowing growth and the continued pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong means Moncler will have to work hard to continue to grow in the region. G-Dragon is well-known for his eclectic fashions, often mixing high-end labels like Dior and Chanel with streetwear-infused brands like Ambush. He also has design experience, launching his own label, PeaceMinusOne, with friend and stylist Gee Eun in 2016.
It’s already proven that the London-based designer’s frothy tulle creations are an Instagram crowd-pleaser: when the designer dressed Jodie Comer in the hit TV show "Killing Eve" earlier this year, the social platform was a flurry of interest, raising the designer’s profile well beyond her usual following. Goddard’s signature aesthetic is visually striking, exactly what Moncler looks for in a Genius collaborator.
With Gen-Z and Millennials now comprising 40 percent of Moncler’s consumer base — and an even higher total among Genius customers — Y/Project’s conceptual, refined-street aesthetic would speak directly to a key demographic for Moncler. The French brand’s creative director Glenn Martens is part of Paris’ new guard of designers spearheading a streetwear revolution and has a dedicated following among streetwear-loving Millennials.
Comme des Garçon alumna Chitose Abe has prodigious skill and technical ability with fabrics. Her avant-garde creations are more wearable than that of her former mentor Rei Kawakubo, while still being rooted in strong silhouettes. Abe herself is often inspired by utility, performance and sportswear, she told BoF in 2015, which would likely translate well to a more technical take on a Moncler Genius collection, as it has with past collaborations with Nike and the North Face.
Donatella Versace knows how to engineer a marketing moment, which, after all, is exactly what Moncler Genius is all about. From the blockbuster 20th anniversary tribute show honouring her brother Gianni, to Jennifer Lopez’s surprise runway appearance in September, Ms Versace has a knack for using nostalgia to drive social media attention. Plus, in light of Capri Holding’s big plans for the Italian brand, the more exposure the Versace brand can get, the better.
Brian Donnelly’s signature BFF character is globally recognisable thanks in part to past fashion collaborations with streetwear heavyweights A Bathing Ape and Supreme, fashion names like Marc Jacobs and Comme Des Garcon, and, most recently, Kim Jones for Dior Men. The New York-based pop artist, better known as Kaws, began as a street graffiti artist and over the years has revealed a canny ability to reimagine cultural icons that have a strong brand DNA, from Sesame Street stars to the Michelin Man. His work translates well to Instagram — note his 2.6 million followers.
The British designer, who took over as creative director of Alexander McQueen when the house’s founder Lee McQueen died in 2010, has a knack for creating show-stopping yet intricate couture-like creations. While Burton made headlines across the world in 2011 for being the designer behind the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress, she mostly keeps a low profile. But as Kering looks to grow McQueen, boosting Burton’s personal brand via a Moncler collaboration may also benefit McQueen in the era of the star designer.
While Philo’s aesthetic may not be typical Instagram content, what she lacks in flamboyance, she makes up for in clout. Best known for her 10-year tenure at Celine, Philo has a cult following of women aged 35 to 50, a demographic Moncler is still struggling to attract. If McQueen’s Burton could connect Moncler to wealthy, couture-loving clients, Philo would speak directly to the high-earning working woman. No doubt Philophiles still mourning the designer’s departure from the fashion calendar would have their credit cards at the ready.
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