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At Moncler, Embedding Reinvention

Chairman and CEO Remo Ruffini shares with BoF how he built a company culture flexible enough to consistently reinvent itself — and ambitious enough to reimagine industry operating models for the digital age.
Moncler offices | Source: Courtesy
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MILAN, Italy — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Remo Ruffini has overseen a series of impressive innovations at Moncler — transforming what was once a traditional winter sports apparel company into a global brand that reported sales in excess of €1.4 billion in 2018, and is increasingly looked to as an operational innovator and marketing pioneer.

In 2018, having observed the growing demand for newness linked to digitally native consumers disengaging with traditional product delivery cadences and demanding more communication from brands, Ruffini launched the Moncler Genius project. Replacing seasonal collections with monthly drops and campaigns, the Moncler Genius project uses evolving and diverse, high-profile collaborations with renowned design talents recruited from across the fashion landscape.

Realigning the company's ways of working, traditional operations and communications models to fit the differing needs of each collaboration, or the varying skills of the designers, who ranged from names like Simone Rocha and Pierpaolo Piccioli to Craig Green, Noir Kei Ninomiya, Hiroshi Fujiwara and Francesco Ragazzi, was no easy task.

To achieve it, Ruffini has embedded innovation and the ability to pivot and reinvent itself into the Moncler company culture. Here, we hear how.

Remo Ruffini, CEO and chairman of Moncler | Source: Courtesy

How did you approach building a company culture at Moncler?

I bought the company in 2003 and at the beginning, it was really something different but I immediately realised that the culture was already very strong and really interesting. Elements of it had to change, but I wanted to respect the DNA while improving the perception of the brand. From 2005 to 2009, we did a lot of things and the company culture evolved 100 percent. We always respected the roots, always respected the DNA. But that phase was totally different to the previous five years.

I opened my first direct store in Paris in 2007 and this was definitely a turning point. The store was very small, but I was able to explain my vision and my strategy to the customer at that point. For me, this was the most important characteristic in the evolution of Moncler. We evolved the face of the brand. We started working with different designers. We started working with different photographers for the Moncler image, and then marketing campaigns. At that point, I believe the company was becoming something totally new for the market.

How did you evolve to the DNA of the company?

When I first went to Grenoble where the company was based, the culture was really a mission to sell jackets for mountain apparel. To evolve the culture from this world into the luxury world — trying to sell a sports jacket into the luxury world was a totally different approach. It was in a step-by-step approach but going back to 2007, when we opened the first stores, honestly, we changed the face of the company.

[If you] think about the change in culture, going from a wholesale business to retail, it is a really big step. Then, we started working with Thom Browne and Giambattista Valli, putting on large scale shows. Again, that required a cultural shift as we entered the luxury world further. We did it by developing our team members and trusting in their abilities. We passed from a leadership style that was more focused on control, to a shared leadership style.

What was your motivation behind launching the Moncler Genius project?

It was always in my mind to build a unique company, a unique brand with a lot of energy — enough energy to build a strong community. Three, four years ago, I realised that the market was changing a lot. The way to communicate with the people around the world had changed. Digital was improving a lot and I always thought of Moncler as a company that stood slightly outside of the typical “fashion business.” I knew we could do something different, innovative — find something new, something to attract people to the store every day, every week and every month. That's why I turned my strategy from a seasonal business into a monthly business.

Moncler Genius has a great impact on our culture. The execution is complex and we need a working style that responds to it.

The idea is really to have this genius building which produces inspiring ideas much more regularly than previously thought possible to execute. Every February, we launch new creativity with some new designers. But this is not only a product, it's not only a collection, it's an idea that almost every month we have a new momentum launching a product, an editorial concept [or] editorial ideas. [It’s important to] have the possibility to continue to talk with our customers on a monthly basis and add editorial content because in today’s world, you need content every day.

How has the Moncler Genius project impacted your employees’ experience at work?

The Moncler Genius [has a] great impact on our internal culture. Think about the execution it requires, for example. It is really complex and we need a culture and working style that responds to it. We started from a traditional organisation model. Now, the offices where we're working are organised in a much more cross-functional way where the keywords are contamination, inclusivity and collaboration.

Moncler Genius collaborations, from left: Moncler x Craig Green; Moncler x Pierpaolo Piccioli;
Moncler x Richard Quinn | Source: Courtesy

Our leadership style has changed a lot too. Now, it is focused on more empowerment to the people executing the initiatives — our organisational hierarchy has moved towards much more shared leadership. Responsibility is no longer direct lines to an individual, it no longer falls to just one person, but to a collaborative group.

What is the Moncler Academy, and how does it create opportunities for development?

We have created MAKE, the Moncler Academy for Knowledge and Excellence, an experiential and community-based learning eco-system. Training concepts are driven directly by our strategic challenges, and delivered predominantly by our best people who share their disciplines, enhancing collaboration and integration among employees. There are moments in which people can learn from real cases, supported by coaches to maximise individual behaviours and team effectiveness.

Digital also plays a key role. Platforms connecting the MAKE community within the company utilise artificial intelligence to customise learning paths based on what employees need to master, but also what they enjoy in their professional development. We want it to be innovative and engaging.

We also know that to make people learn, you have to put emotion at the centre. That's why we always say this Academy will have people at the centre and real interaction at its core. The team is very important. In one room, we have 10, 20, 30 people talking and sharing their visions on how to achieve a solution, which means everyone in the team becomes a tutor and everyone is able to learn from their colleagues. It is organised to be very agile, to follow the strategic priorities of the company. But though it may not be organised in a rigid, traditional manner, the methodology and the outputs are concrete and directly linked to the needs we have to reach our goals.

This is a sponsored feature paid for by Moncler as part of a BoF Careers partnership. To explore careers at Moncler, please click here.

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