Utilitarian outerwear has long been thought of as anti-fashion, but these days, anti-fashion is decidedly in. The uniform of choice for hordes of tech workers in cities like San Francisco and Seattle tends to be heavy on the Patagonia vests and North Face beanies. So-called “VSCO girls” have revived popular usage of oversized t-shirts, scrunchies, and Birkenstocks. People have even gone out of their way to find the ugliest, chunkiest “dad sneakers” on the market. Like it or not, it’s a thing.
So it’s no surprise that heritage brands like Moncler, which were on the brink of bankruptcy not so long ago, are now enjoying a high fashion-influenced revival. In 2018, CEO Remo Ruffini introduced the attention-grabbing collaborative “Moncler Genius” platform, working with hip designers like Simone Rocha and Hiroshi Fujiwara to obliterate the stylistic boundaries of the puffer jacket. This year’s collections might be the wackiest yet.
British fashion designer Craig Green is among the eight designers selected to create capsule collections taking the Moncler puffer jacket in bold new directions, and his vision is wild. It basically looks like Green raided the ultralight backpacking section of REI and collaged as many down-filled items as he could into outrageously well-padded outfits. You can imagine just laying down in the grass, zipping up the hood, and going to sleep for the night.
Green’s collaborations with Moncler, now in their sixth season, have always been heavy on superfluous flaps and straps, but the 2020 collection is more conceptual than ever. The designer took inspiration from samurai armor and vivid inflatables to create a series of outfits that make their wearers look a bit like enormous exotic insects.
Many of these conceptual items extend well beyond the outlines of the body. It’s almost as if a bunch of backpackers used their sleeping bags for so long without washing them, they came to life, stood up, and started walking around. Many also feature tiny openings for the wearers’ faces. It all might be a bit bizarre, but you have to admit, it’s also pretty fun.
“I have always explored ideas of protection and functionality within my work, something that is also at the core of Moncler’s heritage. I thought it would be interesting for these ideas to be pushed further, interpreting Moncler’s performance-based history and developing designs with their years of technical knowledge and expertise,” says Green.
Of course, this is just how it goes with runway fashion; it’s more about a performance of wearable art than functionality. What you can actually buy on Moncler’s website is a lot more realistic in terms of wearability, but it still retains a bit of the conceptual edge. As you might expect, they include oversized puffer jackets with generous pillow-sized funnel necks and various hanging bits retailing for around $2,450.
Ultimately, this kind of compromise is what it comes down to. It wouldn’t be a terrible thing if designers like Green could push the brands that produce the most reliable, long-lasting, and functional clothing fit for adverse weather conditions to offer garments that are just a tad more fashionable.