SINCE LAUNCHING IN 2018, the Moncler Genius project has engaged some of the most visionary designers of our time. This is because it’s a unique proposition: it’s rare (if not, unheard of) that creative directors are given the opportunity to interpret the DNA of a historic brand at which they are not gainfully employed, which, I can only imagine, brings a refreshing gear switch to their day-to-day. So far, Jonathan Anderson, Pierpaolo Piccioli, Craig Green and Matthew Williams have all taken part—Piccioli’s full-length puffer gown went properly viral. But Moncler Genius’ new collaboration is especially special, because even though the collection itself is new, the partnership goes a long way back.
Francesco Ragazzi may be the founder and creative director of Palm Angels, but the Italian designer’s illustrious career actually started at Moncler. He began with the company as an intern, before climbing the ranks and eventually becoming the artistic director of the brand. Today, he maintains strong ties with the brand, as a regular collaborator and member of the “Moncler family”. Ragazzi’s latest collection with Moncler is a testament to his deep understanding of the brand’s codes, but also how to make them relevant to the 2023 fashion fan. Characterised by puffy volumes, soft textures and eye-catching colour combinations, this edition of Moncler x Palm Angels is made for wearing on the street and taking to the slopes.
Recently, we had the opportunity to chat to Ragazzi about his longstanding friendship with Moncler, his ongoing fascination with Los Angeles’ skate culture and how his latest collab with the Italian skiwear brand fuses Americana tropes with alpinist ambitions.
Esquire Australia: You were one of the first designers to take part in Moncler Genius. What attracted you to the project?
Francesco Ragazzi: I started at Moncler with an internship, and I gradually began to work directly with Remo Ruffini, the Chairman and CEO of Moncler, on all the creative projects until I became artistic director of the brand. I owe him a lot and if I still collaborate with brand within the Moncler Genius project it is [because] I am part of the brand family as well as of its recent history.
When I started at Moncler, we were a small group of people united by one vision and the same vivid passion. The brand DNA is all about the constant quest for innovation, excellence and creativity that comes directly from its day one, when a real pioneer, Lionel Terray, a mountain climber and lover, technically and visionally contributed to create something that was not only supposed to meet cold weather needs on the mountain peaks but also to encounter exactly that vivid passion that only the brave can have when they authentically are born to go beyond the limits.
In recent years, as part of the brand strategy, there was the aim to let Moncler be synonymous with the down jacket. And I can genuinely say to have contributed to reach that goal. This makes me really proud to be still part of Moncler within Moncler Genius. As I grew up with Moncler for me it’s quite natural to translate creatively the brand essence within Palm Angels collection for Moncler Genius.
Why have you chosen to title this collection ‘The Art of Lightness’?
Moncler’s world is about mountain peaks, snow and cold. I have reimagined that world of highness as a place where the extreme white reveals itself through the strong light—the same you can experience only on mountain’s peak.
What are some of the ways the collection captures your love of vintage and Americana archetypes?
The gender-neutral take of this collection is a further exploration [of what] I did with the ‘90s and those Americana archetypes. It’s all about a post-preppy feel to taking elements from those codes and turning them around and upside down.
The rugby-inspired story comes in block stripes and incorporates polo shirts and a reinterpretation of the style that’s oversized and padded like a duvet. Every look is highly curated. It all adds up to a take on California preppy style.
Palm Angels was born out of your fascination with LA skate culture. What continues to inspire you about that scene today?
I travelled a lot with my parents as a child, especially to the United States. I grew up with those Americana images and style of life, those of West and East Coasts particularly, so I naturally infused that into the brand and this continues to be my constant source of inspiration—also for this Moncler collection. After the Palm Angels book I felt the urgency to express myself, and what I did visually only, through a brand that could interpret the same free spirit I captured in the skaters I photographed around LA.
The name came quite naturally, as it was a reference to the settings in the photography book: the palms on the beaches and the skaters that I saw, they were angels floating in the light of the Californian seaside. That image was so inspiring and evocative that I wrote the name on a piece of paper even without thinking too much about it. There’s a picture in the book that is so clear, portraying a skater with long blond hair from the shoulders. Probably without my noticing it was that picture that suggested [the name] to me. After that the journey from the book to the brand came instinctively.
How does your proclivity for using clothing as cultural signifiers translate in this Moncler x Palm Angels collection?
Palm Angels is my take, as an Italian creative, on American culture and subcultures, where a specific aesthetic linked to my home country is expressed through the collections, becoming a cultural signifier of some sort. Palm Angels is about a distinct style of life, it is my weltanschauung, a vision with a real human being behind it. Since the inception I have approached my work at Palm Angels in a disciplined manner as I want to be continuously translating into the brand a precise philosophy, a vision based on explicit values that reference a deep sense of belonging expressed by freedom, individuality and exploration in the broader sense.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
See the full Moncler x Palm Angles collection here.
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