GC Magazine - Galleria Cavour

History and evolution of the down jacket

10 January - 2024

History and evolution of the down jacket

Warm, ultra-light, super-cool, the down jacket has become a must-have fashion item and, looking at the iconic models of Moncler and K-Way today, it seems impossible to think that initially there were those who expressed scepticism about its success in the fashion system.

Its origins were born against the backdrop of an adventurous legend, when in 1935 hiker Eddie Bauer, owner of a sporting goods shop in Alaska, risked hypothermia after a fishing trip and decided that there was no jacket on the market that was warm enough and at the same time light enough to protect his body from the harsh winter temperatures.

The following year, therefore, the first down jacket in history was patented. In 1954, Moncler down jackets, recognised as the best on the market, were chosen by the Italian expedition to K2 when Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli conquered the world’s second highest peak. It was only in the 1970s, however, that this garment, which until then had been used exclusively in a sporting context, made its debut on the fashion market.

The first to realise its potential was the New York designer Norma Kamali who developed the “sleeping bag coat” version, designed for women who needed to combine style with practicality. The following decade saw the definitive consecration of the down jacket, which became the symbol of the paninari, a youth subculture born in the shadow of Milan Cathedral, and consequently of an entire generation. Their looks were inspired by cult films such as “Sposerò Simon Le Bon” and Pet Shop Boys hits. Their brands of reference are Moncler, Timberland and Fiorucci, and their meeting places and hangouts are the sandwich shops and fast-food restaurants that in those years perfectly embodied the myth of globalisation.

It was only in 1999 that Parisian fashion discovered the potential of this iconic garment thanks to designer Martin Margela, who brought it to the catwalk in an over-size model. Universal consecration came, however, thanks to the ingenious intuitions of Remo Ruffini who, crossing the boundaries of haute-couture, gave life to increasingly innovative models both in design and in manufacturing technique. The down jacket thus became a status symbol of research, exclusivity and style: a true piece of haute couture capable of making a difference in the look and wardrobe of all of us.