Winter jackets at Moncler

Only in Italy does a utilitarian item become a thing of beauty. Moncler, the Milan-based apparel brand that pushes heavy coats in a fashion-forward direction, has opened a standalone shop on Oak Street just in time for winter lows. For years the brand has been at high-end department stores, but this new boutique offers jackets, bags, hats, and shoes in a spot resembling a swanky European ski lodge.

Moncler created its first nylon and feather quilted jacket in 1954. Today it stays true to the technology that originally catered to mountaineers—but, courtesy of Remo Ruffini, who took over as president and creative director in 2003, the company has become more focused on design and fashion. (Handbags and shoes were introduced three years ago.) Ruffini says that while recent designs have an “urban sense,” it is important to remain loyal to the brand’s practical roots. “ ‘Duvet’ is the keyword for Moncler, the secret behind its magic formula,” he says. The company still hand-selects down from France, resulting in a “featherweight garment that takes up a minimal amount of room.” Nylon provides breathability and insulation, and the fabrics are coated to wick away moisture.

The Chicago store will carry a few of the guest-designer “capsule” collections that have been making waves over the last year. “As I wanted to return to the archives, I was looking for designers able to revive Moncler roots, but in a contemporary way,” Ruffini says. The latest collaboration, with the Japanese designer Hiroki Nakamura, debuted in fall 2010 and is based on Moncler jackets from the 1950s and 1960s. Other finds include the classic men’s and women’s slick down jackets in muted tones ($995), an improbably chic down cape ($1,620), and fur earmuffs ($120).

GO 33 E. Oak St.; 312-361-8573,

Finds: Down coats (from $995), dressy coats (from $1,295), and accessories such as sweaters and fur hats. Also, guest-designed capsule collections by the Japanese designers Hiroki Nakamura (men) and Chitose Abe (women). Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday


Photography: Courtesy of vendors