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The 1017 ALYX 9SM collection for Moncler Genius brings together two fashion world heavyweights: Matthew Williams, the streetwear designer-turned creative director of Givenchy, and Moncler, one of the world’s most popular makers of fancy puffy coats. With its boxy silhouettes, odd proportions and liberal use of shiny, futuristic fabric, the collection of $3,500 down jackets, $4,000 leather pants and $1,000 dog vests is the latest in a long list of high-profile collaborations between France-based Moncler and the world’s elite designers.

German luxury ski-wear brand Bogner has been testing the waters in Canada, with a pop-up on Toronto’s Mink Mile.Handout

Despite its caché (like most Moncler Genius collections, this one quickly sold out of most styles and sizes), you’re not likely to spot the collection on a chairlift this ski season. That’s because, in the white-hot world of luxury winter sportswear, not every garment is designed with actual sports in mind.

“The journey from fashion to function is a difficult one to make,” says Barry Williams, chief merchandise officer for Canadian retailer Sporting Life. “But we’re starting to see some convergence.” As an expert in winter sports apparel, from traditional outdoor brands such as Columbia and Helly Hansen to high-end labels including Canada Goose and Moncler, Williams has seen this trend accelerate during the pandemic, with brands of all kinds embracing the look (if not the functionality) of on-mountain gear. “There’s definitely been a shift in consumer shopping,” he says. “During the lockdowns, people got into new outdoor hobbies like skiing and snowboarding, and we saw a massive spike in performance apparel as a result.”

Moncler isn’t the only brand responding to this demand. At Chanel, the annual Coco Neige collection infuses classic alpine parkas and snow pants with luxe fabrics and detailing to outfit well-heeled clients for trips to the Rockies or the French Alps. At Dior, the DiorAlps capsule line offers $1,300 ski goggles and a $5,600 leopard-print ski suit that would be perfectly suited to preening at a chalet in St. Moritz.

German luxury ski-wear brand Bogner has also been testing the waters in Canada, with a pop-up on Toronto’s Mink Mile and a Canadian e-commerce platform. “Since its founding in 1932, each Bogner collection has represented an incomparable mix of chic and sportive, timeless and technical,” says Bogner co-CEO Heinz Hackl, crediting founder Maria Bogner with inventing high-fashion ski-wear in the late 1940s. “Today every Bogner ski jacket can be worn as a unique fashion piece in an urban environment, or as an extremely fashionable sports jacket that meets the need of any ski enthusiast.”

Closer to home (and much closer to earth in price), Montreal-based Rudsak launched its first ski-wear capsule collection this fall, spanning parkas, base layers and accessories, most of it made from recycled fabrics. “When we look at ski and outdoor, the evolution has come to luxury,” says Rudsak founder Evik Asatoorian. After opening a pop-up in Mont-Tremblant, Que., last season (and cancelling the cruise wear collection for this year – cruises not being much of a thing these days) a ski capsule seemed like the most logical next step for the Canadian outerwear brand. Asatoorian offers his customers a full kit of high-fashion on-mountain wear, from belted ski jackets to base layers, gloves and even branded helmets. “Our ski wear offers a more fitted look,” he says. “It gives a fresh point of view if you want to be different from most skiers.”

While some makers emphasize branding over technical details, and others go full-bore on waterproof zippers and storm cuffs while offering little in the way of style, one brand has proven itself adept at striking the right balance. “The design team at The North Face doesn’t view style and function as two opposites of a spectrum,” says Alistair Smith, the brand’s on-mountain design director. To that end, he says, customers can expect similar attention to detail in all of The North Face’s wares, from the Nuptse jacket, a 1990s classic resurrected in a rainbow of throwback colours, to the Advanced Mountain Kit Summit Series, a line intended to stand up to high altitudes and extreme conditions.

As such, Smith sees The North Face’s high-profile partnerships with fashion houses such as Gucci and Maison Margiela not as an opportunity to sell ski jackets to people who don’t ski but to get style-minded customers excited about the outdoors, one puffer at a time. “We strongly believe that exploration is for everyone – it’s as much a state of mind as it is a physical activity,” he says. “Collaborations help us speak to that idea of exploration in a different context.”

The North Face’s latest co-signed collection with streetwear giant Supreme features interpretations of the Coldworks 700-Fill Down Parka, Steep Tech Apogee Jacket and Steep Tech Fleece Jacket, remixing these mountain-tested designs with streetwear details and a livery of colourful Supreme logos. Even though anything with Supreme x The North Face branding is next-to-impossible to find at retail (buyers usually bid for the pieces at high markups on the grey market) the strategy seems to be working. “I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen The North Face x Supreme product on the slopes,” Smith says.

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