From a distance, flashy skiwear brand Moncler’s latest partnership under its collaborative Genius label—with Matthew Williams’s tech-y, high fashion 1017 Alyx 9SM—seems an unlikely fit. What do candy-colored alpine puffers have in common with dystopian chest rigs? But from the moment the two first showed off their collection, last February in Milan, it was clear that the two labels were in fact perfect for each other: Williams is a technical innovator, and a sustainability trailblazer. Basically, he’s an urban-studies major in a fashion designer’s body. Who better to put a spin on cold-weather jackets that have turned into off-slope status symbols?
“I was really just trying to merge the DNA of Moncler and the DNA of Alyx,” Williams tells me over the phone from Milan, where the collection launched earlier this week. “And to look at things that we do well, that they maybe haven't experimented with before.” Which, well: ever since the collection first appeared, it was pretty clear that Williams had managed that merger successfully. “It feels good,” he said. “It's real now! It's great to see people wearing it, and to see the Genius store full of all these pieces that we all worked so hard on.”
Given his penchant for all things technical, we asked the designer to break down a few of the gnarliest, only-possible-in-a-Moncler factory details from the new collection.
“Garment-dyed” is one of those fashion terms that isn't widely understood. But it’s kind of a big deal! And it’s not that complicated. Most garments are piece-dyed, meaning that their component parts are dipped before the whole thing is stitched together: body, sleeves, and the rest. Garment-dyeing is what it sounds like: putting the thing together and then dyeing it. “You can really reach colors that you can't obtain in piece-dyed clothing,” Williams says. “And it also gives the garment a real soul,” showing off “all the highs and lows in the fabric.” Designers usually garment-dye T-shirts, or sweaters. Williams, naturally, decided to apply the treatment to Moncler’s iconic puffer. Because the piece is made of a bunch of different materials, the effect is striking. “There's knit, and webbing, and lining, and all the top-stitching. It all takes on a different tone, each material,” he says. “And sometimes we have to dye it twice. If it's cotton and a poly, those have more highs and lows. It just gives a real depth to the piece.” The result is a crunchy, incandescent piece that sort of seems to glow from within. “It feels—not worn as in it's dirty, but it doesn't feel completely crisp,” Williams says. “Which I liked the look of: it gives a lot of texture.”
Former-Bottle Base Layers
Williams is heavy into advanced fabric research and development, especially with a view towards sustainable production practices. “I believe that there are too many clothes on this earth,” he told us back in 2017, when Alyx was just kicking off. For the Genius collab, Williams plugged his technical know-how into Moncler’s conglomerate-sized supply chain. The results: cotton jersey and nylon leggings made from seriously futuristic materials. “Econyl is a fiber that's made from reclaimed fishing line in Scandinavia,” Williams explains. “It can be used in lots of different things—it's like nylon. But in this case, we used it on the leggings, which was really cool.” How do you top that? Try: T-shirts made from old fabric and recycled plastic. “The jersey was made of recovered textile waste from the cutting-room floor, and plastic bottles,” he says. Old hat, really: “We do that in Alyx, as well.”
Big Flippin’ Boots
Alyx’s footwear is famous for its shit-kicking qualities; Williams, it seems, loves few things more than an enormous sole. But making an Alyx-size boot that’s truly weatherproof? That requires a little Italian...genius. “It was actually a request from the Moncler store staff: they were asking for more waterproof boots,” he says. “And I was like, I'd love to make one of those, you know?” We know! And we are stoked to wear the result on every freezing-rain day for the rest of time. “We figured out a place to be able to make this solid rubber boot. And it was really great, because we got to develop our own sole, and our own upper. There's just not a lot of places that can do that kind of construction.” That construction is vulcanization, the process by which a sole is attached directly to the upper. It’s how your favorite Vans are put together—only these aren’t exactly your favorite Vans.
If Alyx is known for one thing, it’s for its hardware: for its “rollercoaster” buckle, for its pseudo-tactical chest rigs, for its general belief that a garment is not complete until it’s got something dense and awesome dangling from or attached to it. Naturally, Alyx gear is all over the genius collection. The Moncler logo is lasered onto the rollercoaster, while the smaller “tri-con” buckle lives inside the down jackets, where it secures straps you can use to wear it on your shoulders, backpack-style, if you get too hot. There’s a new one, too. “We developed a new hook—it's kind of like a large carabiner—specifically for Moncler, and I think it's really beautiful, to use on belts and accessories,” Williams says. “That was actually something we developed towards the last days, right before we showed. It just looked great with the styling. With the jackets that were quite clean in the front, it gave some silhouette, some waist.”
Originally Appeared on GQ