When Eddie Bauer invented the goose down sweater, he imagined an innovative solution to a life-threatening problem: if bulky wool outerwear left him sweaty (and vulnerable to frost) in freezing cold, then a light insulator would reduce exertion and fight hypothermia in the process. The first “Skyliner” goose down sweater (unveiled in 1936) would keep outdoorsmen like Bauer from literally dying.
Fast forward 80 years, and the humble goose down sweater has taken on second life as a luxury fashion accessory, largely due to the success of one brand: Moncler.
While the Franco-Italian ski brand began life in 1952, it wasn’t until its 2003 relaunch that Moncler’s influence truly began to spread. That year, Italian entrepreneur Remo Ruffini set Moncler on a decade’s long collision course with the world of fashion and luxury – when the brand listed on the Italian stock market in 2013, it had debuted high fashion collections (Gamme Rouge and Gamme Bleu), opened stores worldwide, and for many, turned the utilitarian down sweater into a luxury must-have.
Moncler jackets now meet a need of a different kind: without them, style-conscious men and women all over the globe might literally die.
Shame about the price tag, then. For those who love the quilted look and sleek silhouette of a Moncler jacket (but may not have the $1000+ to shell out on some feathers and nylon), here are 9 stylish alternatives:
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Kicking off this list: an affordable, lightweight down jacket from Japanese brand Uniqlo. Continuing the brand’s focus on “LifeWear” (accessible, high-quality garments designed to improve the wearer’s life), this specific piece promises featherweight warmth in a sleek, weather-resistant package that even retains the vinylized look of a Moncler Maya sweater. Just, you know, at 5% of the price. If you’re looking for the highest value-per-dollar without compromising looks, the Ultra Light Down Parka is your next purchase. Shop the full range on Uniqlo’s website here.
A light down jacket from the name that started it all, the CirrusLite is a DWR-coated nylon zip-up stuffed with 650 fill goose down. If that sounds like a mouthful, just remember this: it’s a fully-fledged down jacket packed with outdoors functionality, but with a price tag still in the double-digits. While it may not have the street-ready styling of the Uniqlo parka, the CirrusLite bites back with pure functionality. If your weekend adventures ever take you outside city limits, the CirrusLite is a perfect companion. See more on Eddie Bauer’s web store here.
The most technical option at this price point, Columbia’s Flash Forward jacket is made from water-resistant polyester and filled with the same 650 fill goose down as the CirrusLite. While it may be the most aesthetically “outdoors” of the cheap down jacket, don’t let the matte finish and chest branding turn you off. The Flash Forward is, ounce-for-ounce, the most capable down jacket in this range. If you’re looking for the storied functionality that made Moncler a supplier to the French Olympic team, Columbia’s Flash Forward is a handsome – and super warm – light down jacket. Besides, are details really worth ten times the price? You’re probably buying it in black anyways. Shop the Flash Forward in colors of all sorts here.
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The truest Moncler alternative on this list, in terms of both looks and silhouette. MKI’s Hooded Down Jacket features a laminated polyamide shell, which is both utilitarian (added weather resistance) and shamelessly stylish (high-shine nylon is a Moncler code trait). If you’re craving the look of the Moncler Maya jacket but also like making your rent, shop the MKI Hooded Down Jacket at END. Clothing here.
California-based outdoors brand Patagonia has long straddled the line between lifestyle brand and outdoors innovator. While their world-famous down sweater is certainly no slouch for aesthetics, underneath all that minimal design lies some truly powerful materials science. To keep it short: eco-friendly recycled nylon; 800 fill goose down insulation; and it all weight less than one pound. For under $300, the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody is the strongest technical piece on this list. Check out the full line on Patagonia’s website here.
Now we’re talking. Mountain Hardwear’s “Ghost Whisperer” hooded jacket isn’t just the most hardcore outdoors option on this list – it’s also, coincidentally, a Moncler lookalike. Weighing in at a mere 8 ounces, the Ghost Whisperer is the definition of “ultralight,” yet also retains the vinylized looks of its weightier luxury cousins. Plus, it’s stuffed with 800 fill goose down. “Hardcore,” indeed. If you live anywhere north of the snowline and have room in your budget, this is your jacket.
Shop a selection of colors (including Drake-approved bright red) at REI.com here.
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There are two types of winter people: those who own an Arc’teryx jacket, and those who want to. Vancouver’s own Arc’teryx Equipment is to the outdoors industry what Ferrari is to motorsports: storied, innovative, and dear Lord expensive. That’s without even talking about their Veilance high fashion line. Yet, as the firm that introduced waterproof zippers, GORE-TEX Pro shell, and countless other now-standard groundbreakers to the apparel industry, it’s hard to say an Arc’teryx price tag isn’t justified. Case in point: the Cerium SV hoody. Streamlined design, composite construction, and 850 fill goose down insulation. If you ski, this is your jacket.
Check out the Cerium SV at Arc’teryx’s own webstore here.
That other Canadian outdoors firm. Best known for their pricy parkas, Toronto-based Canada Goose has recently expanded into other lines of gear, bringing its same ethos of quality and utility to everything from shells to down jackets. Coming in just a hair lighter than the Cerium SV (in exchange for some weather-resistance, due to its lack of composite down), the Canada Goose Hybridge Hoody is an 800 fill zip-up best suited to apres-ski rather than backcountry slopes. That said, considering Goose’s luxury pedigree, the Hybridge is perhaps the truest Moncler cognate on the market – and for half the price of a Maya jacket, to boot.
See more about the Hybridge on Canada Goose's own site here.
No one does luxury like the Italians. Since 1982, Massimo Osti and Carlo Rivetti’s label “Stone Island” has been on the forefront of fabric research, making their famous “compass patch” synonymous with both quality and creativity.
Price-sensitivity, however, didn’t quite make the cut. That’ll be one (1) trust fund, please.
Do you own any of the Moncler alternatives listed? Any I missed? Leave a comment below or on my Facebook here to start the conversation.