Feeling the chill? Snuggle up in a puffer jacket
I never gave Moncler puffer jackets a second glance until I came close to freezing to death last winter, stranded at Milan's central rail station waiting for the train to take me to Florence. I joined the masses by the tracks waiting in vain in freezing temperatures.
Don't get me wrong. I was bundled up in layers. I had a baby lamb overcoat over layers of shirts and sweaters, and boots and long johns with my jeans. My neck was wrapped in a fox fur collar and hands in shearling-lined gloves. I was dressed like the models you see in winter stories in L'Uomo Vogue, yet the biting cold got to me.
Meanwhile, the men around me were all clad in puffy Moncler jackets with fur-trimmed hoods or variations of it (3) - waist-length ones from the brand begin at HK$5,950. They were all, unlike me, unaffected by the cold.
Down-filled puffer coats can have that Michelin Man stigma. But on that extremely cold winter's day, those Italian men showed that a puffer jacket can look elegant if you pick one in black that fits just right over a wool suit.
I learned that puffer coats go with a suit just as well as a cashmere overcoat. Simon de Pury, the perpetually double-breasted suit-clad owner of the auction house Phillips de Pury, showed how to work the puffer coat with elegance and aristocratic flair on the reality show Work of Art. Another plus is that they are versatile enough to wear with casual clothing.
I've invested in one since I'll be spending part of my winter on the east coast of the US this year. It's Moncler's signature product and it makes the best ones, with styles that are fashion-forward as well.
Trendier versions are also available from Pyrenex ( HK$6,990 and up) at Harvey Nichols. The jackets come in electric colours and in bomber (5) and belted styles. These were created for Pyrenex by young designer Alexis Mabille. Louis Vuitton has a down-filled jacket-and-vest combo that doesn't make the wearer look as if he is lugging around a dozen hotdogs. The version with detachable sleeves (2) is available for a whopping HK$27,500.
Emporio Armani, Ralph Lauren Black Label and Wooyoungmi all have puffer jackets this season, making it this year's preferred winter armour. An attractive Zegna Sport puffer with hood (4) is also notable for its wearable style (HK$7,500).
Friendlier versions, in terms of price and function, are available from The North Face. However, the cut is more relaxed and the fit is more suited to snow shovelling or snowboarding than just being stylish. Even more affordable versions are available at high street stores such as H&M, Uniqlo, Giordano and Bossini, but the stuffing inside the jacket won't be down but polyester batting.
Because of the popularity of puffer jackets among Italian men, Dolce & Gabbana has sent out more on-trend incarnations of the jacket instead of the usual shiny, oil slick style fabrication. There are versions that use Fair Isle sweater material (1) - in keeping with one of the biggest trends of the season.
If you want to go extreme, the designers also created a puffy jumpsuit. But, you might want to limit this one to the slopes because wearing it to work is a no-no. Getting in and out would be a pain and you might also get odd stares, unless you work at Nasa.
When investing in a puffer coat, pick one that fits just right and avoid anything oversized - you want to look trim and lean. For versatility's sake, choose one in a solid, masculine colour like black or navy. If you have spare change then go ahead and get the one in taxicab yellow or St Patrick's Day green.
D&G Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2801 6827
Louis Vuitton The Landmark, Central, tel: 8100 1182
Moncler IFC Mall, Central, tel: 2524 7779
The North Face Times Square, Causeway Bay, tel: 2320 9009
Pyrenex at Harvey Nichols. The Landmark, Central, tel: 3695 3388