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The Fusalp spirit of skiwear

The heirs to tennis legend René Lacoste are bringing skiwear label Fusalp back to life. They have ambitious plans, as Lindsay Macpherson discovers on a visit to its Paris showroom

One of the perks of heading up a skiwear brand is that there is always an excuse to go skiing. “Visiting St Moritz is practically market research,” laughs Fusalp’s Alexandre Fauvet when I meet him at the brand’s Parisian showroom, a lofty space off the Boulevard de Magenta. A fanatical skier, Fauvet first discovered St Moritz 20 years ago and has been visiting ever since. “I go as often as possible. St Moritz is a totally unique place… it really is a dream,” he says.

On his many visits to the Swiss resort, Fauvet makes Badrutt’s Palace Hotel his base. “The heritage of the hotel and the story behind it makes it very special,” says the ebullient CEO, who values heritage, having spent the last few years restoring Fusalp to its former glory. 

Recapturing the Fusalp spirit

Founded in 1952 by a family of tailors in the French Alps, Fusalp had been in slow decline since its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was renowned for its cutting-edge skiwear. Serendipitously, Fauvet, alongside Sophie Lacoste and Philippe Lacoste (granddaughter and grandson of the famed Lacoste founder René) were on the lookout for a heritage brand that they could take over and revitalise. “We all wanted a new challenge,” Fauvet explains. Fusalp fitted the bill.

The trio hired Mathilde Lacoste – the wife of Philippe, who had spent 20 years heading up trends and development at Lacoste – as creative director and tasked her with recapturing Fusalp’s essence. “I visited Ingrid Buchner, Fusalp’s creative director in the 1970s. Her designs were so innovative that we think of her as skiwear’s Karl Lagerfeld,” says Lacoste. She also explored the company's design archives and collaborated with existing workers, who she describes as “the anchors” who are helping to retain the spirit of the brand.

“I visited Ingrid Buchner, Fusalp’s creative director in the 1970s. Her designs were so innovative that we think of her as skiwear’s Karl Lagerfeld”

Adopting a modus operandi of ‘evolution not revolution’ has served them well. It helps that Fusalp was originally known for its innovation and forward-looking design, so the brand's focus today on fusing cutting-edge technology with a sartorial approach to pattern cutting and a contemporary style seems fitting. “It’s looking back with a modern eye,” explains Fauvet.

Metallics and self-heating ski jackets

A case in point is Fusalp’s Autumn/Winter 2019-2020 collection, influenced by the 50th anniversary of the moon landings. “The question we asked ourselves was: what would we wear to go skiing on the moon?” Fauvet says. The line features slimline ski suits in metallics; lightweight ski pants in a non-crease fabric that are almost indistinguishable from a pair of tailored trousers; and tops with a retro futuristic feel made in a high-performance fabric.

“The question we asked ourselves was: what would we wear to go skiing on the moon”

“Performance and function are always our priority,” says Fauvet. To prove his point, he pulls out a self-heating ski jacket with a surprisingly slim silhouette, the result of over two years of research and development. “You can control which areas you want to heat via an app on your smartphone,” says Lacoste. “All you need to wear underneath is a T-shirt.”

Supporting skiing talent

“There’s a lot to be excited about, and it doesn’t stop at product,” says Fauvet. “The brand is preparing to launch the Young Champions programme, an initiative that aims to foster young skiing talent worldwide.” 

He feels a responsibility to invest in the new generation, while the company's  focus on the latest innovations benefits all areas of the business he says. “It’s similar to how a car manufacturer views its concept cars,” he explains. “That champion-spirit technology it develops infuses everything it does. For example, we’re going to use our self-heating technology to create urbanwear. It’s perfect for people who travel a lot or who just want to stay warm without the bulk.

“The urban collection is more about lifestyle," says Fauvet of the creations that include velvet-panelled bombers and shearling-lined sneakers to wear both on and off the slope."It’s aimed at sporty people who love to ski and travel and live a very international life.” 

New St Moritz skiwear store

The stylish crowd in St Moritz, says Fauvet, has been an inspiration. In fact, the team had planned on opening a store in the resort from the very beginning, but it was only in 2019 that they settled on the perfect location in the exclusive Palace Galerie.

Fusalp plans more than 40 further openings but the team is taking care to balance Fusalp’s growth with retaining the company's familial feel. “Mathilde, Sophie, Philippe and I have worked together for 20 years, and we’d like to work together for 20 more,” says Fauvet. “Keeping Fusalp a fun place to work is important. It’s all about being proud of what we do, having fun while we’re doing it and seeing happy customers wearing our ski clothes.” And seeing happy customers in St Moritz wearing Fusalp clothes? “That’s the dream within the dream,” says Fauvet.

Lindsay Macpherson is the Fashion Features Editor for Harrods Magazine and has interviewed many of the stars of the fashion world, including Christian Louboutin, Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs. She has also written for Time Out London, Vogue.com and Financial Times’ How To Spend It.

Published March 2020

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