INSPIRING FASHION DESIGNERS for several seasons now, the puffer trend keeps on growing—in popularity and size. The padded coat, in various iterations, continued its unfaltering journey on the fall/winter 2020/2021 runways last spring: short at Versace, deconstructed at Marine Serre and dramatic at Rick Owens. It breaks its own rules and dares to rebel—a boldness that goes well with its iconic status. The puffer has survived a lifetime of fashion, and even since its early days, it has never been one to hold back.


In 1936, American businessman and amateur adventurer Eddie Bauer nearly died of hypothermia while on a fishing trip in the mid- dle of winter. The experience inspired an idea, and he created the Skyliner, the first down-filled quilted coat designed for winter sports. A year later, English-American fashion designer Charles James crafted a voluminous quilted-satin evening jacket. Referred to as the “pneumatic jacket,” the garment proved challenging to make as James didn’t want the padding to hinder movement. Much to his surprise, it achieved cult status over 30 years later.


In 1973, the puffer’s clout began to grow thanks to New York designer Norma Kamali, who gave it the high-fashion treatment. After a camping trip (clearly, the outdoors served as inspiration more than once), she constructed the sleeping-bag coat: an ankle-length down jacket made from two layers (cut from actual sleeping bags during its first years of production) sewn together with air pockets between them. The piece was an instant phenomenon, sported by celebrities like Cher and Elton John as well as bouncers at the famed Studio 54 nightclub, the 1970s gathering place for the who’s who of Manhattan’s artistic elite.


Soon, the sporty puffer could be spotted zipping down ski slopes everywhere from Aspen to Courchevel (where the French pre- ferred Moncler, the homegrown luxury brand founded in 1952). It was only a matter of time before it hit the streets, adapting to the exuberance of the ’80s with bright colours and bridging the gap between function and fashion. By the ’90s, rappers were seen donning down coats as hip hop made its meteoric rise in popular- ity. The jacket then landed on the catwalks of Alexander McQueen and Helmut Lang as well as that of Maison Margiela, whose fall/winter 1999/2000 collection featured a version that trans- formed into a comforter when the sleeves were removed. During Balenciaga’s fall/winter 2016/2017 presentation, designer Demna Gvasalia showcased a more casually draped red puffer, making the jacket feel fresh, effortless, cool and, most importantly, accessible.


From the runway to the street, this statement piece manages to reinvent itself every winter, whether it’s short, long or, our favourite extra large. Canadian fashion giant Aritzia has trademarked The Super Puff, whose cult following includes Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber, and several other brands known for their signature parkas, including Canada Goose and Kanuk, now have versions of the iconic jacket. Where will the puffer go from here? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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