How Perfect Moment Became Instagram’s Favorite Ski Brand
Jane Gottschalk has conquered the slopes one post at a time.
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because she’s conquered the slopes one post at a time.
The night before I meet Jane Gottschalk, she was hosting Perfect Moment’s Christmas party: an ice rink extravaganza with professional skaters, a pop-up shop, models wearing the label’s tracksuits and more Instagram-worthy on-brand moments than you can shake a ski pole at.
There is no sign of post-party fatigue, though. Over lunch at Lutyens Grill in the Ned hotel in London, she is fresh and energetic. The wood-paneled room is full of boisterous male bankers ordering rib-eye steaks at 45 pounds, but Gottschalk seems perfectly at home. After all, the 46-year-old started her career in private client stockbroking, followed by hedge fund management.
Now, though, the tanned, glossy-haired, Peloton-toned mother of five has turned a technical ski brand founded in the late 1990s into the go-to label for the Instagram generation. Since its relaunch, Perfect Moment has expanded into swimwear and sportswear, and been worn repeatedly by the Duchess of Cambridge.
But Gottschalk, who stopped working in London in 2002, has a knack at spotting a gap in the market. In 2012, she and her husband, Max Gottschalk — the financier behind Gottex Fund Management, family office Vedra Partners and impact investment fund Ocean 14 Capital — tapped into the wellness phenomenon when they launched Jax Coco, a coconut water brand. The experience was “really fun … and then Perfect Moment started to take off,” Gottschalk says in the casual manner of someone who breezes through life making things happen.
Perfect Moment has disrupted the skiwear market by applying ready-to-wear themes and inspirations to its designs.
Gottschalk came across Perfect Moment after Max met its founder, Thierry Donard, a skier turned extreme sports filmmaker, at a dinner in 2007. They went heli-skiing together, hit it off and the Gottschalks invested in the brand the following year, buying it in 2011. At the time, says Gottschalk, who is executive director and chief creative officer, Perfect Moment was a tiny label with loyal customers who queued up to see Donard’s films.
The Gottschalks hired a designer in Shanghai and set about reinventing the label for the trend-aware customer. It has disrupted the skiwear market by applying ready-to-wear themes and inspirations to its designs, many of which can be worn in the city, not just on the slopes. Unlike, say, Fendi and the few other luxury labels that offer skiwear, Perfect Moment is relatively affordable, with jackets at 450 pounds.
Design signatures include a red, white and blue palette and sleek 1970s retro shapes. The collections slalom between decades, though; this season, it features 1980s gradient rainbow stripes and belted puffer jackets that offer “that Princess Diana look.” Next season, Gottschalk takes her cues from the 1960s. “Slim Aarons, Audrey Hepburn … Jackie O on skis,” she says.
Poppy Lomax, buying manager at department store Selfridges, where Perfect Moment is one of the most popular skiwear labels, thinks “the brand has made the retro ski suit a modern-day must-have. Perfect Moment has championed pieces that are not only performance focused but also stylish. Gone are the days of oversize garments, with our customers favoring a slimmer, more streamlined silhouette.” Gottschalk won’t reveal figures for the company, which is private, but says it has doubled its business year over year for the past five years. “Last year we broke even, but then we reinvested in the next stage of growth,” she says.
Over a butternut squash soup on the otherwise incredibly carnivorous menu, Gottschalk analyzes the brand’s appeal. “Before, there wasn’t really much competition, so we were able to make a really great splash,” she says. “We were quite vibrant with the chevron patterns and the ski jumpers. Because it was quite colorful, it was picked up a lot on Instagram and by influencers, and our one-pieces looked supersexy.”
While looking sexy on the slopes wouldn’t be my priority, Gottschalk insists it wouldn’t be hers either — she says she is catering to a younger demographic looking for something cool to wear while skiing. “I’m a middle-aged mother of five, so for me it’s not about being supersexy,” she says. “I want to look sporty.” But for the celebrities and influencers such as blogger Chiara Ferragni — whose photo of herself wearing a Perfect Moment white jumper emblazoned with the word “SKI” received 479,714 likes and counting — the all-in-one suits are pure Charlie’s Angels on ice.
Gottschalk says the rise of the brand via Instagram was “a total coincidence … [the brand] was something that was quite fun and new and colorful, and suddenly everyone was out of black.” While much of its customer base is female, Gottschalk has noticed that men “in the 20-to-35 age range are a lot more adventurous” in terms of color palettes, which she attributes to the “rise of streetwear.” A new capsule collection of bright blue stripe knits, salopettes and jackets made in collaboration with Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness empire Goop is likely to further bolster Perfect Moment’s high-rolling customer base (as is a new face cream made in conjunction with Gottschalk’s favorite facialist, Barbara Sturm). While Goop is notorious for promoting eccentric items such as Psychic Vampire Repellent spray, it is also a barometer of what’s hot, especially in the United States., which is Perfect Moment’s biggest market.
Gottschalk has her sights on China next. “It’s the obvious one: It has the Winter Olympics coming up in 2022 and the government is putting a huge amount of money into the top ski resorts there,” she says. Traditionally, Chinese skiers rent their outfits, but Gottschalk believes that is set to change. The brand has tested the water, selling through international e-commerce sites such as Farfetch and Net-a-Porter in addition to its own, but “next year we have quite a full strategy to roll out in China, particularly in Shanghai because our designer is still in Shanghai, and I visit regularly,” Gottschalk says. “[Western brands] need to be quite careful about going into China: You can’t just storm in and think it’s all going to be great. Chinese consumers love their own fashion designers.”
As we order coffee, I suggest that Gottschalk must be quite busy. She is, but after reading an article about competitive busyness, she no longer engages in it. “If you say to someone, ‘Hi, how are you?’, nine times out of 10 the response will be, ‘I’m so busy, it’s horrendous.’ I thought: Is that what I do? Yes, I’ve got five kids and I work on these two businesses, we travel, we’ve moved continents … when I spell it out, it gets overwhelming. So I thought, I’m going to try never to say I’m busy.”
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