Home → News → Polygiene StayFresh → Meeting Mountain People – The philosophy behind Maloja’s 2023 Collection and Insights from the Head of Product Development at Maloja
“From a certain height on the mountain, there are no more social differences. It doesn‘t matter what your background is, how much money you have, or what you‘ve done in your life. Everyone is equal.”
Peter Räuber, CEO and Maloja-Co-Founder
Maloja is a brand that shares a deep and powerful connection with the mountains. It develops performance-oriented activewear for sports associated with the great outdoors, such as skiing, ski touring, cross country skiing as well as hiking, climbing and cycling. It designs on-trend streetwear for those who appreciate the outdoor lifestyle, too. But its connection with the mountains runs much deeper than that. It goes right back to the start.
Maloja’s founders named the company after a small village in the Swiss Alps. A village that Peter Räuber discovered during a ski trip with friends, and whose natural environment gave them one of those near-mythical alpine where everything is perfect and you feel supremely lucky to be in that precise place, at that precise moment. That day – and the village of Maloja – assumed a real significance for this group of friends. It became a byword for that special sensation. When something was beautiful or felt just right, it was “Maloja”.
When Peter Räuber decided to found an outdoor clothing brand together with Klaus Haas that prioritized environmental responsibility and sustainability, there was only one thing they were going to name it. Maloja.
Fast forward 18 years, and Maloja is thriving. The spirit of that perfect day in the Swiss Alps lives on and the brand has gone from strength to strength while never losing sight of its guiding principles. It has invested in developing more sustainable materials, created increasingly effective designs, and partnered with industry-leading brands like Polygiene®.
Each year Maloja releases a new collection with a particular theme. From the Japanese concept of “wabi-sabi” to the Berbers of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, these collections have drawn on diverse inspirations that are wonderfully global in nature.
This year, the collection is entitled Mountain People.
To learn more about the Mountain People collection, and how Polygiene fits into the brand’s bigger picture, we sat down with Niculin Pitsch, Head of Product Development at Maloja, for an in-depth conversation.
But before we dive into that interview, let’s see what’s the philosophy behind the Mountain People concept.
The idea of connectedness is at the heart of the Mountain People Collection. To be connected to the environment, to the people, to oneself. Something about the mountains heightens these connections and makes them more powerful and visceral.
For Peter Räuber, Maloja’s co-founder and CEO, the mountains are a potent symbol of connectedness. “For me, Mountain People can just as easily be people who live far from the mountains,” he explains. “They just have to feel connected to like-minded people through their love of nature and sport.”
“Every member of this community – Maloja employees, our manufacturers, partners, brand ambassadors, customers, and all people for whom nature and outdoors activity helps them recognize what is essential – is honored in this catalog as Mountain People of the heart.”
Having introduced the collection and receiving insight into the feel for the central idea behind the theme, it’s time to pick the Maloja design and product teams’ brains and learn a little more about how they realized the Mountain People Collection.
How do you define “Mountain People” and how does the concept translate to the Mountain People Collection?
Our approach is to always meet people eye-to-eye and with respect. Fair and respectful treatment is a prerequisite for our actions – both as individuals and as a company. We believe this basic attitude plays a special role in the mountains. At a certain altitude, everyone is equal. That’s what “Mountain People” is about. Mountain People are connected to sports and nature. But they are also connected to one another. We tried to implement this connectedness in the Mountain People Collection. It was our motivation and inspiration.
How does this year’s collection differ from previous years?
The current collection does not differ significantly from its predecessors. Instead, it represents the next phase in an ongoing journey that we’ve been making for some time now. This journey is characterized by our commitment to developing increasingly superior products in a sustainable manner. All while remaining attuned to the evolution of modern styles around the world and incorporating these trends into the next collection.
Do you have any favorite designs from the Mountain People Collection? What products really stand out to you?
It’s hard to pick one design as a favorite. The nicest thing about all designs is the way they are created. The whole design process is a combination of analog and digital creation. It often starts with a manual process by laying natural elements, taking pictures of them, and proceeding on the screen. This process leads to designs with an originality rarely found in digital-only processes.
How does the natural environment inspire your designs?
The natural environment impacts our design process in two distinct ways. First, it serves as a source of motifs which we translate into unique artworks and prints. Second, it enables us to broaden our perspectives and find inspiration from diverse sources, fueling the design process.
How does the team come up with its design ideas? Is it a collaborative process?
Our process is highly collaborative as we firmly believe the collective is greater than the sum of its parts. While individual ideas and perspectives are always encouraged, we treat each concept as a valuable contribution that feeds into a dynamic interplay of ideas. It results in a continuous exchange and evolution of ideas until we achieve a sense of cohesion and alignment, and the outcome just feels right.
How does the Mountain People Collection reflect Maloja’s relationship with the natural environment and sustainability?
It is pretty simple – nature is both our playground and our inspiration. As a company that derives its identity from the great outdoors, we recognize we have a responsibility to preserve it for ourselves and future generations. In this sense, sustainability is not a buzzword or a marketing tactic but an integral part of our way of working. Ultimately, we believe that our relationship with nature is a mutually enriching one. By preserving nature, we are also preserving a part of ourselves.
How has the Maloja team made the Mountain People Collection more environmentally friendly and sustainable?
With our new Cembra Shell Series, we have created the next step in environmentally friendly weather protection technologies by using mostly recycled fabrics and moving towards mono-component products that can be recycled at the end of their life cycle. With our functional shorts, we changed to a new fabric made from recycled tires. We have also increased the number of organic cotton and hemp products in our streetwear collection, reaching a high organic percentage.
How do you see the outdoor clothing industry changing in response to the environmental challenges we face today?
Besides fabric choice and more recycled, recyclable, and organic materials, we are constantly working on two aspects that have a considerable impact on a product’s environmental footprint. First, the longevity of our products, which we can influence by focusing on the workmanship and quality of our fabrics. Second, the multifunctional nature of our products. By ensuring the consumer can use the garment across different sports, we reduce the number of products they need in their sports wardrobe.
What do you value most about the Polygiene technology used in your products?
To save water and energy by washing products less but still feeling comfortable in our clothes is an enormous advantage. Less washing also helps to prolong a garment’s expected lifetime, so Polygiene fits in perfectly with our desire to develop innovative and sustainable products with a long lifespan.
Maloja has a strong connection with outdoor sports. Is all the design team involved in mountain activities?
All of the team is very active. It’s not limited to the design department. Many of us actively participate in the sports we represent. And the feedback we receive from our team members and sponsored athletes is crucial to the development of our collection. We are also thrilled to see a growing number of individuals within the company commuting to work on bikes each day.
Polygiene and Maloja’s Mountain People Collection
Polygiene is delighted to work alongside Maloja to help it realize its goals of developing and designing more sustainable and environmentally friendly outdoor apparel. Polygiene technology is playing a crucial role in helping manufacturers make the switch from consumables to durables and extending product lifespans. At the same time, it’s saving end-consumers money and providing them with superior garments that smell better, feel fresher, and last longer.
Seeing how Maloja integrates Polygiene solutions into the Mountain People Collection’s ahead-of-the-game performance wear and trend-setting streetwear is truly inspiring. And we look forward to seeing how the brand utilizes our technology in the future. Until then, we hope Maloja customers enjoy the new collection and appreciate the benefits associated with industry-leading Polygiene technology. See you on the mountainside!