It was 1923 when Mario Colombo founded the factory in Monza that still bears his name. Our story began on the back of a cigarette packet where our founder wrote down a couple of suggestions for the name of the company and passed it to his friends. They chose an acronym of six letters from his surname and name: Colmar. While on the mountains skiing was still in its infancy, Colmar began producing felt hats, later moving on to gaiters and workwear. Small groups of pioneers performed on the slopes with improvised equipment. These were elite alpine skiers known as skiatori (always using the letter ‘k’, unusual in Italian) for whom Colmar also began manufacturing products suited to their needs.
Alongside the work clothes that remained the main production of the factory Colmar continued to make garments for skiing as well. These included items in pure cotton treated to make them resistant to washing and to prevent shrinkage with a chemical process known as decatizing. The great ski races were becoming established, with Kandahar rivalled by Kitzbuhel and Wengen, two classic ski stages even today. The spectacular speed skiing race event was launched, with the first record set in 1931 by Leo Gasperl, who won with 136.6 km/h. Colmar made the “Thirring” (also known as the ‘bat’), a special cloak that swelled out behind the skier and resembled a hang-glider wing.
Mario’s sons, Angelo and Giancarlo joined the factory and their vocation for the mountains went from strength to strength. With a reduction in the need for overalls and work clothes at the end of the second world war, the second generation of the Colombo family recognized the need to produce clothing specifically for sports activities and skiing in particular. What had started as a mere flirtation with snow transformed into a serious undertaking when the Olimpionica was created ― the original windbreaker made from waterproof poplin, with kangaroo pocket, ample batwings, and a hood ― flying off the shelves in its many variations. Meantime, Colmar encountered one of the icons of Italian sport, Zeno Colò.
The impressive Colò inspired the company to design new models, and Colmar remained with him throughout many wins. The Oslo Olympics in 1952 were a major event for which Colmar invented something never before seen. A close-fitting nylon jacket called a guaina with sides and elbows in bi-stretch tulle that was the first aerodynamic ski garment. Zeno dominated freestyle downhill skiing and the jacket became a best-seller in snow attire. This exceptional jacket was updated every so often and remained in production until 1972. At this time the fashion was for tight ski trousers with uncomfortable, annoying elastic bands at the bottom. Our solution was the Talloniera Colmar featuring a cuff section that wrapped around the heel and joined the trouser leg with ultra-flat seams. Later this was made with bi-stretch tulle.
Colmar introduced ski pants with elasticated strips on the sides, and goose feather wind jackets, much championed by Toni Sailer, winner of every gold medal in alpine skiing at the Olympics in Cortina in 1956. Equipment and clothing were now making great strides in terms of quality. The first synthetic materials began to appear, along with plastic boots, lighter skis, new fabrics and padding. Colmar created innovative fabrics such as the Supercolmar and Thermospeed, a tight-fitting, snug fabric combined with a layer of polyurethane foam. Then in 1964 Luigi Di Marco beat the speed skiing record at Cervinia with over 174 km/h with a special Colmar suit. Even the Italian national ski team was wearing Colmar.
The 1970s belonged to what was known as the Italian ‘Avalanche’ ― the men’s team consisting of Thoeni, Schmalzl, Gros, Radici, Stricker, and De Chiesa. The suits Colmar provided for whole team were the envy of everyone. Skiing had become the sport of the moment and it was our company up on the podium with the Italian world-beaters at the Olympics of Sapporo in 1972, Innsbruck in 1976 and at the World Championships in St Moritz in 1974. Research intensified, with the focus now on materials, lines and attention to detail. To win races by hundredths of a second, race models were taken to the wind tunnels of Fiat and Moto Guzzi, while fibres underwent testing in collaboration with Milan Polytechnic. The special guaina jacket for giant slalom skiing was superb, although Stricker, the most extrovert of the Italian team, nicknamed it “ceffa” meaning ‘ugly mug’.
Now it was the turn of the third generation of Colombos ― Mario, Giulio and Carlo ― to enter the company. With a passion for sport in general in their genes, skiing ranked highest, passing from generation to generation. Snow really was an old friend of the family. Colmar updated its wardrobe with the upbeat Spacerace line and designed a very special multipurpose jacket called the Bormio in honour of the 1985 World Championships. To mark this, the Valtellina resort became Colmar City. 1985 also saw the launch of the new brand. However the Italian national team’s results were mediocre until the World Championships at Crans Montana in 1987 brought a surprise. The giant slalom produced a bronze for a skier from Bologna called Alberto Tomba, known as Tomba La Bomba (Tomba the Bomb). The rest of the decade was lit up by his shining accomplishments, winning gold three times at the Olympics.
The Technologic line had a starring role. Its name underlined the drive to be ahead of the game with innovative garments using materials and technical solutions. Advertising emphasized that wherever there was snow, Colmar would remain at the forefront. At a time when equipment was revolutionized by carver skis and carving took off, Colmar experimented with new microfibres, carbon and steel yarns, stain-resistant finishes, and latest generation waterproof and breathable fabrics. The Techlab line proposed the first smart fabrics including ComforTemp that absorbs heat and returns it when required. Colmar was one of the major sponsors of the Alpine Ski World Cup, with world-beaters competing at the Italian events with Colmar bibs.
Colmar’s endeavours continue to go from strength to strength in the world of snow, and thanks to our commitment to research we are one of the best manufacturers globally of high-performance, technologically advanced designer sportswear with a fashion forward approach. 2009 saw the launch of urban wear collection Colmar Originals, offering trend-led superlight feather jackets featuring the original Colmar logo. With technical expertise gained on the slopes, Colmar made its debut on the greens in summer 2010 with fashionable technical garments for golf. In 2011 Colmar launched into freestyle skiing through collaboration with Jon Olsson. One of the most accomplished freestyle champions the world over; Olsson designed a clothing collection with a ‘free spirit’ theme, geared to maximize Colmar’s technological strengths.
Colmar was the main sponsor of the Alpine Ski World Cup, engaged in various promotional sports activities such as supplying the committees of Alta Badia, Val Gardena, Cortina and prestigious ski schools as well as activities geared to young skiers including ‘Pinocchio on skis’. Between 2008 and 2012 Colmar was the official supplier of the kit for Team GB, captained by the talented, enthusiastic Chemmy Alcott, a continuing Colmar brand ambassador. In 2010 Colmar became the official supplier of the national Croatian ski team, enjoying a historic season with Ivica Kostelic thanks to a win overall at the World Cup, two discipline cups and a bronze medal at the Garmisch-Partenkirchen World Championship.
In 2011 Colmar began working with Jon Olsson to create a freeski line that united our expert skiwear manufacturing skills garnered over almost 90 years, with the inspiration and exuberance of one of the best freeskiers worldwide. Colmar’s technical and athletic ethos was also confirmed in 2011 when we joined forces for three years with the French Federation of Alpine Skiing to become the official supplier of the transalpine team, manufacturing garments in the colours of the French flag to accompany the unmistakably stylish and elegant professionals. 2011 also brought news relating to the summer season, with Colmar becoming official supplier of the Italian Waterski and Wakeboard Federation.
In tandem with the debut of our golf collection, we launched the Coppa Colmar (Colmar Cup), a golf trophy involving the most prestigious clubs in Italy, not to mention agreements with two Italian champions, Costantino Rocca and Edoardo Molinari. We also signed a three-year contract as official supplier of the BMW Italian Open. Backing for our brand of clothing and activities has given Colmar the chance to work with an array of golfers including Lorenzo Gagli, Andrea Pavan, Federico Colombo, Marco Crespi and Claudio Viganò, David Law and Giulia Sergas. And with the 2012 edition, the Colmar Cup crossed borders to bring Italian style and sophistication to transalpine greens as well.