Florence, Italy. On the occasion of Pitti Immagine Uomo 93, I met at the Fortezza da Basso, Filippo Ricci, creative director of Stefano Ricci.
Founded in 1972 by Stefano Ricci and his wife Claudia, Stefano debuted two years later at Pitti Immagine showing a collection of handmade ties. It was only in the 1990s that Ricci presented a complete look, starting to produce suits, sportswear, knits and shoes. In the first year of the 2000s, Ricci also launched the Ski, Home and Junior collection. And last year the brand celebrated its 45th anniversary with a special event at the Sala Bianca at Palazzo Pitti, one of the most magical places of the fashion scene, where, in the 50s and 60s, young designers such as Valentino Garavani and others were launched onto the international scene.
In 2018 Stefano retired as creative director of the company he founded and his two sons Niccolò and Filippo took the helm of the brand. Filippo has been appointed as creative director of the brand, while Niccolò has been named CEO of the Company.
Stefano Ricci is the world’s most expensive menswear brand, dressing Russian oligarchs, Chines billionaires, African magnates and the globe’s top highest net worth individuals. Renowned for its exotic leathers and the perfect fit of its suits, Ricci has always been a synonym for luxury and made in Italy at its highest level. For example, a shirt, entirely handmade and handstitched in Italy, starts from 1.200€ while a 100ml bottle of fragrance costs around 750€ .
A typical Ricci customer is one that buys 50 suits (from around 8.000$ to 25.000$ each) in one shot or another that buys 100 silk shirts (around 1.000$ each) in total, with an aeroplane that comes to Stefano Ricci’s HQ to pick them up or another one that buys a 100.000$ crocodile shirt just for going to a nightclub. These are the stories that depict the lifestyle of the 0.001 percent of the world’s population – those who have everything and can experience living the Stefano Ricci lifestyle experience.
Your father, Stefano, declared in an interview that the most abused world in fashion was luxury. Is it the same for you?
Yes, it is, but also “excellence” is very much, and maybe too often used!
Does your customer recognise Stefano Ricci’s Made in Italy DNA?
Yes, he does. Also, the “Made in Italy” label has been much “abused” so we are focusing very much on our Made in Italy production and we certify everything. For this reason, in 2017, for the third consecutive year in the international luxury segment, we received, by the London-based Standard Ethics as level EE (strong), the EE+ rating, expressing our high-standard and ethical production values.
In the brand’s roots there is a strong relationship with Africa. Can you tell me more about that?
It was born in the 80s when my father went on a safari in Sudan and from that journey he fell in love with Africa. And after him, me and my brother Niccolò have been in love with this continent. For us when we go back to Africa it’s always a nostalgic feeling because it’s relaxing, and we go back to our roots and origins as humans.
And what’s your business relationship with Africa?
It’s a business that is growing up. For now, 5% of our customer base is African. We have many African clients that buy in London or in our European boutiques including the one in Paris (34, Avenue George V) and in Florence (Via dei Pescioni, 1). And they come from all over Africa: from central Africa to South Africa and North Africa too. At the moment we are handling a huge project with our Home collection for one of our South African clients, who wants 2000 square metres of his 8000 square metre mansion to be totally refurbished by the Stefano Ricci Home collection. And, also, Nelson Mandela has been one of our “muses” and a loyal customer for years.
In fact, as the New York Times reports, in 1996, Mr. Mandela attended a banquet in his honour at Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth and wore a custom-made Stefano Ricci black jacquard silk shirt and slacks and the Queen told him “You have a very nice shirt”. So, the relationship is very strong.
But how will this business relationship evolve?
There is a huge potential in the whole continent, but we are not planning to open a boutique in the continent.
There is also an interesting fact about your father Stefano who has been named Masaai leader. Can you tell us more?
Yes indeed. My dad was named Masaai leader in 2000 in Tanzania where he managed to bring together two Masaai tribes in northern Tanzania that had been fighting for years. Afterwards we contacted them offering to set up charity projects for their schools or hospitals and we invited some of their warriors to come to Florence to celebrate our 40th Anniversary at the Uffizi Museum and so they walked down the runway of our show.
Do you still have a relationship with them?
Yes, we do, and we support them each year, but we don’t do charity as a business initiative, we prefer to do it in our personal way.
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THE SOUL OF MATERA – SR Ad Campaign Spring/Summer 2018 from Stefano Ricci
THE CONTEMPORARY TIMES: SPRING 2018 COLLECTION
Today, the brand has 60 worldwide stores that present the Spring Summer 2018 collection. Devoted to the eternal beauty of Matera, the collection is characterised by single breasted two button jackets, lean double breasted suits with sleek and enticing lines and waistcoats that are matched with light shirts and ties, with motifs that recall geometric engravings. Laced shoes in matted crocodile are then coupled with belts, with buckles decorated with the triumphant eagle – the symbol and “logo” of the Florentine Maison. Slim trousers, close-fitting jeans and light leather jackets, ideal for a leisurewear spirit, are in the collection that combines formal and two-piece looks and athleisure.
So, what are the three items that every man should have in his wardrobe?
A tailored suit, a jumpsuit and great accessories.
And what defines the perfect suit?
For sure the shoulder construction, the cut can change, but if the shoulder fit is right the suit is comfortable.
Do you have any measurement restrictions?
No, we do all the sizes, because we work a lot on made to measure suits.
How is the leather goods business going?
It’s going very well especially in the Eastern markets because we use the finest leathers and we work leather in a special way that is unique to us. An example is the African print that we adopted in our backpacks and that has become almost a signature for us.
What about the fragrances world?
The fragrances are going very well, as are the sunglasses – our customers appreciate them very much because they combine the finest optician techniques with our craftsmanship expertise and modern design. And both are made by us without any licensing.
What about your home collection? Do you plan to open a Stefano Ricci hotel?
Our home collection was born seven years ago and is going very well, and we also design yacht interiors. But what we would love to do is to design hotel suites but not to have our own hotel.
You have your own e-commerce. How does it perform?
We are investing in it, and it gives good results. For now, it’s only for Italy, Europe and the US but soon it will be available in China and Russia. But it will never be a “strong” part of our business. We see that our client goes into a shop and then makes their purchase. Of course, it’s vital for our modern age and we need to have e-commerce, but it will never be the biggest part of our business.
Do you think that e-commerce can destroy the magic of a made to measure suit?
In terms of “lifestyle” experience, for sure, it destroys. In fact, at the moment, we only sell “no size” items like ties, leather goods, our fragrances. And that’s very convenient for someone that lives far from one of our shops.
Between made to measure and ready to wear what goes better in terms of business?
The made to measure is our 20% stake. And it’s a lot.
In fact, when a made to measure order is placed, Stefano Ricci master tailors fly to the customer, wherever he is based, and make him choose the fabric and fly back again as many times as is needed, to make the fitting on him so that at the end, the result of the custom-made suit is impeccable
THE FUTURE: THE NEW FALL COLLECTION AND THE FUTURE PROJECTS
Our Fall collection is devoted to the concept of speed. For this reason, we decided to present it at the Mugello circuit combining our family passion for racing and vintage cars. Our idea was to continue our discovery of the Italian excellences. What I loved also is that the circuit has the three-colour flag motif that is painted throughout the track which matches perfectly with our “Made in Italy” soul.
The Fall/Winter 2018-19 Collection ranges from sportswear to garments made for the city, such as the grey wool down blouson with a silk lining, handprinted with one of the Florentine designer’s iconic tie patterns to the nubuck crocodile blouson with its small and sophisticated logo to the jeans that have a hand painted patch with the flying eagle, the symbol of the Maison and of speed. Must-have pieces are the deconstructed and unlined jackets that range from a two-button jacket without lapels to the contemporary cut of a light and waterproof two button jacket, made for travel, in technical silk and with an adjustable drawstring. Pinstripe and patterned suits, as well as evening garments such as the peak lapel cocktail jacket in Antico Setificio Fiorentino silk, are in, perfect for the most important occasions.
What about the future of the brand?
We want to grow but not exponentially, reaching 180-200m euros of revenue. We control our growth and we limit our openings. So, each year we consolidate our quality. And we care a lot to form young tailors in our manufacturing. We want the “handmade” tradition to stay alive and so we make sure that the young generation that comes into our world learn the secrets of the Made in Italy. And, of course, we would love to open a school for young artisans, it’s our dream. In the meantime, we have redesigned our stores giving them a brand-new look. We have just opened a new boutique at the Wynn in Las Vegas, at the Peninsula in Hong Kong and in the Miami Design District, strategic places for us. This year we celebrate our 25th anniversary in China. It was in 1993 that my dad, visiting Shanghai and seeing how much the people rushed declared that “this was the future”. And it was like this.
“It is a significant milestone,” declared Niccolò Ricci, CEO of the company “it shows the route for a future that is born in the wake of continuity. Just 25 years ago my father decided to open the first ever boutique, and the choice was considered revolutionary by many: Shanghai. The Hong Kong opening represents the culmination of this long journey. Our growth is the result of continuous investment in new boutique openings, and in our workforce. We are proud to have added, in recent years, over 80 young employees who work alongside our master craftsmen. At a time like this, in which the great international groups have returned to invest in the Florentine territory through a search for expertise, we cannot help but share our vocation.”
The brand is a culture supporter, so what will be your next move?
We will also give birth to the Stefano Ricci Foundation for the preservation of the territory and art, mostly in Florence but then also on an international scale. We are very attached to this city because it’s our hometown but also because it encapsulates the beauty and traditions of Italy both in terms of art as well as in terms of craftsmanship. And so, to give birth to a foundation is the right way to work in a stable way in the preservation of art and beauty.