Stefano Ricci celebrates 50 years of fashion
Our interview with the entrepreneur whose maison is an expression of absolute quality in men's luxury lifestyle
I’ve met very few men with such a deep passion for beauty and life and even fewer men who have been able to pour all this into unique creations of the highest craftsmanship. Through manic attention to details, insight, genius and passion for the handmade, which leads him to have all his collections strictly made in Florence, Stefano Ricci fulfilled his dream by starting a company that, although worldwide renowned by now, still conforms to his image. A dream that he has always shared with his wife Claudia and children Niccolò and Filippo, and which turns 50 this year.
This year Stefano Ricci celebrates 50 years of activity. How did such a special company come to be?
I have always been good at drawing, from a very young age, and I was gifted with a sense of axonometric projection, that is, I cannot draw two-dimensional objects, I need to give depth to the object being illustrated. And, at a time when the tie remained anchored to its classic models, I created my first collection, fashion experts found it totally innovative. In those years, I was also lucky enough- actually good luck for me, bad luck for her (he laughs, editor’s note)- to meet my wife Claudia. She was 17 years old and I was 19, the age when kids usually go partying, while we spent time designing, completely absorbed in our dream of expressing something new in the world of men’s fashion.
How important was Florence to you?
Florence offers amazing opportunities and so it was for me when, in 1974, I had the chance to take part in my first Pitti Uomo show. Only thirty brands were participating in the show, but it was my springboard to success, because big companies, such as Harrods and Neiman Marcus, noticed my drawings and asked me to design some shirts. I was shocked by the fact that such big names, which I saw as the culmination of a career, were instead my starting point. But Florence is also my main source of creativity. Since always. For one of my first collections, I drew inspiration from the coffered ceilings of Florentine palazzi.
Among the amazing places where you have introduced your collections in the past 50 years there is also Florence.
Every five years we do a big fashion show and I have had the privilege of enjoying two great experiences: I was the first and only to have a fashion show held at the Uffizi Gallery, in the west wing, and I had the honor of reopening, after 35 years, Palazzo Pitti’s White Room, where everything began (with the first Italian fashion show held on July 22, 1952, editor’s note), to fashion shows. In October, on the occasion of our 50th anniversary, we will celebrate with a fashion show in Luxor as a tribute to Egyptian art and to the cult of luxury and beauty which was born there 5,000 years ago.
Many are the heads of State and celebrities for whom you have designed outfits.
The world of heads of State is very private. There is, however, a personality with whom I formed a deep friendship, Nelson Mandela. Dressing him, creating shirts for him reflecting his personality was a reason of professional pride, but the fact that he trusted me, discussing even delicate issues with me and asking for my opinion, gave me enormous pleasure.
You have about 70 shops and over 90 showcases across the world. You have 3 boutiques in Dubai. How do you feel about this city?
The first time I went to Dubai, about 30 years ago, I would have never expected that it would become what it is today. I had the feeling that it was still a small town, on the outskirts of the desert, overlooking the sea. Today the skyline is completely different, seen from both the land and the sea. A spectacular growth.
Menswear is not your only passion.
I love going on adventurous trips. For 4 years, I lived in African forests for about one month at a time. I always wanted to make camp near a river. I believe that my most intense and innovative collections were designed in those moments of deep bond with nature, without a phone or a computer, but by simply listening to the water flowing and to the cries of the animals day and night. I once went to the North Pole where I learned that if you’re travelling on a dog-drawn sledge you’re supposed to guide the dogs through the slabs of ice, not the opposite. And all this at the temperature of 45 degrees below zero.
The symbol of your company is an animal. Why the eagle?
On all my trips, in the mountains all over the world, there was always a moment when I would look up to the sky and see an eagle or hear its call. And I have always prayed to the eagle for a safe and sound trip back home.
And what about cars? You have an entire collection. Is there one you are particularly fond of?
Cars of the 1950s are my passion and I collect Aston Martin cars, in particular, cars that have raced in their day. I have a 1933 Aston Martin Le Mans Short Chassis, a quite rare car which, although nearly one hundred years old, has still amazingly high-performance. I love Aston Martin cars for one reason: because when you drive them you feel like you’re travelling with those who built them. It is no chance that the car makers’ names are engraved on a nameplate.
A passion which, just like the company, you share with your family.
I have been able to get my family totally involved in all my dreams. We have taken part all together in the Mille Miglia race several times, with three cars, one driven by me, one by my wife and another one by my children, Niccolò and Filippo. And by taking part in this race, I discovered some of our country’s beauties, such as the hills of Umbria, which leave you speechless.
But your Poggi ai Segugi estate is located in Tuscany.
Yes, just a few kilometers away from the Mugello Circuit where, once in a while, I race with one of my modern cars, and then I go back to my vintage cars which I keep mostly at my countryside house. It is an age-old game preserve where I pursue another passion of mine, falconry. Without dreams, without emotions and excitement, life is not life.