Stefano Ricci

Esquire (Singapore) - - Contents -

There is lux­ury. And then there’s Stefano Ricci. To most peo­ple, Stefano Ricci is an enigma; a brand we would have passed by— in Sin­ga­pore, its sole bou­tique is nes­tled right in the un­der­pass that con­nects the Shoppes at Ma­rina Bay Sands with the Ma­rina Bay Sands ho­tel—but wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily be drawn to en­ter. It’s not that the ex­te­rior of the bou­tique looks in­tim­i­dat­ing be­cause it doesn’t. Or at the very least, it doesn’t look any more in­tim­i­dat­ing than that of any other lux­ury la­bel.

Most likely, it’s be­cause we’re not the world’s 0.001 per­cent that makes up the ma­jor­ity of its clien­tele.

Among them is multi award-win­ning opera singer An­drea Bo­celli, Hol­ly­wood’s Tom Cruise, and the late Nel­son Man­dela. Oh, and quite pos­si­bly the cur­rent pres­i­dent of Rus­sia. “The only way we found out was be­cause we saw him on tele­vi­sion and could see that the lin­ing of his blazer was a Stefano Ricci orig­i­nal,” Filippo Ricci tells me. He would know; Filippo is Stefano Ricci’s cre­ative di­rec­tor and the youngest son of the brand’s name­sake.

Es­tab­lished and based in Florence, Italy, the Stefano Ricci brand has been around for less than 50 years. It started as a brand sell­ing hand­made ties in 1972 and quickly grew to in­clude a whole range of ready-to-wear and its now-sig­na­ture croc­o­dile leather belts with ea­gle-head belt buck­les. Stefano Ricci opened its first bou­tique at The Ritz-Carl­ton, Shang­hai in 1993. This was well be­fore China be­came the market that it’s grown to be now; a move that the Stefano Ricci team is proud to have ini­ti­ated. The brand now has 14 bou­tiques in China alone.

A Stefano Ricci pocket square will cost you USD200 and any­thing else that you’d like from its men’s, ju­nior, home and

lifestyle cat­e­gories, as well as any­thing you’d want be­spoke, sky­rock­ets from there. The prices are not un­jus­ti­fi­able. Any­thing that bears the Stefano Ricci name is en­tirely hand­made in the brand’s pri­vately owned man­u­fac­tur­ing out­posts in Florence. There are no mark­downs for sales. “What­ever we can’t sell af­ter a cou­ple of sea­sons, we de­stroy,” Filippo ex­plains. He goes on to say that in this way, the brand pro­tects its qual­ity and au­then­tic­ity, and clients are en­sured of the value paid.

Filippo’s older brother and Stefano Ricci’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Nic­colo Ricci, adds: “Florence is our se­cret weapon. It’s an added value [to the brand].” It’s in Florence that one gets to truly ex­pe­ri­ence and un­der­stand the scale, crafts­man­ship and lo­gis­tics that go be­hind Stefano Ricci.

Among the work­shops that the Ricci fam­ily owns, the An­tico Seti­fi­cio Fiorentino silk mill is the old­est. The mill has been around since 1786 and was pre­vi­ously owned by the Emilio Pucci fam­ily be­fore Stefano Ricci ac­quired it in 2010. The time­honoured pro­cesses since the es­tab­lish­ment of the mill haven’t changed much. Each stage of mak­ing a silk fab­ric is done by hand, with the help of ma­chin­ery dat­ing back to the 18th cen­tury. The most im­pres­sive is the early 19th-cen­tury ver­ti­cal warper that was de­signed by Leonardo da Vinci, which helps the ar­ti­sans pre­pare the warp­ing threads (these make up the length of the fab­ric) for weav­ing. The silk fab­rics—among them jacquards, bro­cades and damasks—pro­duced by An­tico Seti­fi­cio Fiorentino are mainly used by the Stefano Ricci brand for its home col­lec­tion.

With a lot of brands, and even some lux­ury houses, mov­ing their pro­duc­tion away from Europe, Stefano Ricci has stood by its ‘ made in Florence’ phi­los­o­phy. But do clients see the value of where their pur­chases are made? Nic­colo is sure of it. “I see to­day that peo­ple and con­sumers are try­ing to get an ex­pe­ri­ence out of the prod­uct that they’re buy­ing, so there must be a story be­hind it,” he says. “We try to in­vest as much as we can in the qual­ity of the ma­te­ri­als, in re­search and in­no­va­tion. Ev­ery­thing is still hand­made, but we try to find [dif­fer­ent] treat­ments for leather, wool and cot­ton. There’s tech­nol­ogy be­hind it to make [ma­te­ri­als] softer and more ap­peal­ing for our cus­tomers. And the fact that it’s done in Italy; they un­der­stand that there is a lot of added value com­pared to wher­ever else.”

So pre­cious is this re­source that the brand is en­sur­ing that the Floren­tine crafts­man­ship skills will live on. Aside from hav­ing gen­er­a­tions of ar­ti­sans working for them, Stefano Ricci has made it a point of cre­at­ing a con­ducive ap­pren­tice­ship en­vi­ron­ment for the past 20 years. Young ap­pren­tices are at­tached to se­nior crafts­men for about two to three years to fully learn the craft; akin to an in­ter­nal crafts­man­ship school span­ning all de­part­ments un­der Stefano Ricci, in­clud­ing jew­ellery, shirt­ing, ties and leather.

Nic­colo is con­fi­dent there is an in­creas­ing num­ber of youths in­ter­ested in the arts. He opines that there’s been a shift in the men­tal­ity where it used to be that se­cur­ing deskbound jobs puts peo­ple in a so­cially bet­ter po­si­tion. Now, working in pro­duc­tion is some­what of a nov­elty and es­pe­cially if one is skilled at cre­at­ing some­thing spe­cial, the re­wards could very well be more than that of working in front of a com­puter. “In the last five years, we see that the younger gen­er­a­tion un­der­stands that this is some­thing, if you know how to do it, you might be able to dou­ble your salary in five to six years,” Nic­colo ex­plains.

“Think about the way you would cut ex­otic skins. One wrong cut and you burn €1,000. But if you’re very tal­ented and you’re able to make 100 shoes with maybe 85 in­stead of 100 skins, that’s where you get re­warded by the com­pany in the long run.”

Ex­otic skins are one of Stefano Ricci’s spe­cial­i­ties. At the brand’s head­quar­ters along via Faentina—about nine kilo­me­tres away from the cen­tre of Florence—ex­otic skins are kept in a tem­per­a­ture-con­trolled room. Here, a ma­jor­ity of the skins are croc­o­dile and are ar­ranged by as many colours as one could imag­ine pos­si­ble. Filippo tells me that due to de­mand by clients, there has been an em­pha­sis in con­stantly in­no­vat­ing the way the brand uses ex­otic skins. This has brought about a range of treat­ments in­clud­ing nubuck as well as shav­ing down the skins such that they get as thin as 0.6mm, open­ing up the pos­si­bil­ity to ap­pli­ca­tions be­yond belts and bags.

The Stefano Ricci busi­ness is largely tar­geted at men with mini-sized op­tions for ju­niors. There have been ac­ces­sories here and there for women—mostly lim­ited-edi­tion pieces—but there are no plans to ex­tend the Stefano Ricci brand into the women’s lux­ury market.

Nic­colo jokes that in or­der to be com­mit­ted to that level of ex­pan­sion, he’d prob­a­bly need two more broth­ers. “We’re al­ready do­ing six col­lec­tions a year. Add Salone del Mo­bile and that’s seven. If I were to add another six col­lec­tions [for women], I could do it but it would be im­pos­si­ble to fol­low through it per­son­ally. When that hap­pens, I feel that maybe that sense of unique­ness gets a lit­tle bit lost,” he adds.

Just off the coast of Punta Ala in Tus­cany, the Ricci fam­ily brought me on board SaraS­tar. This su­per lux­ury yacht be­longs to a long-time client of Stefano Ricci and is the sec­ond such yacht to be out­fit­ted with fab­rics from the An­tico Seti­fi­cio Fiorentino mill as well as the Stefano Ricci home col­lec­tion. The su­pery­acht made for a fit­ting space to present Stefano Ricci’s spring/sum­mer 2019 col­lec­tion. In­spired by na­ture and the vast­ness of the open sea, the Stefano Ricci man is primed for ad­ven­ture (in the lap of lux­ury, no doubt) with tech­ni­cal silk blousons and knit travel jack­ets de­signed with hid­den pock­ets.

The cam­paign for the spring/sum­mer 2019 col­lec­tion was shot on and around the highly pro­tected is­land of Mon­te­cristo. It’s the same is­land that was made fa­mous by Alexan­dre Du­mas in The Count of Monte Cristo. And one that the Ricci fam­ily had made spe­cial ar­range­ments for a cruise within the re­stricted 4.8km ra­dius that ships are nor­mally pro­hib­ited from en­ter­ing. Mak­ing the most ex­tra­or­di­nary plans in the most ex­tra­or­di­nary places; that’s the Stefano Ricci man.

It’s just the kind of story that Nic­colo men­tioned ear­lier. It’s not enough for a prod­uct to be made in Italy, with ex­otic ma­te­ri­als and with ex­act­ing qual­ity stan­dards. What stands out is the story and craft­ing a unique vi­sion of what lies next in the life of the Stefano Ricci man.

In a way, it’s a life that the Ricci fam­ily knows all too well. But when asked what lux­ury means to him, Nic­colo sim­ply puts his arms out, looks at the sur­round­ing view of Punta Ala and says: “I think lux­ury is be­ing able to do a job you like. Lux­ury is be­ing able to spend the week­end with fam­ily and feel good about your­self. Wak­ing up in the morn­ing and do­ing some­thing you re­ally like; I think that’s the best of all.”

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