From the old city centre, a Unesco World Heritage Site, to the Duomo and the Arno River that flows through its heart, the home to the likes of Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Dante is a cultural Mecca, and for good reason. Hanging on the hallowed walls of the great Uffizi Gallery are works by the aforementioned greats, alongside masterpieces by Botticelli, Titian and Rubens. Breathtaking sculptures casually adorn city squares and fountains.
For fashion, the city provides huge significance also. Labels such as Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Emilio Pucci, Roberto Cavalli and Stefano Ricci were all born in Florence, their designs travelling all across the continents and influencing the narrative of international style.
“Being born in Florence has been a privilege that I’ve assimilated over the years, never tiring of the amazing beauty of my city,” says Niccolò Ricci, CEO of luxury menswear brand Stefano Ricci. “Our roots are here. This is where our deep connection to art has been formed. We feel it’s our duty to give attention to this territory that has … given so much to our group.”
The label actively supports the artistic, historical and cultural heritage of Italy and Florence. For almost half a decade, founder Stefano has been involved in numerous projects, such as donating new lighting for the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria and the Ponte Vecchio. He’s contributed towards the restoration of medieval volumes on arts and crafts at the Archivio di Stato di Firenze, along with a new digitalisation system, and in 2018, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, the label supported the Uffizi’s exhibition of four books from the 12-volume Codex Atlanticus.
I first encountered the brand by stumbling on its boutique at The Peninsula Hong Kong. Later, I visited its Florentine headquarters and was immersed in the world of the founder, the brand and the family business (Stefano’s two sons now helm the brand). The Riccis’ success is a story of
how the history and craft of a city have imparted a strong, creative identity to a modern Italian menswear label. Even though the luxury brand has a global reach and clientele, its identity and processes are identifiably Florentine, formed within the city’s myriad palazzos and piazzas.
“For us it’s been a year of reflection, and the health of our employees is a priority,” says Niccolò of the past tumultuous 12 months and more. But for the brand, which has been busy developing new working practices, as well as creating its Autumn/Winter 2021 collection, it’s been a time of “rebirth”.
Niccolò’s brother Filippo, the brand’s creative director, talks of the city being deserted during the first wave of Covid. Thus, with his designs, he “felt there was a need to get more intimate” and hone in on the core of “the Stefano Ricci world, starting from the dream of our father in the hills of Florence”. He adds: “Poggio ai Segugi is a unique villa and place on top of a hill, surrounded by forest, oak trees, streams, waterfalls and beautiful nature – a place good for the soul and only 45 minutes from the city centre.”
That villa and its natural surrounds have inspired several collections over the years, he says. And this season, there’s a distinct leaning towards comfort and lightness (even for Autumn/Winter) through the combination of classic fabrics with more technical materials – the brand uses nylon for the first time. This has resulted in sartorial choices that are great for outdoor performance.
Leather pairs with cashmere and technical silk, while crocodile skin, a brand signature, comes this time not as “full croc jackets but lighter versions mixed with cashmere”. The classic blues, black and browns feature for winter, but there’s also play with fresh whites, rusty hues and multicoloured nappa leather. Staying with the outdoorsy theme, there’s lots of quilting (some sportier than others), as well as supple waterproof suede.
“Extreme research into materials resulted in very unique mixes, like cashmere with mink or chinchilla, to create very soft and warm luxury outfits that fulfil the needs of our clients,” Filippo elaborates. There’s even a (very expensive) jogging suit, though this Stefano Ricci interpretation comes with a stylish jacket for more dressed- up occasions – and a “mini-me” father-and-son option.
“We pay tribute to Italy, Florence and the locations that we’ve been to before,” says Filippo of the new season’s looks and campaign imagery.
This Autumn/Winter collection is also “a tribute to the artisans who’ve been working with us”, he continues, outlining a focus on signature elements, such as the SR logo that’s mixed in with the brand’s eagle icon to create a new mixed motif. Shot by female photographer Nima Benati, the campaign shows a man immersed in nature – a concept that’s so fitting for times such as these.
It also reflects what these two Ricci brothers have no doubt been going through. These two well-travelled men of the world, used to adventure-hopping around the globe, have been forced to stop and enjoy the beauty of what’s on their doorstep: family, nature, Italian sunshine, and the art
and architectural marvels of the city. As for the clear pivot towards the outdoorsy and casual wear, the brothers believe that once travel resumes, it’s leisure rather than business travel that will bounce back first.
“I think there’ll be a lot of casual wear during the day, but people will be eager to dress up a lot at night for dinners and events,” says Niccolo. “I think people will say, ‘I’ve been in pyjamas for too long now.’”
As for the more formal attire, there are a few tributes to Sean Connery’s 007, as well as smart double-breasted suits, tuxedos and evening wear. Some of these exquisitely tailored outfits are made from fabrics woven on the antique looms of the Antico Setificio Fiorentino (also owned by the Riccis), some dating back as far as the early 18th century – a detail that sets them apart from others in the luxury menswear game.
Business has obviously suffered during the pandemic. European sales bore the brunt, but Niccolò says that China was already bouncing back by autumn last year. “Russia is doing extremely well at the moment,” he says. “Our customers aren’t travelling, but they’re definitely spending well at home.” Meanwhile, there’s fresh enthusiasm in Southeast Asia – and Macau (one of the brand’s highest performing cities, where there are three stores) has recovered with a vengeance.
Although the brand is traditional in many ways, the events of the past year have forced it to adapt and improve its digital platforms: A one-on-one digital service has been launched to provide the optimum online experience. But, says Niccolò, as “we still believe in bricks and mortar”, stores in Bangkok and Changsha will be opening soon.
2020 might have a hectic year, but it also ushered in Stefano Ricci’s first timepiece, a hexagonal-faced wristwatch with three calendar options, unique hand- engravings and in a super limited edition. The first batch, which was sold to the most loyal of the brand’s clients, was delivered earlier this year.
It marked the launch of the exclusive, invitation-only Stefano Ricci Club, “rewarding our most loyal 250 or so clients who spend more than €50,000 ($81,121) a year”, says Niccolò. There are no discounts or point system, but a welcome package and titanium card gains access to a range of unique experiences (there might be wine-tasting evenings or “being the first to taste the Stefano Ricci cigar”), and the opportunity to purchase exclusive pieces from the label – it’s clearly a glimpse into the private world of the ultra-rich.
Along with locations such as its Florence headquarters and a huge mansion in Shanghai, the initiative is a clever one that’s designed to cater to loyal customers who are obsessed with exclusivity and one-of-a-kind activities.
And with a family and business so vested in Florentine and Italian arts and history, not to mention its projects to support the Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio, it’s not hard to imagine that the Riccis have the local creative clout to pull off some truly spectacular things.
The brand’s latest video, Firenze, la Grande, showcases a drive in a classic convertible through the sun-soaked hills that surround the city, the rooms and gardens of great historic villas, and the finest men’s tailoring in town. It’s not just luxury the Riccis are selling – it’s the allure of that magnificent lifestyle.
(Main and featured image: Stefano Ricci’s Autumn/Winter 2021 collection and campaign; all images courtesy of Stefano Ricci)
This story first appeared in the June 2021 issue of Prestige Singapore.