“You either understand and love the brand, and even wear Stefano Ricci socks,” says Niccolò Ricci, chief executive of his father’s namesake luxury house, “Or you don’t understand the brand at all.”
We’re having dinner outside. It’s an unseasonably warm May night in Ischia—“it’s an early summer, it normally only reaches 30 degrees in June”—but coupled with a gentle Mediterranean sea breeze, the dock for this idyllic isle, an hour’s boat ride from Naples, has been staged with a table dressed in white linen and seats for 14. On one side, we’re bordered by sandstone walls sprouting ferns, and at the other, the Regina Isabella Resort and Spa with its iconic arch windows painted in sunshine yellow.
Stefano Ricci and his family have invited an intimate group of international media to preview their spring/summer 2023 collection. And true to the Ricci brand, it’s an immersive masterclass in the art of Italian living: yacht ride to the Faraglioni rocks; private tour of Villa San Michele; aperitivo hour at Anacapri; and, of course, Michelin dinner by a dock with free-flowing Italian wine.
It’s all very much in keeping with the mahogany walls and gilded vitrines that characterise the brand’s 70-plus stores around the world. But what belies the crocodile jackets and gold eagle hardware is the Ricci family warmth. Both Niccolò and his brother Filippo, who serves as creative director, exude a natural disarming ease.
“We’re just a normal Italian family,” shares Niccolò seated to my left, handsome in a navy blue blazer paired with an open-collar white dress shirt. (The previous day, he personally carried my four suitcases onto the yacht when we first met at Naples. I almost mistook him for the crew.) His brother sits at the other end of the table, laughing gregariously under the moonlight. (Earlier that day, it was on his private yacht that we visited Capri.)
Italian, they surely are, but not every Italian family can lay claim to a global luxury empire that has spanned five decades. On both of their wrists, the brothers sport the Stefano Ricci Octagon black steel chronograph created to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary this year. Limited to 50 pieces, and created in partnership with Swiss Manufacture Parmigiani Fleurier, the timepieces will first be available to Stefano Ricci club members—loyal clients that reach a progressive annual minimum spend. That is, safe to say, owners of Stefano Ricci socks.
After the press preview of the spring/summer 2023 collection, atop the historic Castello Aragonese—a small island unto itself connected by a cobbled road to Ischia—I sit down with Filippo to discuss the legacy and allure of his family’s label.
First, congratulations on 50 years.
Thank you, I’ve never felt younger.
How do you think the Stefano Ricci man has changed in the last 50 years?
You know, 50 years ago it was my parents, I was born in 1983. But I must thank them for everything they’ve done from day zero to bring Stefano Ricci to the level we are right now. We started as a company that produced only accessories. So the tie was our element. But we slowly extended our offering to include shirts and ready-to-wear. But it was really my father’s decision to open our first shop in Shanghai in 1993, just at the beginning of luxury in China, which was also our first shop in the world, that really changed our brand.
How did entering China change the Stefano Ricci offering?
After the year 2000, the Chinese customer base became much younger and we experienced this incredible boost because they loved our iconic eagle logo. When we used it on our crocodile belts, it quickly became one of the must-have accessories in China. So the brand expanded to include leather goods and casual wear, followed by strong growth in Russia and the rest of the world. Stefano Ricci then evolved to include a lot more casual wear and athleisure, and this was even before COVID. So when the pandemic hit, we already had a collection that suited our customer’s lifestyle. We sold a lot of jeans and a lot of knitwear during COVID. A lot of people think about Stefano Ricci as, you know, sartorial.
But as we saw from your spring/summer 2023 collection preview, the brand has a significant casual offering.
We’ve been working on communicating that Stefano Ricci is not just about classic suits. We do have clients in their 50s and above that love our sartorial collection, but we also have a customer base of successful entrepreneurs in their 30s that want to dress to impress in a more casual style. They want something that looks good, but also feels good. We are selling of lot of deconstructed jackets and knit jackets in superb fabrications like cashmere and wool-silk blends.
What about your crocodile business?
It’s still doing very good business for us, but we have been exploring new treatments. Before, our crocodile jackets were very stiff. Now we have a way of tanning the skins and making them incredibly soft—people still want a beautiful crocodile leather jacket, but it has to be something that’s not too heavy.
How do you think men want to dress now coming out of the pandemic?
I feel that people want to go back out, to party, attend events, and to really dress up again. Naturally, we are very happy about that. We have master tailors that travel the world to dress our clients, but what we have noticed is that even our most classic clients are now requesting for a style that is more comfortable. People are travelling again, so when they’re flying or driving a vintage car, they want to be dressed elegantly in a suit, but without the restrictions. Let me tell you, once you try on our deconstructed blazers, it’s another world.
Are people still wearing ties?
It’s a bit of an endangered species but there are still guys maintaining the iconic style and keeping the classics alive. We see our customers wearing ties more during the winter months. Personally, I wear a tie every day in the office because I like it. And I wear a silk tie in the evening. It’s always a pleasure to dress up.
For a brand that started with ties and accessories, are they still your best sellers?
Accessories are still very important for us. If you include leather accessories into the equation, we’re talking about 30 percent of the business. Casualwear, which includes jeans, is also approximately 30 percent.
How significant is Asia as a market for Stefano Ricci today?
Coming out of the pandemic, China was doing great until the recent lockdowns. We have seen strong growth in our American market and we continue to invest a lot into Asia generally, beyond China. For example, in Singapore, we’re opening a new store in Changi Airport and we also have new stores slated for Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Cambodia. So we are still expecting huge growth from Asia.
Your latest spring/summer 2023 campaign is called ‘Hedonism of style’. What do you want your customer to feel when they’re wearing this collection?
It’s always the same goal: we want our customers to feel good and look good. There are pieces from the collection that are made for people that want to impress—we have a crocodile vest, for example—but we have presented the collection tone on tone this season for a more contemporary aesthetic. As you saw today, we presented three casualwear ensembles in full-white, and then a trio of smart casual looks with blazers in shades of green. As always, everything is of the finest quality, but it’s not flashy. There are no logos. As the wearer, you know you are wearing Stefano Ricci, and you appreciate the quality for your own pleasure. These pieces are made for those guys that just want to wear something that is…
Understated but of the highest pleasure. So some pieces have special linings, special embroideries, but it’s for the pleasure of yourself. You are buying something that is unique, has a great history, and made in Italy. Only a few discerning eyes will recognise it as Stefano Ricci.
Looking to the future, will the brand ever engage celebrities for campaigns?
We don’t engage celebrities for our campaigns, but a lot of them are our clients.
What about celebrity ambassadors instead of campaign stars?
These public figures come and shop with us so we want to respect their privacy and not publicise it. Some of them are friends and they are vocal about wearing Stefano Ricci, such as Andrea Bocelli, but I would rather rely on word of mouth. It’s better for these celebrities to tell their friends about Stefano Ricci than for us to use their public image.
You launched Stefano Ricci Luxury Tech two years ago, what’s next for that active line?
Stefano Ricci Luxury Tech is a collection dedicated to sports with innovative performance fabrications for our clients that love to ski during the winter, sail in the summer, as well as exercise in the gym. But our clients are now asking for tennis and golf apparel. In fact, we recently launched a Stefano Ricci golf bag in full crocodile that sold out. So we think there is a space in the market for our take on tennis and golf. Look out for the new collection soon, as well as our 50th anniversary fashion show in Luxor, Egypt, later this year. It’s going to be very special.