The uber luxury men’s wear Italian brand Stefano Ricci (SR) opened its first store in India in Mumbai recently, with plans for another in Delhi. The President, founder and designer Stefano Ricci, who set up his namesake companyStefano Ricci SpA in 1972 in Florence, is a connoisseur of art, a perfectionist, and passionate about his work. He spoke at length and we bring for the readers of The Luxury Chronicle and exclusive report from our meeting.
By Meher Castelino
He sits in his new 2500 sqft. luxurious store in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai, chatting with the country’s top business tycoons like Gautam Singhania, Chairman and Managing Director of Raymond Group and Ratan Tata Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons and looks as though he is holding court. His silver mane and matching lush beard could make many mistake him for an Italian artist (which he is) or a gregarious Hollywood star.
At the launch of the Stefano Ricci (SR) store in Mumbai, the world renowned Florentine designer and his son Filippo along with Jackie Manglani Partner in India and President Stefano Ricci, India entertained select media to reveal the story of the brand.
“I have a mission; I want to design garments for the wardrobe of a man who already has everything. Nevertheless who appreciates rare and precious material, sophisticated details, exclusive prints, unseen shades of colours and a style, which is classic but also quite different and personal,” declares Stefano Ricci.
The plush store is divided into three stylish segments – ready-to-wear clothing and accessories, bespoke tailoring and home collections. After the launch of the Mumbai store in 2014, Ricci is already eyeing the capital for the next exclusive outlets as soon as an appropriate location is zeroed upon.
Started in 1972 the brand has been in business for over 40 years with 43 stores across the globe, but it took Ricci a while to land on the Indian shores. “You can call it Karma with India and with my dear friend Jackie,” he declares heartily.
Jackie Manglani has worked internationally with luxury brands for 25 years and he set his sights on India to establish the globally renowned Italian luxury fashion and lifestyle brand Stefano Ricci with the Mumbai store.
The first SR shirt collection was launched in 1980. In 1993 the brand’s presence in the USA was firmly ensconced and so a mono brand store in Shanghai was the logical step.
In 2009, expansion meant the Royal Suite Collection covering various types of porcelain and crystal dinner services, silverware, furnishing accessories, luxury linens and leather goods.
The brands pursuit of excellence prompted it in 2010 to purchase the Antico Setificio Fiorentine a historical factory that produced silk fabrics for noble families since 1786.
For Ricci the bestselling countries are Europe, USA, China and Russia where all the three segments of the brand are retailed. An oft asked question however is – why does Stefano Ricci have men’s wear, accessories and home items, which are an unusual combination? “Because SR is a lifestyle it is not merely a clothes designer,” Jackie Manglani informs.
With India already playing host to Italian brands like Canali, Brioni, Zegna, Armani, etc. how different is SR? Here Manglani adds, “SR is a true purveyor of luxury for design to conception and very different from other brands.”
Presenting two collections a year but always introducing some unique products in between, the garments are 100 per cent Made in Italy since the brand is a firm advocate of Italian craftsmanship. Also available on-line through the brand’s site as well as stores like Nieman Marcus, Morris and Sons, Harrods an even EBay, Manglani however insists, “The online store is just an experiment our brand is all but touch and feel.”
With Euro 250 million turnover worldwide, the price can truly be called haute for many of the products. A pleated crystal silk tie could put the stylish male back by Rs 47,189 while a contrast stripe French cuff shirt could cost Rs 43,818 at the Nieman Marcus site. Check Harrods and a perforated blouson has a tag of UK pounds 5,200 while a leather suede blouson retails at UK pounds 8,600. On EBay a new men’s shirt goes for $ 1,550. While Manglani is not sure how much the Indian market will add to the turnover, he hopes that the brand can replicate the success story they have had in China.
Designer for every item in the brand Ricci admits, “It is like a fever even now, after 40 years I am still searching for the thinnest yarn available, new colouring systems, new intriguing combinations of old tradition and modern interpretation. Once I have the finest yarn, woven at the lowest possible speed to avoid any extra stress for the fibre, very often before the final finishing of the cloth, I remove it from production and keep it in a room to “decant” it like wine, in order to recover all the sense of the natural fibre”.
Over the years, Stefano Ricci has surprised his customers with numerous original creations such as the “Plissé Model” necktie, made of pleated patterned silk. The “Multi-patchwork Tie” a unique creation of 280 tiny silk squares in different patterns and the “Diamond Tie” made of black satin silk and 100 diamond stones. Today the multi-patchwork tie is considered by many as a collector’s item. The brand has been credited with creating the most expensive ties in the world. The tie collections could have 700 colours with 60-70 patterns in each collection. Keeping the brand exclusive, Ricci ensures that only a handful of pieces are made in each style.
The most popular products out of the long list comprising men’s wear, home décor, porcelain, crystal dinner services, silverware, furnishings, accessories, luxury linen and leather goods, it is mostly silk shirts, knitwear, jackets and the 24K hand painted porcelain collections that do well in the Asian markets.
While the luxury market has proved a challenge for many European brands who have quit eventually, Manglani confidently declares, “We are here for the long term. This is not a trial and error for us. We are here to stay.”
Apparently the client list of the brand includes high profile names like the Sultan of Brunei, Mikhail Gorbochev and many celebrities but Ricci shies away from revealing the names of the Indian elite.
Ricci does not see any competition in the men’s wear market. “There are not many at the very top. It’s a very niche position.” Ricci is however thrilled with the response the brand has had in India. “Indian men are fashionable but Indian women steal the show.”
Being part of important events is what the SR brand is known for. One of the memorable ones was the Firenze Hometown of Fashion new lighting of the Ponte Vecchoi Bridge presentation as well as the concert by Maestro Andrea Bocelli who switched on the lighting in front of 25,000 people. Also deeply involved in art, SR chose to dedicate its latest catalogue to the Self Portraits collection of the Galleria Degli Uffizi, the most important museum of Italy. In 2012 SR presented a new concept of interiors for super yachts and in 2013 the brand provided patronage for restoration of priceless volumes in the State Archive of Florence on the ancient Art of Silk.
The brand is run by Stefano Ricci, wife Claudia and sons Niccolo (CEO) and Filippo (Creative Director) who are committed to bringing the best of Italian fashion to the world.
Men’s wear trends for 2015-16 according to Ricci will always be inspired by nature and Africa. A little cagey about future plans for SR the man who lives and breathes fashion says, “Lots of plans and time will unravel everything.”