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Rencontre with Florentine fashion designer Stefano Ricci – Tuscany’s most celebrated and acclaimed designer

Barkha Arora gets up close & personal with Stefano Ricci

Tuscany’s enchanting city of Florence owes its soul to its art, culture, and aesthetics. As descendants of this city, Clan STEFANO RICCI’s fashion refinement and finesse compliment the city as a whole. Connoisseurship and virtuosity are the dispositions that permeate and penetrate the lineage of Stefano Ricci. Word luxury might sound fascinating for a few but for fashion Mogul Stefano Ricci it’s a desecration or profane, Fashion remains an emotional experience and a surreal feel for him. Establishing a strong connect of the brand with its discerning customers from the moment they enter the atelier. Elegance and craftsmanship flanked by ingenuity and innovation are the appropriate traits to illustrate the demeanor of Stefano Ricci, the eponymous brand in men’s fashion and accessories.With its perspicacity and entrepreneurial spirit, the brand has grown into an interior yachts business of its own. Regarded as the fashion moguls of the industry he is known for his knack of combining aesthetics with distinct style and giving ample focus on the rich craftsmanship and unique experimentation. Remaining ahead of the times when it comes to styling and sartorial and innovating with passion and creativity have been attributes of the brand.

High on Persona spoke to the fashion legend in a freewheeling conversation, where he opened up about the industry and shared his opinions about the future trends.

Q. Entering into the world of luxury bound fashion, was it by choice or happened inadvertently?
In the early 1970s, when I founded my company, the term ‘luxury’ was essentially used in reference to top residences, legendary cars, and even as a protagonistic word for fine jewellery, but there were no authoritative references for this term in the fashion world, least of all in men’s clothing. There was, however, talk of tailoring and manufacturing. Not as it happens today, but it was limited to a form of education for some families: at most, some had personal tailors. When I started working on in my first collection of ties, in 1972, I decided to focus on a quality, 100% Made in Italy product, referring to a market segment that did not yet exist – a niche.

Q. How the concept originated and was it followed by any formal education or training that you undertook?
I was born into a family that worked with silk for women’s clothing, so I learned the value of fabrics from childhood. But I never wanted to compromise my initial idea: the Man. And before I began to work, as a designer I specialised in geometric patterns inspired by the ceilings of the Medici, I spent months in Como where the best silk factories in the world continue to run at present. It was there that I learned the secrets of techniques, and the capacity for some types of finishings, which still lead me to create unique collections today.

Q. Men’s wear and accessories remain your forte, can we see you making foray in women wear too?
No. As I mentioned before, I have never wanted to compromise my fashion content with proposals for the female universe. They are two completely different worlds, because they are two different ways of seeing the world. Men buy for their own personal pleasure, and if a man has cultivated a culture for products, then he enjoys showing off their significance. He chooses his fabrics and matching combinations are suggested that may be adapted for every occasion. He looks for an emotion, whereas a woman is often more instinctive.

Q. Why did you choose to design for men over women?
Because I have always been inclined towards design for men, rather than for women.

Q. Please draw a comparison between luxury and high street markets, what works best in contemporary times?
Luxury is an abused term. After September 11 th 2001, the world market needed to restart consumption and suddenly, everything became ‘luxury’. Many products seemed luxurious only due to their prices, but often they were not expressions of real value. Luxury is a detail, a nuance, a particular type of work that is only possible to achieve by hand. Luxury is an attitude, a belonging. Of course, it is much easier to sell a product from the high street market. But the difference, for those who understand it, exists, and it is visible. This is not just a label or marketing; it is content.

Q. What is your take on luxury brands selling with tag of sale, how do you perceive this trend?

I can easily reply to this: STEFANO RICCI never goes on sale.

Q. Which are the most potential markets for you?
China, always, as well as Russia and India.

Q. What made you enter in Asian and developing countries?
I have travelled throughout my life, and I have learned so many subtleties through meeting extraordinary people, and uncoded elegance. In the beginning of the 1990s, I was considering reducing my presence in multibrands and opening mono brand boutiques. At that point a long-time friend, who is a great expert in the market and a manager of one of my first successful boutiques in Beverly Hills suggested that I visit China. So, we went together. I was surprised by the energy that the young had there. It was visible in the air, that something big was about to happen. And it was there, in Shanghai, that I wanted to open the first ever STEFANO RICCI boutique.

Q. After launching your store in Mumbai what makes you go for Delhi?
In my job, you have to believe in a country otherwise you won’t invest in it. Of course, we gained some experience with our Mumbai boutique, where we met new clients and where we were able to offer a more dedicated service to those gentleman Indians who already bought our products in London, Paris and New York. We waited for the right moment, and it was clear that we would aim for Delhi. The real question was where? And The Oberoi was the answer.

Q. Do you plan to keep characteristics and disposition of your designs intact or you plan to tweak changes keeping in view the fashion sensibilities of the Indian Market?
I have always been inspired by the colours of Africa. But I do understand the requests from our clients, and this is a constant incentive for me to present something different, to dare. In this case, the Indian customer emerges amongst others because he arises from a culture based on production, with a unique taste.

Q. What is your perception towards Indian consumers or the personality of Indian men, How does your brand define the personality of Indian men?
I address a clientele who thinks internationally, who lives in a cosmopolitan way and who wants to feel at ease in any city in the world. The man who wears STEFANO RICCI, from sportswear to formal attire, is a man who is proud of his own masculinity.

Q. In an era of E-Commerce and online buying would it be challenging for you to sell luxury from stores?
It is with some amusement that I have witnessed a new phenomenon: that of e-commerce, a service where we must, as ever, offer our best. Yet, a growing number of our clients enter our boutiques asking if we have a jacket for sale with a particular colour, or a bag with a particular finishing, and they show our managers the images that are circulating on their smartphones. I believe that even among our younger clients, the desire to live the experience of buying directly in one of our boutiques prevails. My client already has everything; he does not go into a store to buy a suit. If he comes to us, he does so because he is convinced that he wants to live this emotion, to be served as a king, to receive attention and recommendations from those who are dedicated only to him.

Q. Since you entered Asian Market, have you revised your price tag?
No my products are certain to express a true value, not simply a cost.

Q. Ties, Accessories or Mens clothing, what are you most passionate about?
I am passionate about everything that expresses beauty and quality.
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Q. Top five places in Italy for shopping luxury?
Just three: Milan, Florence and Porto Cervo.

Q. Five designer brands you are in awe of?

Hermes, Dior, Chanel.

Q. Five destinations that remain must visit in Italy for tourists from India?
Florence, Rome, Venice, Milan, and Punta Ala in Tuscany.

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