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This fashion brand is affordable for the 0.001 percent

Nadja Beschetnikova
April 9, 2018

The Stefano Ricci brand is probably not on the radar of the world’s fashionistas - it is considered outmoded, old-fashioned and ridiculously expensive. You will not hear this name from an excited whisper in the backstage of a fashion week.

May the fashion brands deal with the aspiring wannabes and hip kids, Stefano Ricci reliably appeals to those men who have reached the zenith of power.

The brand is well-known among Russian oligarchs, Chinese billionaires, and Hollywood royalty. If you can drop $5,000 on a pair of crocodile sneakers or $2,000 on matte crocodile sunglasses, welcome to the club.

Stefano Ricci, the Italian menswear designer renowned for his custom suits made of ultra-fine wool, silk ties (Elton John reportedly has one with 100 diamonds that cost $80,000, the brand produces only six of them) and alligator-skin bags and coats.

Luxury is a term that is often abused. In some cases, the only luxurious characteristic of the product is its final cost. But speaking of Stefano Ricci, you can be sure, here the unique customer gets unique things. The brand is a premium choice for 0.001% of the world’s population.

A generalized portrait of the typical Ricci’s customer: a man who isn’t upset at all about losing a pair of three-carat diamond cuff links, which cost $100,000, after he partied too much at his son’s wedding.  

The family business was founded by Stefano Ricci and his wife Claudia in Florence in 1972. After nearly four decades, the Stefano Ricci label has come to occupy a unique place in the fashion firmament: maker of hyper masculine, hyper expensive men’s wear and accessories.

Today, their sons are part of this successful luxury brand, with Niccolo Ricci as the CEO and Filippo Ricci as the creative director.  Both literally grew up in the Stefano Ricci office and factory, learning everything about fabrics and tailoring. 

“The headquarters were in our grandparent’s villa and every day after school we would spend our afternoons there. I remember spending my time between silk and cotton, assimilating knowledge of fabrics as if it were a wonderful game,” recalls Filippo Ricci.

Ricci describes brand’s target customer as a gentleman who already has everything, but is constantly searching for timeless elegance and the highest level of quality in terms of fabrics and custom tailoring services.

Most of Stefano Ricci’s products are simple, wearable and exactingly made: suits with that enveloping Florentine flavour; cashmere sweaters; and crisp shirting.

The price for a custom suit starts around $8,000 and can quickly climb past $25,000. Well, Savile Row is not the last refuge for a wealthy gentleman.

Stefano Ricci insists that products should be judged by quality and not advertisement value. The production is 100% made in Italy, and that’s an essential moment for the brand’s founder. And it's not a marketing ploy but a quality issue.

The quality has to be there, and, according to Ricci, there's no alternative but to make every last thing in Italy. But that's not for the 'Made in Italy' label, which is no guarantee of quality in itself anymore. It's for the old hand skills you still find here.

The brand generally has an unconventional marketing strategy. Respect for the customer comes in not making too much – because you can't jump in quantity without damaging the quality. Ricci’s products don't appear in the outlet discounts. The brand doesn’t ever do sales.

In contrast to many brands that rushed to promote their products through online platforms, Ricci acts cautiously. While other fashion brands abruptly turned to e-commerce, Stefano Ricci continues to keep opening stores. And the strategy of expansion is everything but banal. Last year, the brand opened its store in Las Vegas, a place that is unlikely to be associated with high fashion. But Ricci saw a great potential there and explained his choice by saying, “If they win, they will spend money to celebrate. If they lose, they will spend money to feel less depressed.”

The potential of e-commerce isn’t underestimated by the brand. The Ricci family started to invest in it recently, but Filippo Ricci believes, that there’s an experience you can't replace with a couple of mouse clicks.

«I still like to see my costumer walk into a Stefano Ricci boutique and sit on the crocodile chair, which is $100,000, and he says "Here is where I want to spend my money." So we sell an experience, we sell what we call a "lifestyle concept". You can sell fragrances, knitwear, but I don't see a full suit sold online. You lose that value of the sartorial concept,» says Filippo Ricci.

Though, Stefano Ricci’s relationship with technology is legendary. The producer of the luxury goods is said to use an old Nokia as his everyday mobile phone and doesn’t use the computer. Stefano still renders the designs by hand, in pencil.

Instead of being obsessed with gadgets, he puts all his energy into creativity. The company uses bronze eagle heads in place of the standard human ones for its in-store mannequins.

The eagle stands for a sense of strength and control, according to Ricci, and it’s more than a fortunate choice of an image since eagle symbolizes not just fierce individualism in the US, but strength in China, dynastic glory in the Middle East and ruling authority in Russia going back to the czars. An understandable symbol, that covers the target audience of the brand.

The brand has outfitted Kremlin power brokers, Middle Eastern oil scions, celebrities such as classical singer Andrea Bocelli and actor Tom Cruise as well as world leaders such as the late South African president Nelson Mandela and the late German chancellor Helmut Kohl. Stefano Ricci even once flew a tailor to the G8 meeting.

In 2009, Stefano Ricci purchased the silk factory, Antico Setificio Fiorentino, which fittingly dates back to the 14th century and boasts a warping machine designed by Leonardo da Vinci. The historic mill also supplies the company's Stefano Ricci Home division with exquisite fabrics such as ermisino, a shimmering silk taffeta woven from different colour threads that have been a favorite of the aristocracy since the Renaissance. Customers use it to decorate the interiors of their mega yachts.

«My family does not produce fast fashion, but real luxury products. As I have always said, our secret recipe consists of innovation respecting tradition, a time-honoured knowledge. We do not, therefore, create trends, but we consolidate the perception of elegance at its highest level. Obviously, in every collection, there are elements of novelty, starting with a fresher line, where comfort, however, commands the shape,» says Filippo Ricci.