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March 13, 2009updated Feb 05, 2014

Stefano Ricci

By Chris Boyle

Stefano Ricci

Founder/Designer
Stefano Ricci

Stefano Ricci stores in China – the complete list

Founded in Florence in 1971, Stefano Ricci has become synonymous with the good life, from stylish suits to flamboyant ties to crocodile golf bags and now custom designed private jets. Founder Stefano Ricci recently sat down in his hometown with Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan and Editorial Director Laura Hughes to talk about global expansion, passing the torch to the next generation and what he likes to do when he’s not designing.

ET: How did you get into the business and launch your namesake company?

Stefano Ricci: By mistake. My family was in the clothing business for ladies, and it was not exactly what I was dreaming of. But I grew up in the atmosphere of silk and cashmere and honestly it helped a lot. But I loved playing, and while at university I was playing with wool and thread. And that led to designing my shirt collection, my suit collection, all the materials – my ties, my printing. And, you know, I found the key to get into this business is that I am a person with a passion who wants to express something personal. And considering that graphically – I don’t know how to design a flower, but graphically, God bless, it comes easily. Even now I need to be concentrated and relaxed. This is one reason why two, three, four times a year I fly down to Africa, away from everybody. I do a little hunting and a lot of designing. And that is honestly what I enjoy the most – the combination of work and contact with the nature.

ET: What does Stefano Ricci, now a global brand, represent today?

Stefano Ricci: Let me put it this way – I have always been designing for a niche of consumers. I design my collection for the people who already have everything. They don’t need my things. They don’t need my ties, they don’t need my shoes, they don’t need my suits, they don’t need my crocodile jacket – but who needs a crocodile jacket? Nobody needs a crocodile jacket, you know? But my final client has to have something that is a prize for himself, simulating the joy of being successful; being able to buy something that is not necessary.

Those people who are buying because they don’t need what they are buying, they are extremely demanding. They look at the last details, they look at the atmosphere of the place where the piece is displayed, the garment is displayed, and they look at the final quality of the garment. We have people ordering the same style of shoes from different shops, custom-made, and I know that they use once or twice every single shoe. But it’s our duty to be focused on quality and quality that lasts. The ladies business is completely different. I’m presenting this year in the collection, as an experiment, knitwear with cashmere and Russian sable. When my people have seen me shaving the skin, 50 skins to do the first test, they were thinking – or calling the ambulance and then–sending me to a mental disease hospital. But there is something in that material. And I’m going to do that exclusively; we are going to present in the fall, jackets and coats made with that cashmere.

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ET: Are there any areas that you see for expansion?

Stefano Ricci: We are opening now a boutique in Doha, at The Pearl in Qatar.
Then we are opening in Macao at the Four Seasons in March. In June we will open a flagship in Florence. It’s quite large. It’s going to be the main store. And end of August, we are expanding our boutique in China, which opened in 1993 in Shanghai. And we are going to start work on the new factory on the hill of Florence. I still have – the position is so beautiful that I am still thinking whether I should make a factory or a beautiful residence for the family.

ET: How would you describe your connection to Florence?

Stefano Ricci: Well, my family is here. I think I consider myself extremely – and my kids, too – extremely lucky to be grown and born in Florence. Because even if you’re a barbarian, if you’re walking around here, you look at the architecture. And art is done on details – it’s not just beautiful paintings. It’s the proportion, the harmony, the balancing of the form or the designs. And I think it’s been a great help.

First of all, I am a normal person who enjoys being with my kids, my friends and my wife. And we go – whenever we can, we go in the forest, or we try to stay away from the traffic, the pollution. We go down to a very simple life. For me, it’s more elegant, that kind of life where you share salami and a good bottle of wine with a friend in the open, sitting on the roots of a tree. We love our dogs. But, honestly, we love hunting. It’s something that is a kind of religion for us.

ET: What do you hunt, and where are your favorite places?

Stefano Ricci: Well, I love North America. My wife is one of the few Europeans – I think the only European lady that was able to hunt the grand slam in North American. So she’s tough. And we go to Tanzania as many times as we can. But I hunted all over America. Also Mexico. The Sonora Desert 30 years ago, we hunted Guatemala, we hunted Bolivia, we hunt mostly Canada – but Colorado, Wyoming too.

ET: Are there any places you haven’t hunted that you want to hunt?

Stefano Ricci: It’s always a joy to be back in America because it’s really the most amazing place. You go to America to shoot one single animal. And the whole trip is around that animal, and we never shoot if it’s not older than the one we already have. Now everybody has the fever of the Asian mountain hunt. My kids have invitations from all the presidents from Russian Republics– I don’t go there anymore. AT 5,000 meters, 6,000 meters, since I’m a heavy smoker and I like wine, it’s not a comfortable thing. But if they have the opportunity, they take a chance because those mountains are unbelievable. We hunted already Pakistan in the old days. But it’s not about the killing anymore, it’s just the skills to visit a new place, new people, and realize how big the world is. It looks small through an airplane window and today it looks very small. When the world was big, it was large – it was far from today.

ET: You’re also passionate about cars?

Stefano Ricci: I love cars. I do have an American classic, a Chevy Cobra with two seats. We cannot race the Mille Miglia because all the production has to be for cars produced within 1957, which already rased the Mille Miglia. So the selection is extremely tight. So I’m going to race with an old Maserati Zagato from 1952.

ET: But this won’t be your first Mille Miglia?

Stefano Ricci: No, no, no, I raced already Mille Miglia . But this time my kids are racing the Mille Miglia for the first time. We are going to be together – two different cars. For sure I’m going faster than them.

ET: Well, what happens if they beat you by accident?

Stefano Ricci: I will just declare that the engine blew. It’s not my fault. It’s just the car that wasn’t working.

ET: Anything in addition to cars, in addition to hunting – any other passions?

Stefano Ricci: Don’t you think it’s enough?

ET: Well, I don’t know how much time you have on your hands.

Stefano Ricci: No, I have very little. My designing is my passion. I’m never tired when I design – I’m tired when I’m on the phone answering to all my managers from all the shops. But, honestly, the future is going to be the brightest for specialists who need a lot more attention because the consumer knows much more than most of us. I think that’s our strength.

And we have to give more and more respect to the consumer. They are the ones who determine how good or how bad we are. And the service in the stores is important. Today I think even the marketing is not the marketing formulas that are written about in books. Today there are new formulas in marketing. When I opened in China in 1993, everybody thought that I was crazy. And maybe I was, but I was inspired by the challenge of testing in a market like that. And today for me, China is the most – I do have five shops – is the most profitable market in terms of profit of the ones I have. But you don’t recognize China, because in those days there were all bicycles and no lights. Today, no bicycles and lots of lights. So it’s a difference. And the new generation of China has the number to bring that country to – I wouldn’t say to dominate the world, but really to be one of the strongest powers and economical powers. I hope it will not talk too much anymore about military power, because we are sick and tired of hearing about war around the world.

ET: Speaking a little bit about next generations, a lot of our readers are successful business owners like yourself and you have two of your children involved in the business.

Stefano Ricci: I am very lucky for that. And not only my two children, I do have a team of staff and managers with me since – they’re extremely young. The oldest is Salvatore – you met him – he’s 40 years old, but he’s been with me for 16 or 17 years. So he breathes and thinks the company – even faster – like my kids. They have a vision that I don’t even have. I have to run to keep up with. I’m extremely positive on the future.

ET: What advice would you give anyone whose children are coming into their business on how to make that relationship successful?

Stefano Ricci: First of all, I had my children. I had a great opportunity because both of my kids were able to work in Dallas at Neiman Marcus. It was so involved – they were feeling so much involved in Neiman Marcus that when they came back, both of them, they were talking to me saying, “We – us at Neiman Marcus.” I told them, listen, you are back. And I think that was an incredible store. It was really a Masters degree in marketing, budgeting, products. And they came back. But the confidence it gave them also gave them space to operate. If you do that, you never go wrong but you never go right. You have to experiment with something that is the same but different.

ET: Any advice for your sons?

Stefano Ricci: Something extremely significant. I want them to find the right woman soon because I’m dying from not having grandchildren. But they are not too interested at this moment.

ET: So they don’t listen to you all the time.

Stefano Ricci: There are too many rockets going off in front of their eyes and that’s a disaster.

ET: So what’s next for Stefano Ricci?

Stefano Ricci: I have to design the interior decoration of two different jets. And I have the concept but I do have to find the proper formula because the materials – the fire-retardant, the specifications for flying are correctly – extremely tight. And I have to – my new venture is to be able to know much more about that. It’s a new challenge to design interior decoration for private jets. But I have two. One is a 650.

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