An Interview with Stefano Ricci

Fashion designer

Nita Tucker
November 16, 2006

Stefano Ricci has designed men’s clothing for over 30 years.  His line, with suits costing up to $30,000, is considered the most luxurious and expensive in the world.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

Walking through the streets of Florence as a child, you get used to the sophisticated signs of its culture. The harmonic balance of proportions and colour combinations has a real impact on your attitudes. I chose to become a men’s clothing designer due to my old family tradition.  I became truly fascinated with the ancient concept of weaving: playing with warp and weft. If you get passionately involved in something, you never stop asking questions about it. It is like a fever.  Even now, after 30 years, I am still searching for the thinnest yarn available, new colouring systems, new intriguing combinations of old tradition and modern interpretation.  It has been like this since I started, and it will be this way for the rest of my life.

How would you define luxury?

The word ‘luxury’ has lost its meaning over the last few years. It’s now used to add value to certain brands or to identify something as expensive. In 2003, I wrote a book called Luxor, in which I tried to define the concept of ‘luxury’. Luxury is a glass of water in the desert; Luxury is friendship; Luxury is a grandchild; Luxury is health.

 If you were to dress James Bond/Pierce Bronson from head to toe, what would the outfit look like?

Honestly, I would not consider it a challenging mission to attire Mr. Brosnan. He is tall and broad-shouldered, and it is too easy to make him look good. I would find it more interesting to dress a normal gentleman—someone about five and a half feet tall—someone with a paunch and a few years under his belt. I would have him fitted with a classic laced-up shoe of light chocolate and soft kangaroo leather and a coordinated belt. One with a simple buckle of white gold. Then, I would select a two-button custom tailored suit in new Vanquish fabric. It would be navy ground with a thin, medium light blue and spaced stripe. I’d match it with a 180/2 cotton plain shirt coordinated with the colour of the suit’s stripe.  Think strictly French cuffs and slightly open collar. I’d also suggest a pair of my ‘Flying Carpet’ cufflinks made of white gold and blue sapphires.

I would present the gentleman with a selection of appropriate ties, because this accessory is small but extremely important and personal. A large, white linen handkerchief would not disturb the total look. And in the end—I would ask him how he feels, rather than how he looks!

If you were to describe the five main materials you use in your designs and relate them to the five senses, what would you say?

In my family’s DNA, there is an ancient passion for travelling all over the world for big game hunting. During every hunting trip, I always find a few hours to design.  In the wilderness, the senses become more intense, perhaps for the risks involved or because of the majesty of the forests, deserts and mountains. I can best describe the materials I use based on memories of my travels.

Crocodile reminds me of a trip to Bolivia, hunting huge caimans out of a small canoe with my two sons and my wife.  I remember the smell of wild cacao in the Amazon forest.

Vicuna brings me back to a night spent in Pakistan, on the cliffs of the Suleiman Mountain. I was hunting Markor, a wild goat with eyes like the devil.  Lying in my sleeping bag at 14,000 feet above sea level, I used my shatush scarf to keep from freezing. It was primitively woven with the thin beard hairs of one of the rarest and wildest high mountain sheep.

Cotton is linked to my interest in Egyptian archaeology and to this country, where it represents the pure expression of true luxury.  For the Egyptians, the Nile is the origin and reason of life.  It is also the source of their high quality cotton. I remember the fine sand in the desert covering my hair and beard at the end of every day—making me look quite old.

Silk. Before the opening of my first boutique in China, I travelled to the province of Hangzhou, and I visited the country where the main expression of agriculture was connected to the production of silk by traditional methods.  I remember the softness of the natural raw silk yarn just after it was boiled.

The diamond takes me back twenty years, to one night in Namibia, on the border with Angola. I was in a hunting camp when I received the unexpected visit of a witch doctor who wanted to meet ‘the young Italian hunter.’ Sitting by the fire, one of the guides started to translate the doctor’s words. I was just shocked: he knew everything about me and he even gave me suggestions on how to make my dreams come true.  He said that a mysterious force had guided him to me.  His name was ‘Fly,’ and he was close to becoming blind.  He left very early the next morning after giving me a rough stone. That stone was a diamond.  It may sound like a novel, but I still remember the expression of those nearly blind eyes, that could read so deeply inside of me.

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