While the likes of Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, PRADA and Burberry line Via de’ Tornabuoni, the home of fashion in Florence, Italy, Stefano Ricci’s flagship boutique sits tucked away on a quiet street a few minutes’ walk away.
Catering only to a very specific clientele, Stefano Ricci might just be the biggest brand that most people have never heard of.
The door remains closed at all times, with a member of staff to welcome in the rare guest. There are no tourists shopping for a piece of authentic Italian fashion, or fashionistas looking for a quick bargain. During my visit to the store, I had the shop floor to myself and at least three members of staff to cater to my needs. It seemed a world away from the fast fashion found in most city centres, or even the hustle and bustle in Florence’s other luxury stores.
“We sell to people that have got everything,” Creative Director Filippo Ricci told Verdict. “There have been opportunities and things that we could’ve done [to target the mass market], but you might lose that magic around the brand.”
In order to keep its high-spending customers happy, Stefano Ricci does everything that it can to preserve this ‘magic’. There is no compromise on high quality, Italian-made materials, nor is unsold merchandise discounted to get rid of old stock.
“In order to protect our customer, we operate directly on our inventory and we burn it at the end of the year because we don’t want it to spread around, or see it in the outlets or being on discount somewhere,” Ricci said. “We’re one of few brands that are not afraid of saying it.”
“It’s costly, but you can put it also in terms of a marketing cost. It’s something that is very important, first of all to our DNA, but mostly to our clients,” Ricci said.
The practice, an open secret in the world of luxury fashion, has faced plenty of criticism for the environmental implications that it might have.
However, if spending some time in the brand’s world taught me anything, it is that so long as the Stefano Ricci client is happy, little else matters.
That was evident upon visiting the company’s headquarters in Florence’s surrounding hills, where various taxidermy animals, from polar bears to antelope, were on display. Some may take offence, but a look at the Stefano Ricci catalogue – which features belts, bomber jackets and pens wrapped in crocodile skin – reveals that this is just another part of the luxury lifestyle brand.
Inside the Stefano Ricci Boutique
While the struggles of many luxury fashion brands in recent years have been widely documented, Stefano Ricci is sticking to its guns, targeting a very niche clientele with products that are unique to the brand.
And it appears to be business as usual for the luxury lifestyle brand, which recorded double digital sales growth of 17% in 2017, with a turnover of €144m. The company has since opened two new stories in New Delhi, India, and Miami, United States, in 2018, adding to its collection of more than 60 worldwide boutiques.
These stores are key to selling the Stefano Ricci “lifestyle”.
“We always bring great value to a building, because of the materials we use, the way we restore it. We bring all our Italian artisans,” Ricci told Verdict.
Each of Stefano Ricci’s flagship stores features interiors made from polished black briar-root wood and a type of Florentine stone known as pietra serena, making each boutique feel as familiar as the next. This is aided by the brand’s $60,000 crocodile skin armchairs dotted around each store, and the signature eagle that has become synonymous with the brand in markets such as China and Russia.
“It’s really a place where it makes you feel good, powerful, strong. These are really the key elements of our claims, you know – honour, power, pride – we’ve always been focused on this message.
“These beautiful shops – this is where people like to go and spend their money.”
However, perhaps the pinnacle of Stefano Ricci’s transformation from fashion house to lifestyle brand is the Stefano Ricci Mansion in Shanghai, a 22,000 square foot private club for the company’s high-spending clients to relax and unwind.
With the Stefano Ricci Mansion – akin to a gentleman’s club – the brand has attempted to create a “lifestyle experience”. Accessible only by customers that spend in excess of €50,000 a year, visitors are treated to high-quality cigars and Italian dishes served by Florentine chefs all while in good company.
“They can go up there, and they can just enjoy it, sit down with their friends and have a drink.”
Selling the Stefano Ricci lifestyle
“We don’t do gossip, fashion blogging, we’re not really into that. That’s not our client. Our client worldwide is people that love culture, love history, quality,” Ricci said. “They’re big car fans, or vintage car fans most of the time, they love maybe a great shooting in Devon, or they might enjoy a fantastic cigar, beautiful wine.”
However, more than anything, the Stefano Ricci client wants items that show off their status – items that few others, or no others have.
“When you do 60m on a fabric, that means you have 20 suits around the world with that [design]. Most of the time 10 suits are made, so the chance that you will find another gentleman around dressed like you, it’s almost impossible.”
The Stefano Ricci brand, once merely a designer of ties for luxury department stores such as London’s Harrods, has been gradually increasing its product range since the 1970s. Nowadays the brand is positioning itself as much more than a men’s fashion brand. Clients can now get a pair of Stefano Ricci sunglasses, shoes and matching hat to pair with their custom suit.
Stefano Ricci has been producing its SR HOME range, which features porcelain and crystal dinner services, silverware, home furnishings, linens and leather accessories since 2009, and offers custom interior design services. The brand has since added SKI and JUNIOR ranges, and sells everything from Stefano Ricci fragrances to fine wines and branded cigars.
“It’s all part of making the clients live an experience, live a dream,” Ricci told Verdict. “They want the emotion of having something – they’re like kids. They want something new, something exciting all the time – and that’s what we have to deliver with the collection, accessories that we do.”
From its custom-made suits to access to excuse hangouts, Stefano Ricci does well to continue to innovate and grow its offerings, ensuring that its clients – those who have everything – continue to have everything.
“Once this guy came and said I want a yellow trench [coat] in crocodile. We said, ‘Sir, we cannot. Black we might, but not in bright yellow’. He said ‘No, but I need it because my Harley Davidson is black and yellow and I want the yellow trench for when I’m riding it’,
“I said ok, let’s do it,” Ricci recalled. “The clients ask us anything and we try to make them happy.”