Roberto Ricci from Italy founded the brand Roberto Ricci Designs (RRD) in the mid-80s, which has made a name for itself in recent years. The products range from Kiteboarding, Windsurfing and Surfing to Stand Up Paddling. The basic idea of Roberto Ricci Designs is to combine Italian craftsmanship with the Hawaiian roots of surfboard manufacturing. We had a chat with the designer during his Berlin visit at Soho House Berlin.
KB: What came first? Your passion for the sea or your passion for water sport?
Definitely for the sea, when I was seven years old I became very passionate about diving. My cousin taught me how to swim underwater and that just blew my mind. Since then I only wanted to be into the ocean, which really was my first love.
KB: Was surfing a popular sport when you started to practice it? Was it a part of the American Dream?
It was 1981 when I started and it was like the classic Californian approach, all the people in Europe were fascinated by this American dream. It was quite popular, of course not as popular as soccer, but it was very much in fashion. I started because it represented a new way of being.
KB: When did the surf-activity became your job and not just your hobby?
In 1986 we all tried to build our own boards. We didn’t have the jumping boards yet that’s why we tried to build them ourselves which differs to the classic all-rounder board. This brought us to be artistic people, by defining your own board at your little desk. Automatically we became broader to develop a new sport.
1986 I also started to be involved with a brand that actually develops boards. I started practising more and more. I became more visible and then I was offered a job to become a shaper, who was basically the designer of the boards and had to physically build the board as well. So that was my first job.
KB: What makes the RRD equipment so unique?
RRD represents the essence of artistic approach and attention to details, combined perfectly with performance. We want to create something that is really identifiable with the customer. We have the same approach in the water sports business as our approach when it comes to fashion. We always try to combine the practical performance, with comfort. And in the water sports business, it is a performance with romance. That’s why our team used to call it perf-romance, and the same thing goes for the clothes.
KB: How did you come up with the idea of translating the know-how of wet-wear to prêt-a-porter?
I did my first clothing collection together with windsurfing boards in 1994. It was my first collection with 4 board shirts, 4 T-shirts and 4 windsurf boards. I thought that it was the perfect target group because when they buy a board they would like to buy a board shirt as well. They were developed for over 15 years and we were only doing beachwear and summer wear for many years.
There was a big turning point in 2012. We did the first wet-suit collection in the water sports business and when I looked at the jacket on top of the manikin in my showroom I automatically knew I want to make a winter jacket looking like that. So the question was: what if you use lycra for a winter jacket? And that was really the breakthrough for me to dive more into the real fashion world. We were able to do really high-quality level jackets which have performance and style combined together with freedom of movement. It’s a very elegant material in the end, but at the same time, it’s high performance. So I really thought this could be a good combination for the winter jackets. But the fact that the lycra material is on the outside, made it a new thing. We somehow were able to break through the market thanks to the lycra jacket. So the “Winter Storm” was the first iconic piece that we sold with that kind of approach in mind.
KB: What product was your It-Piece?
My iconic piece is called the “Winter Storm” and “Winter Parka”, one is a shorter and the other one is a longer jacket.
The short one is more practical, just below your waist, quite slim as a fit. You can basically use it to go snowboarding, for a very elegant dinner or for the office on top of a blazer with a suit and tie. It’s very versatile and can be worn in many different ways.
The Winter Eskimo and the Winter Coats with the hood are a bit baggier and more comfortable. It always carries the style of lycra and it’s more covering for proper winter times, and of course, it’s also a bit more elegant.
So these two different lengths cover a huge range of coats in our collection.
KB: What kind of people wear RRD?
The big surprise was the woman market. Now we have a 50/50 approach in the collection, 50% woman and 50% man. And in the market, we were able to reach 60% sales to man and 40% now is a woman. Women really appreciate our jackets and our clothes in general, because they are fashionable but with a classic, stylish and very functional cut and approach.
So the classic target group is women and men between 30 and 50. Grown up and professional people that want to wear a piece that makes them feel like being on the ocean but they live in the city. This is our message, we want to bring the ocean back to the city and make you feel like you are wearing a piece of the ocean. This is our vision.
KB: Is there an overlapping between your surf-equipment clients and the prêt-a-porter clients?
There is actually a very big and inspiring group of people who are good trendsetters because they are normal sporty people, but they are very fashionable as well. And when you have a passion you communicate your passion. So they can be really good influencers for our business. Our influencers are already the water sports people that actually talk about how good it is to be out there on the beach and how good it is to do watersports. This is a really strong message. We actually do not need to have fashion influencers because we already have a lot of high street influencers who love water sports in general.
KB: What plans do you have for the German and international market?
The next step is to get into the German market. Three years ago we actually started getting a nice set up of distribution with three agencies from the north, middle and south. We have great feedback in the German market. The group is small but we really feel that the German mentality has been quiet sportive and driven to go outside, which is very much in line with our message. We like being part of this movement of environmental approach and to inspire people to be more conscious about what’s going on in the environment. We really want to bring people to the beach and the ocean, because once you are in the ocean you are naturally becoming an environmentalist. I think the environmental message we can spread is about inviting people to go out there and see for themselves.
KB: Do you have a favourite fashion designer or is “fashion” a bad word for you?
Well at the beginning of my carrier as a fashion designer I said that I will always look at the work of nature more than everything else. I was very inspired by the natural forms, like a seagull wing or a fishtail. I think nature is by far the best designer of everything.
But if I have to say some names of people who represent modern images, I love the work of Giorgio Armani and Yvon Chouinard which is the owner of Patagonia. These are two inspiring figures that I really look after. I would love for my designs to look like an Armani suite and at the same time I see Patagonia approaching the practical use on the inside.
Do you see yourself more as a designer or as an entrepreneur or as a renaissance man?
I see myself more as a passionate person of the ocean which pushed me to use my skills. My real essence and mission are that I really want to bring people to the water. I love it when people tell me their stories from the ocean with my clothes and boards. That is my real satisfaction, I feel very satisfied when I bring a person to the ocean.