Nina Ricci (originally Maria Nielli) - Biography

Fashion designer, born in Turin, NW Italy. She became an apprentice in a Paris couture house in 1900, joined Raffin in 1908, and stayed with him for 20 years, eventually becoming his partner.

Nina Ricci

Maria Nielli was born in Turin, Italy, in 1883 and her family moved to Florence when she was five years old. Subsequently, her family moved to France in 1895 when she was 12 years old. At the age of 13, she was apprenticed to a dressmaker and by 18 had become the head of the salon and by 22 it's chief designer. In 1904 she married a jeweler named Luigi Ricci and they had a son named Robert in 1905.
n 1908 Nina joined the house of Raffin as a designer and remained there for 20 years. In 1932, at the age of 50, Madame Ricci decided to open her own house, and she and her son set up the House of Ricci. There Madame Ricci created the garments and Robert ran the business. It grew rapidly throughout the 30's till it occupied 11 floors in 3 buildings, all on the same street as their original one-room maison de couture. Working directly with the fabric on a mannequin, Nina Ricci created elegant, sophisticated clothes in classic style. She was noted for her high standard of workmanship and became a popular designer for older society women.
She was skilled at making the most of a print, cutting a plaid for an evening dress on the bias, echoing the X-cross in the skirt pattern in the surplice, crossed-over treatment of the bodice. One daring dress in 1937 had a halter neck open between the breasts from neck to waist. Day and evening dresses alike drew attention to the figure, by being fitted to below the waist and featuring much shirring and drapery. In 1945, after the war had ended, it was very necessary to revive the glory of haute couture as well as raise money for war relief. Robert Ricci had an idea which Lucien Lelong, President of the Chambre, put into action. 172 dolls from 40 Paris couturiers, including Balenciaga and Madame Gres, were dressed in the latest fashions and an exhibition was held at the Louvre, in Paris. It was a great success and subsequently toured Europe and the USA. By the early 50's, when Nina Ricci was nearing 70, she ceased to take an active role in design, just keeping an eye on the house. Her son brought in a new head designer in 1954, the Belgian Jules-Francois Crahay, whose first collection for Ricci was a great success being feminine in the extreme - beautiful of colouring and fabric, unbizarre and elegant.

Crahay left Ricci in 1963 to go to Lanvin, and was replaced by Gerard Pipart, who had worked with Balmain, Fath and Jean Patou. He continued to design the most beautiful lace dresses with appliqu�d fabrics in the typically Ricci style, along with silk day dresses. Even after Nina Ricci died in 1970 at the age of 87, Pipart continued to design for the house of Ricci. Nina's son Robert, an expert perfumer as well as a businessman, has transformed the house into an empire the size of which his mother may never have dreamed. The house is a monument to his mother and reflects her intensely feminine personality. Robert Ricci died in 1988 at the age of 83. Mariano Puig, whose Catalan (Barcelona) family purchased the house of Nina Ricci in 1998, also owns the house of Paco Rabanne. Massimo Guissain worked as a designer, and Nathalie Gervais has been the chief designer for the house for several years, but presented her last collection for Fall 2001. In May 2002 American designer James Aguiar took over as chief designer and designed for two seasons. In early April 2003, it was announced that Lars Nilsson (shown on the right) has been appointed the chief designer for the house of Nina Ricci. His first collection will be shown in Paris in October 2003 for Spring/Summer 2004. Click on Nilsson for details about him.


Nina Ricci Fashion


During Paris Fashion Week in October 2003, Swedish designer Lars Nilsson showed his first Nina Ricci collection for next Spring. A dress from this collection is shown on the left. It was a sweet debut focused on wispy weightless daywear. He abandoned strict tailoring except for a single black wool gabardine jacket. He went after more sensual clothes like lingerie slips and tops with spider-web lace, or tulle inserts with Bermuda shorts. The pastel colours were delicious and so was the transparent bead embroidery.


Lars Nilsson


Lars Nilsson presented his Nina Ricci Fall collection in Paris during Fashion Week in March 2004. Lars said that he wanted to add some substance to a young woman's wardrobe, but his collection was mostly flimsy dresses, stylish sweaters and skirts which seemed familiar from the uptown girl look that has been in vogue for the last few years. His colour palette, sweet and fresh in yellow, blue and orange, was the distinguishing feature and he let his Swedish heritage refresh outerwear like cape coats and soft knits.


Nina Ricci


During Paris Fashion Week in October 2004, Lars Nilsson showed his Nina Ricci collection for next Spring. An outfit from this collection is shown on the left. Lars is transforming the old couture house into a young woman's world at top speed. He is enticing a new younger clientele with sleek jackets, with deep cropped sleeves and bows at the back, as well as gentle tiered skirts and dainty party dresses. He did all the right things, using moth-wing sheer fabrics, silk and a scattering of sparkle to produce lightness and elegance.
Lars Nilsson's Autumn/Winter collection for the house of Nina Ricci was shown during Paris Fashion Week in March 2005. He loves fragile dresses, light and airy as lingerie but he mixed the soft with the hard, protecting from the cold with fur jackets with ballooning Renaissance sleeves. Sporty swing back jackets were shown but Nils seemed more comfortable with soft pieces like fragile blouse with inserts of lace, and pretty evening gowns including one blush-pink chiffon frosted with crystals. There was one spectacular wasp-waist silvery satin strapless evening dress with the seams and boning of a 19th century corset. His collection tapped beautifully into the turn of the century fairytale spirit which is the designer's favourite.


Nina Ricci - Perfumes


If ever a fragrance was born to its name, that fragrance is L'Air du Temps created in France in 1949. It means "mood of the times" and it captured the hopes and passions of a generation emerging from years of darkness during the war. Robert Ricci worked with master perfumer Francis Fabron to create a scent as elegant as Madame Nina Ricci's clothes. Marc Lalique created the graceful twin-dove crystal bottle. 50 years later it continues to mean innocence and passion combined.


Ninna Ricci - Official website


» Nina Ricci - Official website