At first, an invitation to the fashion show was enough, with front-row seats declaring your elite status. Then the secret after-party was the hot ticket, until a preview with the designer became the mark of a real friend of the label. Now you can’t consider yourself a true VIP unless you’re dining with Kazakh eagle hunters in the snow-dusted mountains of Western Mongolia, attending a meditation ceremony at a mountaintop temple, and watching the sun rise from the sand dunes of the Gobi Desert—all on the same trip. The real flex, now, is an invite to the menswear brand experience.
It’s a familiar concept elsewhere in the luxury space: Ferrari hosts its highly coveted, invite-only Cavalcade for the world’s most elite Prancing Horse collectors while Panerai arranges extreme customer excursions led by Navy SEALs or acclaimed climber-filmmaker Jimmy Chin. Last summer, Van Cleef & Arpels threw an opulent, Grand Tour–inspired party at Rome’s Villa Medici to showcase its latest high-jewelry collection for its most esteemed buyers.
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Into this mix, in October, Stefano Ricci launched the latest of its Explorer project in Mongolia, whose rich culture and forbidding landscapes were muses for creative director Filippo Ricci’s newest designs. The Explorer project, which debuted in 2022 and has previously journeyed to Iceland and the Galápagos, is equal parts research trip, preservation initiative, fashion shoot, and once-in-a-lifetime travel experience. Former National Geographic Society executive vice president Terry Garcia acts as senior consultant, helping select locations (based on both conservation opportunities and adventuring wow factor) and support the missions.
In each destination, a local cause is adopted. With the brand’s symbol being the eagle, aiding the Kazakh Falconry Association and its commitment to protect Mongolia’s dying art of eagle hunting, a tradition dating back to the 1600s, was a natural fit. “When you visit these places and see nature and culture under threat with your own eyes, it reminds you that we have a responsibility,” says Filippo Ricci, who joins Explorer trips along with his brother, CEO Niccolò Ricci.
Over the decades, the family-run label has evolved from silk ties to tailoring to a 360-degree lifestyle brand with a hand in watches, wine, home decor—even superyacht interiors. In 2022, in Egypt during the brand’s epic three-day 50th-anniversary bash, complete with a fashion show at the Hatshepsut Temple and a private visit to the Valley of the Kings and Queens, it dawned on Niccolò Ricci that travel was the obvious next frontier. “Travel is the most important experience for every generation,” he says. “For today’s man, the ultimate luxury is a journey of discovery. To be a timeless traveler, one must explore the world.”
Lorenzo Quinn, the Italian contemporary artist known for his large-scale sculptures that draw attention to climate change, was the first to receive an invitation. Over five days in Mongolia in October, I joined Quinn and others on the journey, summiting 2,000-foot-tall sand dunes, sleeping in traditional circular tents known as ger, visiting working paleontological sites, and sharing meals of khuushuur (deep-fried meat pies) and buuz (steamed dumplings) with a crew of around of 20, including Niccolò and Filippo Ricci and the brand’s lead model, Tao Fernandez Caino. The project’s tagline—“explore the world to explore ourselves”—resonated with Quinn. “To live on the edge is to be willing to explore the unknown,” he says. “Sometimes you don’t even know you’re looking for something until you disconnect from life and experience a new place. That’s when transformation and inspiration happen.”
And not just for invitees. Mongolia was the influence behind the fall-winter 2024-25 collection and the backdrop for its campaign. The traditional dress of the Kazakh eagle hunters can be glimpsed in the hooded down jacket made from chinchilla and cashmere blend with fox-fur trim, while the red and saffron hues of monks’ robes appear in scarves and sweaters. And the country has left its mark on the Florentine label in other, more lasting ways, with the superfine white fiber from the undercoat of the Capra hircus goats of Inner Mongolia spawning its own new label within the brand: Stefano Ricci Alpha Yarn.
The Explorer project started life as a way for the label to capture its newest collections in far-flung locations around the world through the lens of award-winning National Geographic photographers including Mattias Klum and Chris Rainier—“an anthropological approach to shooting fashion,” as Filippo Ricci puts it. As such, a gorgeous coffee-table book chronicling each chapter of the explorer’s journey is gifted to Stefano Ricci Club Members, a by-invitation-only community of around 400 clients who spend a minimum of $54,000 annually at the brand. And yet for all the expense, consideration, time, and logistics that go into creating them, Niccolò Ricci stresses that Explorer project expeditions aren’t your typical luxury holidays. Mongolia is a land of extremes, where temperatures range from well below zero to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and many days of our journey began before sunrise.
“Sometimes you have to go to uncomfortable areas to be wide-eyed,” he says. “It’s not for everyone.” Which is very much the point.
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