The house of Nina Ricci is a fashion house that was founded by Maria "Nina" Ricci and her son Robert in Paris in 1932. Nina Ricci designed gowns while Robert managed the business and finances. She worked with the fabrics directly on the mannequin to ensure they had shape once they were finished. Nina Ricci designs soon became known for the refined, romantic, always feminine feeling Maria adds to all of her collections.
In 1945, with the war over, designers were casting about for a way to revive the infatuation women had formerly had with haute couture, while raising money for war relief. Robert Ricci had an idea which Lucien Lelong, President of the Chambre, put into action. Over 150 mannequins from 40 Paris couturiers, including Balenciaga and Madame Gres, were dressed in the labels' best fashions and were placed in an exhibition held at the Louvre, in Paris. After a huge success in Paris it toured Europe and then the USA.
In 1946 Robert created his first fragrance, Coeur Jolie. In 1948 Robert came up with another fragrance, L’Air du Temps, the brand's most popular fragrance, which continues to be a top seller today.
By the early 50s Nina Ricci was nearing 70 and she slowly she ceased to take an active role in design, choosing to just keep an eye on the house. Her son chose the new head designer in 1954, the Belgian Jules-Francois Crahay.
Crahay left Ricci in 1963 to go to Lanvin, and was immediately replaced by Gerard Pipart, who had worked at Balmain, Fath and Jean Patou prior to his new job. He continued to carry on the name of Ricci with beautiful and elegant dresses.
After Maria Ricci's death in 1970, Crahay was appointed head of the house. Robert continued to excel in perfumery and business until his death in 1988.
Massimo Guissain's family purchased the house of Nina Ricci in 1998 from Crahay. Massimo Guissain worked as a designer, but Nathalie Gervais had been the chief designer for the house for several years. She presented her last collection in Fall 2001. In May 2002 American designer James Aguiar took over as chief designer and designed for the House of Ricci for two seasons.
In 2003 Lars Nilsson took over the house of Ricci with shaky reviews from critics. He made a sudden redesign in early 2006, and then in September announced that Brussels-born designer Olivier Theyskens of Rochas would take over the role as head of the label.
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.
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