Maria Nielli (Nina Ricci) was born in Turin, Italy in 1883. Her family moved to France in 1895 when she was 12 years old. At 13, Maria was apprenticed to a dressmaker and by 18, she had become the head of the salon. By 22, she was the salon's chief designer.
In 1904, she met and married a jeweler named Luigi Ricci. She acquired the nickname Nina while she was pregnant with their son, Robert, who was born in 1905.
Nina took a job as a designer for the fashionable House of Raffin in 1908, where she worked for the next 20 years, becoming Raffin's partner.
When she was 50, her son, Robert, convinced her to open her own couture house. With Nina as designer and Robert, as director, together they opened the House of Ricci in 1932 and launched their first collection of Nina Ricci fashion wear, thus beginning her remarkable rise to success.
The House of Ricci had become famous, not only for it's clothing lines, but also it's fragrances, and the company grew rapidly during the 1930's. At the outbreak of World War II, the company employed over 400 seamstresses, designers, and other personnel.
When the war ended in 1945, Nina and Robert set about helping to rebuild the glory of haute couture that had been all but destroyed by the war. It was not long before the House of Ricci was revived and it's brands and collections started to flourish again, around Europe and the rest of the world.
Under Robert's business leadership, Nina Ricci developed a wide variety of products, from cosmetics, leather wear, shoes, furs, and many fashion accessories, and it's fragrance lines sold very well. In 1948, Robert created L’Air du Temps fragrance, which is still a best selling fragrance.
Even after Nina retired from taking an active part in the clothing designs in 1959, the House of Ricci continued to prosper by bringing in young and talented designers who brought new and exciting ideas to the company.
On November 30, 1970, at the age of 87, Nina Ricci passed away. Robert, still the savvy businessman, brought in new leadership to invigorate the company and by the 1990's, Nina Ricci had opened boutiques in over 130 countries around the world.
In 1987, Robert launched a very well received, elegant, perfume that he named and branded in honor of his mother, simply called Nina. After Robert's death in 1988, the House of Ricci was sold and over the years, the brand has had varying degrees of success.
With the opening of the "Ricci-Club" men's boutique, NINA RICCI developed a new center of interest. The launch of the men's eau de toilette "Ricci-Club" in 1989, followed by the "NINA RICCI Monsieur" men's lines soon produced results for this new activity.
In 1992, Nina Ricci diversified with the creation of its first cosmetic line "Le Teint Ricci."
Developed with the help of Research Laboratories, "Le Teint Ricci" offered a new approach to beauty, resolutely placed under the sign of innovation and pleasure.
Massimo Guissain's family purchased the house of Nina Ricci in 1998 from Jules-Francois Crahay. Guissain had worked as a designer, but Nathalie Gervais had been the chief designer for the Nina Ricci label for several years. She presented her last collection in 2001 and in 2002, American designer, James Aquiar became chief designer and was with the House of Ricci for two seasons.
In 2003, Lars Nilsson took over as head designer for the House of Ricci and made sudden changes in to it's designs. This move did not get very good reviews with critics or the buying customers, so in September of 2006, it was announced that Oliver Theyskens, a fashion designer from Belgium, would take over the role as head designer of the label.
Although the Nina Ricci brand is still well known from it's glory days, it is no where near the powerhouse that it once was, but with a few adjustments, it may yet regain it's momentum as a leader in fashion design.
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