Craftsmanship, knowledge, tradition and sustainability. The world behind Rocco Ragni’s knitwear brand (and not only) is magnetic, captivating. Rocco Ragni, precisely the founder and creative mind of the brand, feeds on fashion and develops an interest in traditional spinning techniques from a very young age, thanks to the family that since 1976 has been a reference for knitwear and fine cashmere for leading companies in the sector. To better inaugurate the new year, here is Rocco Ragni’s interview with Meer – an online magazine written in six languages that provides a constant stream of updates, stories and articles – where he tells the goals behind a Made in Italy brand.
Face to face with Rocco Ragni, the interview given to Meer magazine
The interest in traditional spinning techniques, the beauty of the Umbrian territory and the “craftsmanship” of a family dedicated to tailoring since 1976, have oriented the sensitivity of Rocco Ragni towards fashion, developing his passion for knitwear and fine cashmere. We interviewed Rocco in the magical quiet of Compresso, a village not far from Perugia, in his “Bottega Perugina”, where you can still breathe the authenticity and craftsmanship of his family tradition.
What does it mean to be the creative director of the Rocco Ragni brand today and what did it mean to be the creative director of Mila Schön, in terms of experience and professional enrichment?
I had the opportunity to be the creative director of Mila Schön for the Korean market and this, in particular, made me grow in the awareness of the tastes and responsiveness of a target that is close to that of my brand. My proposal is in fact aimed at a cosmopolitan woman who wants a refined look and at the same time clear, linear. Like Mila Schön, I love to move between rigor and pomp, alternating essential garments with more elaborate creations.
The Rocco Ragni brand was born from a family of artisan tailors in 1976. The tailor is today one of the most sought after professional figures, what does it mean in your opinion to be tailors in the digital age and what are the skills and qualifications required?
I could call myself a “tailor 2.0” actually. Today, in fact, it is necessary to take advantage of using the many digital tools that are available. I’m not just talking about design, for these aspects you can remain traditional and a good pencil is always the best ally, as are pins and hand sensitivity. But you also need to develop a lot of management expertise. So the entire supply chain, which in the Perugia district is of great value, can be made more efficient.
The Made in Italy in your creations is recognized by what characteristics?
The litmus test that irrefutably proves that “Rocco Ragni” offers a true Made in Italy is found in knitted creations. The company, founded by my mother in 1970, was born thanks to cashmere, which is at home in the district of Perugia. Before my mother there was my grandmother, a seamstress with private clients who worked with passion on her sewing machine until she was ninety-three. Here… the Made in Italy in my opinion recognizes itself in this, in the passion for what is done and in wisdom. That’s why hy my mother decided not to industrialize our production. In 1985 she preferred to close the business rather than distort herself. It was undoubtedly a painful choice, but very far-sighted because many fasonists, after the transformation, due to the unsustainable competition from abroad, found themselves having to close anyway, but with many more debts.
Twenty years after the end of 1985, starting from scratch, but with the strength and determination that my mother and grandmother transmitted to me, I started my own business. The brand “Rocco Ragni” was born in 2005 keeping knitwear as the protagonist. I wanted all the people who had bad luck with this job to have a new opportunity. This is why the common thread of all my collections is still knitwear. Knitwear expresses to the maximum all the know-how, all our local tradition and all our determination to preserve it, from generation to generation.
How did your personal passion for fashion and beauty come about?
Breathing at home, since I was a child, the sparkling air of fashion and beauty, I never asked myself the question of how and when it happened. What I can say is that I have always been attracted from an early age by everything that was precious, which gave a sense of richness and beauty. Such as the yarns and fabrics I saw at home and all those wonderful beads I saw inside large envelopes, ready to be applied on pullovers and fabrics.
How many employees do you have in the company?
My company is a typical example of Italian SMEs, currently we are twenty people. In 2005, when I reopened the business, I turned to the many women who, as in the past, worked at home with their knitting machine. I started with their small productions because at the beginning I didn’t have a large distribution. Then fortunately things went well and we had to expand our network of suppliers, but I always carried in my heart all the people who initially worked with me, people who became part of the family.
When I used to visit them to bring them work, they often welcomed me with a breakfast or something special they had just cooked. The most beautiful thing in the early years was humanity, a value that I try to maintain even today. There is always a Christmas gift for all those who work or who have worked for us in the past. And, always at Christmas, a holiday that we feel a lot, to continue to feel all close, I organize a big dinner with all those who work inside and outside the company, including those who have retired. A tradition that allows us to meet and feel united.
The brand’s mission?
Make sure that a woman can always feel herself and self-confident every day in any latitude of the globe she lives.
Do you use digital in your production process?
Yes, today it is essential, especially if you want to distribute a total look line, as is today “Rocco Ragni”, decidedly complex to produce considering that it also includes complementary accessories such as bags and hats. Colors and materials, every detail, must synchronize perfectly and guarantee not only the recognizability of a style but also express a total aesthetic harmony.
Sustainability for you is?
Regeneration. We have created the “Rocco Ragni Cashmere Clinic”, a complete assistance program, at the service of the end consumer, which includes washing, drying, gentle vaporization, de-fuzzing with a comb and careful repair of potential holes. Our mission? Keeping alive the knowledge and workers of our artisan shops, repairing the favorite garments in cashmere and beyond, of Rocco Ragni and other brands, returning them, when possible, as new.
Three adjectives to describe your FW collection.
Modern, enveloping, essential.
What inspired you for the FW 2022-23 collection?
This winter the inspiration wanted to merge, in a single metaphorical embrace, the territory of Perugia and the women who live there. This is why we decided to involve them personally, creating a fashion show with real women, of different ages. Theater of the presentation?
The Villa del Colle del Cardinale, a magnificent sixteenth-century residence located right in front of our factory. Naturally the protagonist is the iconic handmade cashmere sweater, declined in all its forms, from the twin set to the maxi cardigan, up to the shorts, and in all its materialities, from braids to the most complex geometries in relief.
Your art City, a source of continuous inspiration?
The Rocco Ragni brand was born in the enchanting setting of the sixteenth-century village of Compresso, a dozen kilometers from Perugia, once a place of spiritual retreat for the Capuchin friars.
It is here, where the union between territory and craftsmanship represents the perfect combination of hands and heart, that I founded the “Bottega Perugina”, a team of expert craftsmen, moved by authentic passion, who express day after day the commitment to preserve and pass on the uniqueness of their work supported by technology, with the aim of spreading Italian elegance and style all over the world.
The “slow” approach to everyday life allows you to go deeper, focus on precious details, develop new ideas in the trace of tradition.
Where is your land, Umbria, reflected in your brand?
The softness of the profile of our hills is reflected in the cocoon shapes of our models. So the color palette, which can reflect sunsets, the range of greens of our nature, which seems to come out of a Renaissance canvas, or the warmth of the earth and tuff. It is no coincidence that Umbria is at the center of Italy and sums up all its iconic beauty.
How did you deal with the pandemic?
In the only possible way. With prudence, courage and hope. It was also an opportunity to reflect, think about a new business model that includes sustainability and ethics, as well as invest in digital growth.
Where does your market develop most abroad?
Our most important market are all the countries of the former Soviet Union. In the last year we have opened five corners in Moscow and despite the war we managed to deliver all our products even if with some difficulty. Immediately following is the East. A very mature market that shows us that it deeply understands the value of quality.
The brand was founded in 2005: the secret of your success to date? What challenges have you had to face and the obstacles you overcome?
Over the years I have had to face many problems, but I have always overcome them, I have always tried to see the light beyond the obstacle, covid was the hardest moment, but now we have many other projects and perspectives that have opened up.
Plans for the future?
Strengthen brand visibility and recognition. Communicate more. The personality is there, the product too. I have always been very reserved, partly out of discretion, partly out of modesty, but today I have to make an effort and tell more about what we are. I have to do it for the good of the company and this interview is proof that I am committed!