Luxury can be seen through different lenses. For most European couturiers, it manifests in larger-than-life creations and multiple man hours spent in creating a one-of-a-kind gown or jacket. But for Ralph Lauren, the American fashion icon, luxury is understated – it speaks through rich fabrics, subdued colourways, and timelessness. For over five decades, he has served fashion lovers with his classics such as cabled cashmere sweaters, striped rugby shirts, crest Oxford button-downs, and military jackets. However, one of his most celebrated designs that has stood the test of time is the Ricky bag. Created in 2005 and inspired (and named after) his wife Ricky, it’s been loved by everyone from Jessica Alba and Miroslava Duma to Jessica Chastain and Reese Witherspoon.
It was in 1964 that a young Ralph Lauren, at the time a struggling designer, met the all-American girl, Ricky Ann Low-Beer. On December 20 the same year, they married. In the past, the designer has said how he was intrigued by Ricky’s style – her casual pair of jeans, white shirts, boxy blazers, and the overall ease of her style – and how it had had a deep impact on his design vocabulary. It was this essence that he wanted to capture in his iconic Ricky bag.
When Ralph created the first iteration of the Ricky bag in early 2005, the idea was to create a statement bag which exuded a refined sense of luxury. Which meant that when women carried the bag, he wanted them to feel a sense of style coupled with comfort. Ralph also aimed to incorporate in the oversized tote tenets of men’s style and sports. Envision the 19th century men’s travel essential, the Cooper bag; its rich colour scheme and smooth, polished surface. It was a rich inspiration as well. Ralph incorporated its exposed hand-stitched cuts and stitches in the design, to get a rugged look.
Ricky Bag is Ralph Lauren’s most iconic silhouette and exemplifies precise construction – every bag takes up to 12 hours and comes together by merging 50 separate pieces. Each pattern is hand-drawn, and every piece measured, cut, and attached by hand. Hide or skin, each piece is meticulously handpicked to ensure it ages gracefully. From the hardware to the gusset, everything is handmade in Italy. To protect the handbags from fraying, only waxed cotton thread is used.
What makes the Ricky a truly functional handbag is its shape – boxy, it can also be carried unbuckled. Another standout feature are its flawless edges, thanks to three layers of leather which are buffed and stained as a natural sealing process to ensure flawless contour.
What makes The Ricky a truly functional handbag is its shape – boxy, it can also be carried unbuckled. Another standout feature are its flawless edges, thanks to three layers of leather which are buffed and stained as a natural sealing process, to ensure flawless contour.
Ricky and its iterations
It was not until 2013 that Ralph Lauren launched a new version of the cult classic. This time, it was made in silky nappa leather, called Soft Ricky (the craftsmanship and silhouette was the same as the original), and was available in an array of bright hues like yellows, blues, and oranges.
Spring 2014 saw a mini version of Ricky, a long, cross-body chain, giving tough competition to the then trending evening clutches. Perhaps to drive the popularity of the bag home, the designer went one step ahead and launched a giant Ricky bag the same year. 1.8m high and 1.5m wide, it took nearly a month to create, and was sent on a tour to the fashion capitals New York, Tokyo to Paris.
In 2015, Ralph Lauren launched the Ricky bag with LED lights. Made in black calf leather with rose gold-plated hardware, featuring a rich purple lining with four internal LED lights were meant for the global jet-setter who wanted to add a small battery bank to their handbag.