They call Cucinelli the Franciscan of cashmere for a reason. A self-made person, Brunello believes in communicating emotion, in integrating mind and heart. His most prized value is tolerance. He also believes that the decision about what constitutes value is yours.
His philosophy drives how he runs his company in the medieval hamlet Solomeo near Perugia. A believer in mens sana in corpore sano (Lat., a healthy mind in a healthy body), Cucinelli says there are three things money can’t buy:
- Fitness: You have to keep fit, whether you’re rich or not
- Diet: You cannot pay someone to be on a diet for you
- Looking after your soul. No one can possibly treat your soul but you yourself
Cucinelli believes you can make a profit and still respect human dignity. The self-made billionaire says he put his name on the company because he wanted the product to convey the culture, life, lifestyle, and dignity of work.
He walks the talk, giving 20 percent of his company’s profits to his charitable foundation, and paying wages that are 20 percent higher than the industry standard. He wants his company to continue the Italian craftsman traditions.
Every human being has an amount of genius that gets activated through esteem and respect. Dignity generates responsibility, responsibility generates creativity. This in a nutshell is why dignity is important. C0mpany revenue in 2018 was 554.4 million euros (627.5 million dollars). In 2017, five years after the company was listed on the Milan Stock Exchange, the brand’s market valuation was over €1.6 billion. The message is credible.
Rest and a private life outside work are part of what makes us human. No emails after 5:30PM, and if two people need to discuss something, they do it in person, looking at each other in the eye.
In Solomeo I want to make work more human and put humans at its center.
To me, inspiration is the connection we make with spirit, and when we have room to make that connection, when there is room for us in an organization, that’s when dignity and work come together.
It’s possible to deliver consistent growth without sacrificing a product’s quality or a worker’s quality of life, says Cucinelli. His vision comes across in what he says on the company website, including “The Decline of Consumerism in Favor of a Fair Use of Things” and “Humanist Artisans of the Web.”
Cucinelli was inspired to become a guardian of the places where he chose to live and build his company in 1987. In 2008, he opened the Forum of the Arts, a set of four spaces — the Aurelian Neohumanistic Academy, the Garden of Philosophers, the Amphitheatre and the Theatre Cucinelli — all built by Umbrian master craftsman.
In 2013, he built the Solomeo School for Arts and Crafts for young people to attend while receiving monthly wages. Students can learn traditional trades like tailoring, agriculture and masonry. In 2018, his Project for Beauty completed the replacement of abandoned factories with four large parks.
Cucinelli has the same kind of inspired attention to the craft of branding. He believes you must be very clear with your direction, your story and your production practices.
Many companies produce quality items, but the production method and social accountability are not in line with the position of their collections. There needs to be coherence throughout the process. Cucinelli’s imperative is imperative to keep all production in Italy, locally to the region, if possible.
To him, cashmere is a wonderful expression of quality and timeless appeal. It’s a noble natural material that, when sourced and treated with the highest regard, can last in for generations.
I’m the grand-daughter of a tailor, and my style is fairly classic. A few years ago, I treated myself to a lovely cashmere Brunello Cucinelli jacket. It’s still in my wardrobe and a favorite choice for a client meeting, or for a more casual outing. It makes me feel “a posto,” as we say in Italian, that I don’t need to add anything more. You take care of a quality item, and it takes care of you.
Quality cannot exist without craft—human hands can make a difference. Like the hands of your grand-mother. Those garments she made will never go out of style. She put something of herself in them.
Solomeo is the town where Cucinelli’s wife Federica was born and raised. Now they take care of it, building community in the region. “People need beauty and art to elevate the spirit,” says Cucinelli. Style, with substance.