Brunello Cucinelli’s true and absolute value is nobility

“I think that whatever we do, generally speaking, we have to do it wisely and at the same time respecting the economic dignity of every single human being” says Brunello Cucinelli to Michael Williams. “I don’t want to buy anything if I’m sure that during the production process someone or something was harmed” adds the Italian designer who brings a new, humane philosophy to the fashion industry rules and the business culture of our inhuman times.

GQ pays homage to this lover of fine materials and even finer products made of them cause he deserves it. After all a brand like his is not just an anonymous business venture. It is a personal, kind-hearted project which is destined to produce elegant products and a noble lifestyle which comes from his own life story.

“Until I was 15 years old, we were very needy,” the designer continued. “We had no electricity. But we lived a very serene life. And when we actually moved to the city, my father was subject to humiliation and he was demeaned. I couldn’t understand why something like this would happen. That was the beginning [of my perspective on how people should be treated]” says Cucinelli on his humble beginnings.

Brunello Cucinelli was born into a peasant family in Castel Rigone, a 15th century little hamlet nearby Perugia, in 1953.

After obtaining a diploma as building surveyor, he enrolled in the faculty of Engineering but then dropped out. In 1978 he set up a small company and captivated the market with his idea of dying cashmere.

Since when he was a boy, he witnessed his father working in an unwelcoming environment and became a close observer of the world, thus developing his dream to promote a concept of work that ensured respect for the human being’s moral and economic dignity.

Brunello Cucinelli, second from the left, with his brothers and a cousin, at home in the countryside in Castel Rigone

 This is a key element to understand his personality and the success of his business, which Brunello considers not only as a wealth-generating entity, but also as a framework to develop and nurture his dream of a capitalism that enhances the human being. His knowledge of the great figures of the past has always fed his dreams and ideals, but he is always looking ahead towards the distant future, and each action and accomplishment of his is designed to last over the centuries.

In 1982, after marrying Federica Benda, Brunello moved to Solomeo, which became the venue to make his dreams come true and a great workshop to build his success as an entrepreneur and humanist. The increasingly international market welcomed his quality products warmly and enabled him to implement his ideals.

In 1985 he purchased the fourteenth century tumbledown castle in the hamlet and made it into his corporate headquarters; in 2000, with a view to meet the market’s growing demand with adequate production facilities, he acquired and refurbished an existing plant at the foot of the Solomeo hill instead of building new facilities.

The newly-built Forum of the Art, including the Neohumanistic Aurelian Library, the Gymnasium, the Amphitheatre and the Theatre, became the ideal venue for culture and art. The desire to list the company in the Milan Stock Exchange was born around this time and became reality in 2012. This move, too, was not driven by financial reasons alone, as Brunello saw a wider participation in his business activity as an opportunity to spread his ideals of a new capitalism, a truly “Humanistic Capitalism”.

The experience of the Forum of the Arts, built exclusively by Umbrian master craftsmen, spawned the idea of the Solomeo School of Arts and Crafts, which was established in 2013 and was inspired by William Morris and John Ruskin. Brunello’s vision entails that the memory of an important humanistic factor such as craftsmanship is preserved and passed on to future generations; therefore the school is the workshop where this aspiration becomes reality.

In 2014, the Project for Beauty was presented, an initiative supported by the Brunello and Federica Cucinelli Foundation; the project entails the creation of three huge parks in the valley at the foot of the Solomeo hill (the Agricultural Park, the Secular Youth Club Park and the Industry Park) recovering part of the property occupied by old abandoned factories and using it to grow trees, orchards and lawns. This initiative symbolizes the crucial value of earth, “from which all things are”, as Xenophanes put it.

With this project Brunello highlights the duty to restore the dignity of the land and, feeling like a sort of small custodian of the creation, he shows that “Beauty will save the world” whenever the world will in turn save Beauty.

Over the years Brunello has been acknowledged a staggering number of national and international rewards for his “Neohumanistic Capitalism”; however, the recognitions that most mirror his human accomplishments are his appointment to Cavaliere del Lavoro (Knight of Industry), assigned by the President of the Italian Republic, his honorary degree in Philosophy and Ethics of Human Relations, tributed to him by the University of Perugia and the Global Economy Prize, received from the eminent Kiel Institute for the World Economy with the noble mention that he “personifies perfectly the figure of the Honourable Merchant”.

“While I’m aware that what most people respond to in his famous suits, knits, outerwear, and accessories is the vibe of effortless luxury, I’d argue that the conscience of the company is the real star. It’s extraordinary to find a man as stylish as Brunello Cucinelli who is also equally as kind. That’s value that a price tag can’t quantify” comments Williams, the founder of the blog A Continuous Lean -and many other stellar menswear-related projects- who gracefully profiles the designer in GQ.

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