Photographs feature looks from Brunello Cucinelli’s Spring 2015 collection for men and women. All images courtesy Brunello Cucinelli.
The phrase “Renaissance man” has been used so often by the media to apply to anyone with multiple interests that it has become a cliché. But clichés have a basis in truth. And so it would be fair to characterize Brunello Cucinelli – president and CEO of the luxury prêt-à-porter brand for men and women that bears his name – as a Renaissance man in the best sense of the term, espousing the humanist values of his native Italy.
A case in point: Cucinelli’s fall and spring lines for women – with their sleek use of richly colored and textured furs, wools, silks and leather – were the finale of the 19th annual Breast Cancer Alliance Luncheon & Fashion Show, held Nov. 6 at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich. Scott Mitchell – co-owner and women’s store manager of Richards department store in Greenwich, which has had a long association with Cucinelli – spoke of the designer’s philosophy – that money is only good in service to others.
“When we organize or sponsor events, we always try to uphold the idea of helping others and giving relevance to issues that matter to people around the globe,” Cucinelli tells WAG in an email interview. “This is why we partnered with Richards to support BCA, an incredible organization with a mission that is very dear to all the women in your area and around the world. I was moved by their passion and their desire to support each other in times of need. Life would be empty if we didn’t have the support of those around us.”
A highlight of the luncheon involved another aspect of the multifaceted Cucinelli – his love of architecture. One attendee happily bid $20,000 for a stay at the Umbrian villa he has built – part of the complex of buildings he has created or restored, including the castle that serves as his company’s headquarters.
“I have always lived between Castel Rigone and Solomeo, small hamlets in the province of Perugia in Umbria. My home is in Solomeo, the town where my wife Federica grew up. We wanted a place where our family (including daughters Camilla and Carolina) could live comfortably and grow. It is decorated with accents from our local culture and medieval art pieces. To me, the idea of home is a place of rest and peace where I can share memorable times with my family and friends. The village overlooks the olive groves and Umbrian hills, which, in my humble opinion, are the most peaceful places on earth.”
It was amid that separate peace that Cucinelli grew up, the son of a factory worker. The harshness of his father’s workplace would have a profound effect on young Brunello.
“Seeing my father humiliated by his boss, when I was a child, had a major impact on my decision to build a humanistic enterprise. Ever since I was a young man, when the idea of starting my own business first came to mind, I always knew I would work to improve the life of those in my company by giving dignity to their work.”
Cucinelli began his career in 1978 at age 25 with a small workshop measuring just 431 square feet. By the following decade, his brand was sold not only in Italy but in Germany and the United States. Today, Brunello Cucinelli SpA, which offers men’s and women’s wear, is in 60 countries through 100 single-brand boutiques and about 700 select multi-brand stores, with $446.5 million in net revenues and more than 1,200 employees.
But as the Cucinelli brand grew, so did the town of Solomeo. First there was the 1985 purchase of the castle-turned-headquarters, which took 25 painstaking years to restore. Then came the Forum of the Arts in 2008. Five years later, Cucinelli founded the School of Solomeo, which elevates the skills needed for crafts and trades.
This year saw the rise of the Contemporary Lay Oratory, a place of recreation and sports surrounded by parks and gardens. It’s merged with the Castel Rigone Soccer Club to become an international and multiethnic school for boys’ soccer and girls’ volleyball for those ages 6 to 12.
“I am a big sports fan. As a young man, I played tennis very often, but soccer is my true passion. It is a very Italian passion, but we grew up playing soccer on the streets of our towns and, even today, I make time to play with my friends every week. It is a healthy way to stay active and connected to others. That is why I wanted to create a sports center for children, so their parents could rest assured that they would be spending their hours after school in a safe environment focused on solid values and camaraderie.”
With his light-filled company, schools, parks and gardens, Cucinelli has done more than create a brand. This Cavaliere del Lavoro (the highest Italian honor for an entrepreneur) has created a workers’ utopia.
“I wanted to give people an opportunity to feel good about their commitment to our company and allow them to have time to also be with their families and loved ones.”