Solomeo, Italy–A trumpeted melody to the tune of Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly” permeates the 14th-century Brunello Cucinelli complex. The scenic, lush green Umbrian countryside is evidenced by the medieval arches framing this masterpiece doctored by Mother Nature. As we inch closer to the breathtaking vista, we start to wonder if we are dead and went to heaven.
The anxiety grows as you get the feeling Mr. Cucinelli is some sort of self-proclaimed prince. We meet him in the entrance of his factory where Cariaggi yarns are being woven by rows and rows of machines and local women working them. At the sight of Mr. Cucinelli’s 5 o’clock shadow, loosely tied Stan Smith Adidas and sloppily-tucked polo shirt, the tension quickly eases.
“When it comes to personal style, I ask myself, how at 61 years old, I can make myself look 55 years old,” he said jokingly.
Quick to bring up his humble beginnings, he spares no details of his youth. The son of a sharecrop farmer, Cucinelli grew up in a house without running water or electricity. At school, he once infused bread with guttalax, a laxative, to protect his friend from the school bullies who tortured the farm boys by stealing their meagre snacks brought from home.
“I still had a lot of fun when I was kid. Just like I still do today,” he said.
Cucinelli met his wife Federica at 17 years old. Born and bred in Solomeo, Federica was the main attraction to the small, crumbling Umbrian jewel. When he started courting her — with his hippie hair down to his elbows and his jalunky motorbike — he got a job at a caffe’ and passed most of his time playing cards. “He basically did nothing till he was 25,” she said. “My parents were quite worried. They never thought he would build all of this.”
Over 40 year’s later, Cucinelli, his wife, two children and grandaughter, all live in Solomeo, a town that they have spent millions renewing and modernizing with big city attractions like a Roman-revival theater that has hosted performances by stars like Jane Birkin and Michele Placido, as well as a soccer field destined for local and international events. The company employs 20 percent of the town of Solomeo and pays 20 percent more than the national average. “Profit without dignity is a detriment to humanity. This factory revolves around human respect.”
A believer in the “Italian Dream,” Brunello Cucinelli has seen his business rocket from a company that sold sweaters by travelling shop to shop to a listed company with revenues of nearly a half-billion dollars and an international retail web of stores from here to Asia.
BACO’s Editor in Chief chats with the King of Cashmere about his personal style.
The Look: Head-to-toe Cucinelli (blazer, polo, socks, cuffed khaki pants), Order of Merit for Labour pin (for Italians who have made significant contributions in agriculture, industry, commerce, crafts and lending and whose taxes have made a significant contribution to enhancing the lives of Italy’s citizens), Stan Smith Adidas.
Personal Style: “I like to think of myself as luxury sporty chic.”
Always: Adidas, Azzaro cologne
Never: All black looks
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: Marta Ferri: The Contemporary Atelier, Lorenzo Borghi: Old Style Milliner, Freccia Bestetti: Too International for Just Italy, Brunello Cucinelli: The King of Cashmere, The Mini World of Ginevra Dondina, Passaggio Cravatte: A Treasure Chest of Ties