Craftsmanship has been at the heart of the Brunello Cucinelli brand since the beginning. In 1978, Cucinelli, who came from a modest, Italian household, had the idea to set up a small cashmere company in Solomeo, an idyllic hamlet in the Perugia region of Italy, which just so happened to be his wife’s birthplace.
After getting inspired by her clothing shop combined with his love of brightly coloured wool sweaters, Brunello Cucinelli saw the need for good quality cashmere pieces but with a twist: colour. He wanted to combine quality materials with the unique craftsmanship possibilities in the region and this was the beginning of a great story of success.
At the time, Cucinelli took a risk by committing to an industry that in this particular region was saturated, being one of the main manufacturing areas for these types of products. But Cucinelli captured the attention of the world with his innovative idea of adding colour to traditional cashmere pieces, something that had seldom been done at the time. He developed a special dyeing technique that would be the backbone of his company for years to come.
Cucinelli has always kept the production of his products in Solomeo, reinforcing the “made in Italy” concept, as well as giving back to the local communities in the form of employment and training in these traditional crafts. In 1985 Cucinelli purchased a fourteenth-century tumbledown castle in the hamlet of Solomeo which became his corporate headquarters; in 2000. He then refurbished an existing facility at the foot of the hamlet of Solomeo which became the heart of the production of Brunello Cucinelli products.
Cucinelli has remained dedicated to the DNA of the company since the beginning, his passion has grown beyond just cashmere, but high-quality materials and the finest Italian craftsmanship continue to be at the heart of everything the company does. Cucinelli is fascinated by the beauty of these quality materials, cashmere in particular, and its ability to last. He soon realised that by default his pieces would become sustainable thanks to their long-lasting and timeless qualities which often see Brunello Cucinelli pieces passed down from one generation to another.
In 2012, Cucinelli listed his company on the Italian Stock Exchange. A personal choice that allowed him to further expand and share his passion with the world. It has also aided his desire to support the livelihoods of those living in the Medieval hamlet where his company began. He has refurbished the area, as well as established The School of High Contemporary Arts and Crafts in Solomeo; an institution that would promote traditional craftsmanship skills to the younger generations and educate them to a high level in these rare techniques. Cuccinelli refurbished a classical-style building in the area which would become home to the school and began enrolling students into the programmes. Crafts are taught in a practical manner under the guidance of a master. Students can enrol in programmes around pattern making, women’s tailoring, cutting and men’s tailoring mending and linking, horticulture, gardening and masonry. The school has given dozens of students to embrace these crafts, reviving them and preserving them for generations to come.
As well as supporting the local community Cucinelli has been involved in a number of projects that support craftsmanship and sustainability. Most recently the “Regenerative Fashion” project in which the designer partnered with HRH The Prince of Wales and Federico Marchetti. Cucinelli committed to work streams dedicated to regenerative farming, as well as to economically supporting local textile producers through the Himalayan Regenerative Fashion Living Lab project.
This season, the men’s and women’s collections continue to honour the tradition of the company, but also look to the future. The men’s collection “Crossroads” represents an opportunity for exchange and a new worldview that creates new areas to develop and learn. Celebrating neutral tones combined with fresh uplifting colours the men’s collection represents the coming together of the past, present and future. In women’s wear, the collection is rich in references, patterns and new silhouettes, offering refined elegance that the brand is known for. Lamé textures and sheer surfaces are brought to life by dazzling embroidery and bright colours sweeping across fluid satins and feminine volumes. As the latest collection launches, we talk to Brunello Cucinelli to find out more about his vision and the future of Made in Italy.
Preserving craftsmanship is of course something that’s very important to the brand – tell us where you stand on this both globally and in regards to sustaining and supporting crafts and craftsmen and women in Italy?
Not only do I consider the preservation of the extraordinary world of craftsmanship extremely important, but I am convinced that the work of promotion that creates or consolidates a true culture of artisanal knowledge is equally necessary and valuable. Ultimately, this is the main reason why, in Solomeo, we strongly believe in a School of Arts and Crafts, and we are now aiming to triple its student body because of the great confidence we have in the skills of our wonderful young people.
This is a project that is devoted to further enrichment of items “Made in Italy”, and which for us is headquartered in a small village in the heart of Umbria. But ideally speaking, it would be wonderful if it were to exist anywhere at any latitude.
Are there any other regions or cultures that inspire you for their crafts?
As our esteemed Classical thinkers have taught us, we must always be ready to feel and act like citizens of the world. As a matter of fact, our inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere, and we can capture and incorporate the best of Western culture as well as embracing and re-working stimuli arriving from the East. For example, the wonderful land of Mongolia, with its people, its culture, its tradition of wisdom, and its spirituality, as well as its exceptionally beautiful landscapes, is extremely rich with an allure that cannot but inspire something special.
Who are the Brunello Cucinelli men and women today and do you think your customer has evolved?
This is a good question! I believe that the person who seeks out our fashion ideas, craftsmanship, and thoroughly Italian taste today is a very attentive, suave individual with great respect for human beings and all of Nature. I say this because I have been noticing for some time now, especially in young people, very special – and for me extremely important – attention being paid to how a certain garment has been made, to how this or that accessory is made, to where the raw materials used come from, and to how the human resource who devoted their skill and experience to the production of an article is treated. Ultimately, behind all this is the great theme of the ethical value that gives me hope in the young generations and in the future awaiting us on the horizon.
What can you tell us about Brunello Cucinelli in the Middle East and how do you see this market in your global analysis of the brand?
I have always held people from the Middle East in great esteem, and I believe that great values can be culled from their ancient cultural backgrounds. Our kind of workmanship, focusing on refined style and the most meticulous craftsmanship, but also on extremely high quality in the selection of the raw materials, is very much appreciated in the Middle East. We often receive positive comments on how we work and devote the proper attention to human dignity and to avoiding damage to nature.
What is a message you would share with your fans and customers in the Middle East?
I have no doubts: a message of peace. As we read in the ancient Book of Changes (I Ching), peace comes from the care we devote day by day to cultivating relationships, therefore to human relationships and also to the relationships with all other beings, bar none. It is a message and a lesson that I have been able to learn thanks to the agricultural culture, which taught me, ever since I was a boy, solidarity, respect for everyone, and a love of the earth on which we live, and which deserves our deepest gratitude.