«I wanted a small part of the company’s profits to go to beautify all of humanity and I wanted people to work a fair amount of hours and be online the right amount of time, so that Technology and Humanism could be harmonised and a healthy balance between mind, soul and body could be restored, because the soul and body also need nourishment every day.» – Brunello Cucinelli
Another highlight of my trip to Umbria with Brunello Cucinelli and my NET-À-PORTER and MR PORTER family was visiting the manufacture. The palatial headquarters are modern, clean and providing the employees with a wonderful work environment. Initially established at the castle in Solomeo, the company was relocated to the valley below to completely newly constructed buildings.
The beautiful grounds of the company.
The ancient medieval buildings in the center of Solomeo now host the classrooms of the School of Contemporary Arts and Crafts – a tuition-free arts school to teach traditional skills like gardening and, of course, tailoring, set up in 2013.
Happily reminded of my own fashion design studies.
Brunello’s wife Federica was born in Solomeo and ran a small clothing shop there in the village. During their early engagement in 1978, Brunello came across the idea to venture into a knitwear business with colorful cashmere sweaters. His first success, he told me, started in the German-speaking market, that showed a huge interest and appreciation for this unprecedented proposition and this allowed his company to quickly emerge. Cucinelli is no ordinary Italian fashion magnate. Today it is a cashmere empire selling luxury goods in the top segment with 7,000 employees and a turnover of €200m, but Cucinelli is also known for his «humanistic» approach to capitalism, based on respect for people and nature. In the manufacture you can experience this approach fully.
When you enter the main building, you pass by the advertising campaign photo for F/W 2014 in which you see a long table in the Umbrian countryside with all the employees lined up for dinner. It was an actual photo taken during a company’s event. The quote for the picture: «All things come from the Earth.» – Xenophanes. Brunello Cucinelli is one big family!
Every day at midday, the entire staff is invited to the cafeteria for a family-style lunch complete with several courses, wine, and beautiful views of the Umbrian hills. Creating a nourishing work environment for body and soul is something that is very dear to Brunello Cucinelli. Around 5.30pm the power goes off and workers are encouraged not to work long hours and write after-hours e-mails. For Brunello Cucinelli being away from work is an important part of being effective at work.
The fashion designer, a lover of history, philosophy and country life, has also opened the doors to his office for us. A very intimate and welcoming gesture that impressed me. I entered a neat and tidy space, yet full of life. The books in the shelves are not only for decoration, Brunello indulges in them, always on the hunt for a great quote of inspiration. The room is also filled with articles about him and his company. Photos of his beautiful family add the personal touch. The view is spectacular, overlooking the beautiful tranquil Umbrian scenery.
Walking through the manufacture, I experienced the different steps of creating a stunning cashmere piece along with the impressive quality control. Once you see all the craftsmanship that goes into one item, you will appreciate it even more.
Later we went to «The Parco della Bellezza» on the outskirts of the village, at the grandly titled monument «Tribute To Human Dignity», a classically styled exedra with five arches, built from travertine. The creation stems from Brunello Cucinelli’s desire to leave a legacy behind that will stand the test of time, a symbol of his commitment to mankind and to create a park that could give new life to the breathtaking landscape of the valley below Solomeo. It also boasts a multitude of orchards, as well as wheat and sunflower plantations; it comprises a plant nursery, a naturalistic area, an olive grove with an olive oil mill, and a vineyard with a wine cellar that hosts an impressive collection of Italian wines.
Brunello Cucinelli concluded his speech to the World’s Great Leaders on the occasion of the G20 last year with this phrase: «From the time of Plato, through all the medieval scholastic philosophy, and then in the Enlightenment, up to idealism, positivism, existentialism and finally to the present day, the usefulness of contact with something beautiful, be it a painting, a book, or a landscape, is the seed from which the tree of wisdom grows, that wisdom that the human being cannot do without for their best life.»
At the Brunello Cucinelli company, treating people well is at the core of everything, and fostering a beautiful culture is as important as producing the most beautiful clothes. It seems that Italians really do it better or as Giuseppe Verdi said: «You may have the universe, if I may have Italy.»
Photos: © Sandra Bauknecht
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