“Love of knowledge echoes in
our hearts and nourishes great thoughts”
"I HAVE ALWAYS DREAMED OF CREATING USEFUL WORK FOR AN IMPORTANT OBJECTIVE"
In the medieval village of Solomeo, where the peacefulness of the Umbrian countryside and the wind still evoke the ora et labora (pray and work) ethic of Saint Benedict of Nursia and the mysticism of Saint Francis of Assisi, Brunello Cucinelli launched a new kind of business in 1985. “Making work more human, with people at its core”: is the dream of this Umbrian entrepreneur now famous around the world for his colorful cashmere collections. Scholars and journalists have written of the profound affinity linking Brunello to ancient Masters of the Soul such as Socrates, Seneca and Saint Francis of Assisi: and that is why they refer to Cucinelli's corporate philosophy as “ethical capitalism” and a “Humanist enterprise”. “I have always dreamed of creating useful work for an important objective. I felt that profit for profit's sake was not enough, and that there had to be a higher, collective purpose. I understood that alongside economic well-being there has to be personal well-being, and that the former means nothing without the latter.”It is a courageous theory summarized in what Brunello Cucinelli calls “supreme good”, which is centered on people: “giving business a meaning that goes beyond profit and reinvesting to improve the lives of workers, to enhance and restore the beauty of the world”.
"OUR TOTAL QUALITY IS THE RESULT OF THE INTERNAL QUALITIES OF EVERY EMPLOYEE."
Convinced that the tranquil and beautiful setting would enhance creativity and build a community where workers follow a scale of shared values, Brunello Cucinelli made the 14th century hamlet of Solomeo home to his Humanist enterprise. The offices and workshops were set up in the medieval fortress with its wooden beams, stone fireplaces, frescoed walls and brick floors, while the old farmhouse was converted into a company canteen preparing the best traditional Umbrian food. There is profound harmony here, “Because,” says Brunello, "whoever works with us is a part of the company's life, no matter what job they do: everyone knows that their work is a key part of a greater whole. Our “Total Quality” is the result of the inner qualities of every employee”. Combining ancient and modern, company objectives and human needs is the secret behind a company whose innovativeapproach has attracted widespread interest: it has become an example of modern economics studied by prestigious universities.
"MONEY HAS REAL VALUE ONLY WHEN IT IS SPENT TO IMPROVE THE LIFE AND GROWTH OF PEOPLE."
"Work as an expression of human worth is also a part of spirituality, and pursues the higher purpose of Supreme Good,” Brunello Cucinelli likes to remark. Born and raised in Umbria, he experienced the Franciscan philosophy and took on the message of the Pauper of Assisi: apply the higher purpose of goodness to all that you do. Yet how can that be reconciled with a cutting-edge capitalist business? “Making a profit is part and parcel of business," points out Cucinelli, "but for me it's not the be all and end all. I wouldn't want to live in a world where the sole purpose was to make a profit. Money has real value only when it is spent to improve the life and development of people, and that is our goal”. As a result of this profound conviction, a considerable portion of profits is reinvested in the company, and part goes towards restoring and renovating the hamlet. A new cultural system called “Forum of the Arts” has been created here and includes the theatre, the amphitheatre and the philosophers garden (where concerts and events are held). This is what Brunello Cucinelli means when he talks about elements and structures that improve people's lives.
"A DAY WILL COME WHEN PHILOSOPHERS WILL BE NEEDED TO RULE THE WORLD."
“A day will come when philosophers will be needed to rule the world." I've always been fascinated by Socrates' dream. A Humanist enterprise, ethics and production... It became increasingly hard for me to abandon an interpretation of labor and human action that was not founded upon a positive outlook and trust in the future. ” Today it is apparent that international politics, great monotheistic religions and philosophical thought confirm the need for a return to Ethics in every activity. In fact, the new economic approach aims at employee development and enhancement as a way to improve a company and to give it a sense that is not limited to mere profit: this is what Brunello Cucinelli calls “Supreme Good”. He is therefore an innovator or, more succinctly, a businessman who successfully anticipated a global trend. At the Humanist enterprise of Solomeo, employees pursue a common goal, but one mainly senses a scale of non-material values that are considered a part of the entire company.
The company follows its own ethical code: inside, through interpersonal relations, and outside as well, it always places people first. Thus, each person is responsible for his or her job. There is no need for heavy-handed regulations, and no one's individualism is penalized. Freedom is encouraged and, as Brunello Cucinelli points out: “This creates a united group where each person has a specific role to play for the good of all.”
"I believe in a humanist enterprise: business should comply in the noblest manner with all the rules of ethics that man has devised over the centuries. I dream about a form of modern capitalism with strong ancient roots, where profit is made without harm or offence to anyone, and part of it is set aside for initiatives that really make a difference in people's lives: services, schools, places of worship and cultural heritage. In my organization the focal point is the common good, which is the guiding force in pursuing prudent and courageous actions. In my business, people are at the very center of every production process, because I am convinced that human dignity is restored solely through rediscovery of the conscience. Work elevates human dignity and the emotional ties that derive from it. On my daily path I heed the words of giants from the past, from Socrates and Seneca to Marcus Aurelius and Alexander the Great.
Corroborated by this spiritual communion and following the power, simplicity and beauty of this place steeped in history and charm, I have undertaken and completed the restoration of the medieval hamlet of Solomeo over the course of 25 years. My company is now based here and stays faithful to the precepts that men such as Leon Battista Alberti, Palladio and Serlio drew from the classical teachings of Vitruvius. I believe in the quality and beauty of craftsmanship; I don't think you can have quality without humanity. I love the mysticism of Umbria, a mysticism that also belonged to Saint Francis of Assisi, who loved beauty and simplicity. I am proud of being from this region, proud of my passion for philosophy and restoration and for everything that helps restore beauty and dignity to the things buried under the dust of time."
Brunello Cucinelli was born into a peasant family in Castel Rigone, province of 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. 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 “Forum of the Art”, including the Aurelian Library, the Gymnasium, the Amphitheatre and the Theatre, was built in 2008 and 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. 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 in Milan, an initiative supported by the Brunello and Federica Cucinelli Foundation; the project entails the creation of three huge parks 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 Xenophon put it. With this project Brunello highlights the duty to restore the “dignity of the land” and he shows that “Beauty will save the world” whenever the world will in turn save Beauty. The Brunello Cucinelli S.p.A. currently employs 1300 people and cooperates with around 3500 subcontractors. Nobody clocks in or out. The working time is from 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. with a long lunch break. It is forbidden to work after 5.30 p.m.. Over the years Brunello has been acknowledged a staggering number of national and international rewards for his “neohumanistic capitalism”; the recognitions that most mirror his human accomplishments are his appointment as Cavaliere del Lavoro (Knight of Industry) assigned by the President of Italian Republic and his honorary degree in Philosophy and Ethics of Human Relations, assigned by the University of Perugia.
Honors and Awards
Honors and Awards
In 1998 he was awarded the title of Academic by the Istituto di Belle Arti “Pietro Vannucci” in Perugia; in 2003 he received the acknowledgement of “Homo Faber Homo Poeticus”, by the Accademia “Biella Cultura” and in the same year in US he was presented with the “Best of the Best”, a valuable prize that is only awarded to the best companies worldwide. In 2004, during the 60th edition of Pitti Uomo, the most prestigious trade fair for menswear worldwide, he was bestowed with the “Pitti Immagine Uomo” prize for his “creative talent and the quality of his collections combined with his extraordinary ability to enhance the value of the Italian productive fabric”. In the same year the prestigious magazine “Robb Report” presented the Brunello Cucinelli company with the “Best of the Best” prize for the second year in a row, on the following grounds: “Best and most sophisticated fashion designer in the world in the Cashmere Sportswear sector”. In 2009 he was acknowledged the “Imprenditore Olivettiano” prize, the “Best of the Best” by the US magazine “Robb Report” as “New guide for men’s sportswear”, the Ernst&Young prize for “Italian Entrepreneur of the Year”, the “Leonardo Qualità Italia” prize; in 2010 he received the “Confindustria Awards for Excellence Andrea Pininfarina”, the “Forum Prize Textilwirtschaft”, he was appointed Knight of the Italian Republic by the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at the Quirinale palace, and he received the
honorary degree in Philosophy and Ethics of Human Relations from the Perugia University. In May 2011 he was awarded the “Premio Guido Carli” prize for standing out as an entrepreneur/philosopher who has based his business on the fundamental value of respect for the people and the environment. In the same month he was presented with the MF Creatori di Valore prize. In October 2014 in New York the Fashion Group International awarded him with the Fashion Star Honoree Award, an acknowledgement that is presented to the greatest fashion designers in the world.