“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 in Castel Rigone (Perugia) in 1953. Even as a young man, he was attracted by the dream of a job that cared more about human values. As a budding entrepreneur, he realized that colorful cashmere garments could be a fashion revolution so he dropped out of college in 1974, where he was studying engineering, and decided to start a business that would ultimately make him famous in just a few years. His first small company was based in Ellera di Corciano near Perugia. His first main markets were Germany and the United States, which enjoyed great economic stability. His company steadily grew and became quite well-known. He has boutiques in the main squares all over the world– in Milan, New York, Paris, Rome, London, Tokyo, Moscow, Geneva, Hamburg, Miami and Las Vegas – and shop-in-shops in the world’s finest department stores. The group currently has more than one thousand employees and approximately one 4000 outside contractors. Exports make up 65% of its turnover. The group does business with over 1,000 multi-brand luxury boutiques in its main export market: the United States, Europe, Japan, Russia and the Far East.
In 1985 Brunello Cucinelli bought the 14th century castle of Solomeo, a small hamlet close to Perugia where his then fiancée and now wife Federica Benda lived. He moved his small cashmere business to Solomeo and immediately realized that this tiny and almost desolate cluster of homes was full of beautiful things rich in nature, history and art such as the castle, the old parish church, and the 17th century Villa Antinori. He saw these cultural resources as an extraordinary chance to develop his business and a wonderful opportunity to achieve his humanist dream. He began the extensive restoration project of the hamlet, which was destined for great results. The project began with the medieval castle: after restoration that saved this monument from years of neglect, it became company headquarters. In this period, Brunello Cucinelli expanded his business and opened another office on the outskirts of Solomeo. Unlike the first, this building was new, surrounded by large orchards and with a garden full of cedars and pine trees. Now he could fulfill at least the first part of his humanist dream based on human dignity and the sanctity of labor, and he did so without ignoring everyday aspects. The meals served in the two company canteens were home-made dishes
prepared that morning by the housewives of Solomeo, made with local products and in the Umbrian tradition.The bureaucratic practice of punching the timecard was abolished, and workers could come and go freely. Even formal branch hierarchies were eliminated: each person’s dignity was restored and everyone’s humanistic values were respected. Over time, restoration and reclamation projects were completed directly or in cooperation with public institutions and organizations. Brunello, however, supervised the design phase, which he considered crucial for coordination and for the quality of the results. He participated in the restoration of the Saint Bartholomew. Church and the 17th-century parish church of nearby Vocabolo Mandorleto in cooperation with the people of Solomeo. With the town of Corciano, the ancient road network of the village was restored. Besides his work restoring artistic and historical monuments, focusing on aspects concerning architecture and the figurative arts, Brunello Cucinelli also dedicated his time to social projects: he donated to the town of Corciano four hectares of land next to the Solomeo sports complex
for purely recreational use, and he also helped build the local sports center. Besides his projects for Solomeo, Brunello also sponsored the construction of the soccer field in his hometown, Castel Rigone, with stands for the spectators and park areas with trees, which were a condition for his involvement in the project. He built a daycare center in Malawi, Africa and installed a well for the town’s water needs. In the fields of education and culture, Brunello Cucinelli has funded and economically supported several qualified public and private institutions, the most important of which are the University of Perugia and the Region and Provinces of Umbria. In 1998 Brunello received an honorary academic diploma from the “Pietro Vannucci” Fine Arts Academy in Perugia. In 2003, the “Biella Cultura” Academy presented him with the “Homo Faber – Homo Poeticus” award. In that same year, he also received the prestigious “Best of the Best” award in the U.S. assigned to the world’s top companies. In 2004, during the 66th edition of Pitti Uomo, the world’s most prestigious men’s fashion exhibition, Brunello received the “Premio Pitti Immagine Uomo” award for “the creative talent and quality of his collections combined with an extraordinary ability to valorize Italian production.” In the same year, the “Robb Report”, the prestigious luxury lifestyle magazine, awarded Brunello
second consecutive year with this motivation: “The best and most sophisticated designer in the cashmere sportswear sector.” In 2009 he received the “Imprenditore Olivettiano” award, the “Best of the Best” award from the “Robb Report” as “the new guide for men’s sportswear”, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year prize, and the “Leonardo Qualità Italia” award. In 2010, he received the “Confindustria Award for Excellence Andrea Pininfarina” and the “Forum Prize Textilwirtschaft” award. At the Quirinale in Rome (the President’s official residence), Brunello Cucinelli received the Order of Merit for Labor from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. He also received an Honorary Degree in Philosophy and Ethics of Human Relations from the University of Perugia. In May 2011 he received the “Premio Guido Carli” award for distinguishing himself as an entrepreneur-philosopher who bases his work on the fundamental values of respect for people and the environment. In the same month he also received the MF “Creatori di Value” award. Brunello Cucinelli is President of the Repertory Theater of Umbria, a board member of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Perugia, a board member of Pitti Immagine, and a board member of Altagamma.
KNIGHT OF LABOR
November 2012: Knight of Labor ceremony
LAUREA HONORIS CAUSA
November 2010: laurea honoris causa in Scienze della comunicazione e rapporti umani internazionali Università degli stranieri di Perugia