It’s a rarity these days, in the corporate fashion world, to hear of rags-to-riches stories amongst successful designers. But at Brunello Cucinelli, the Italian luxury lifestyle house, it’s something of a leitmotiv, one that underlined proceedings as guests gathered from all over the world to celebrate its founder’s 70th birthday in grand style.
At the helm—for 45 years—of a clothing company now worth a reported $3 billion, Cucinelli still clings close to his roots. Geographically, those roots are barely 15 miles from Solomeo, the Umbrian village he famously revitalized when he established it as his brand’s headquarters. The Cucinelli family farm is situated near Castel Rigone. Young Brunello grew up there without electricity, the family’s existence dependent on the whims of the weather. A good growing season meant relative comfort, or at least food, through the winter. A bad one meant difficult months and empty stomachs. In his teen years, the family swapped rural life for the city. It was a turning point in Cucinelli’s life, bringing comforts—electricity among them—he had long lived without.
As the proverbial boy-done-good, however, he remains proud and mindful of his formative years. Humility underpins the way he speaks about his brand. Family is everything, from the close-knit relatives who play increasingly vital roles in the expanding global company, to the wider “family” of celebrities, customers, collaborators, and fans who help to promote his message of tasteful luxury. So, it was not surprising that the 400 or so guests who converged on Solomeo (universally in easy shades of white, ash gray, and beige) gave the event the vibe of a chic family wedding rather than anything to do with business.
Billed expressly as a presentation, not a runway show, a cavalcade of models—including past supermodels, male and female—swept into his outdoor amphitheater in couples to provide a retrospective look at the consistent design message that characterizes Cucinelli’s clothing. Brunello himself gave a speech to the assembled crowd that touched on the three pillars that define his personal ethos: truth, justice, and humanity. He pulled from some of his favorite sources, ancient philosophers including the emperors Hadrian and his great-nephew Marcus Aurelius, as well as Confucius and Seneca. An imminent addition to the borgo of Solomeo, where he has already built a theater and a restaurant serving food daily to his staff, is an extensive, 2,000-square-meter library designed by Brunello himself to house these exemplary thinkers and many others.
At dinner, his longtime event chef Vittorio served uncomplicated and delicious food in a vast marquee built around the home Brunello lives in at the center of the village. The highlight—after Vittorio’s celebrated paccheri al pomodoro, pasta served from huge copper vats—were the first bottles of red from his newly created vineyard. With Brunello Cucinelli, for all its luxury, you’re never very far from life’s simplest pleasures.
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