Mr honors the game changers, part two, brunello cucinelli

by Karen Alberg Grossman

MR SALUTES AN INDUSTRY IN TRANSITION AND THOSE TAKING IT TO A NEW LEVEL.”WE STRIVE TO MAINTAIN THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF CRAFTSMANSHIP AND CREATIVITY, WHICH SHOULD ALLOW US TO STAY ORIGINAL AND AUTHENTIC,” SAYS DESIGNER BRUNELLO CUCINELLI  IN THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW, WHICH APPEARS IN THE CURRENT PRINT ISSUE OF MR. HERE, READ MORE ABOUT OUR PICK AS “MOST INSPIRATIONAL” GAME CHANGER…

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Cerebral, spiritual, philosophical and generous, Brunello Cucinelli has built the most imitated collection in the luxury market.


 

His success in the fashion industry is widely recognized, but it’s his passion for life that best describes him. “I’m a very normal man,” Brunello Cucinelli responds, when asked to describe himself. “I’m passionate about my beliefs and about my business. My values are simple, and I stand true to them every day.”

This statement is readily confirmed by Massimo Caronna, who directs the U.S. business.“Brunello’s vision and the culture he’s created play a key role in our company, even before product. I joined him 20 years ago because I sensed the integrity in his handshake. I’ve watched him in Umbria and I’ve seen how he touches people. Among the many lessons I’ve learned from him: that our business is less about selling and more about respecting. And from Brunello, I’ve learned how to be who I am.”

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Brunello Cucinelli

Cucinelli’s journey from selling a small collection of cashmere sweaters to becoming one of the world’s most admired luxury clothing designers is well documented. “I started selling sweaters in my 20s with only six styles. Soon six sweaters became 10 and the business started to blossom. From the start, the people at the core of the company have been fundamental to the brand’s success. I’ve always put them front and center, creating a workplace dedicated to human dignity.”

“I live every day as if it were my last but make plans as if I’ll live eternally.”—Brunello Cucinelli

And it is Cucinelli’s restoration of his village, stone by stone, to improve the lives of his workers that makes him most proud. He explains, “The restoration of Solomeo had been a dream for quite some time; I’m very passionate about leaving a legacy beyond clothing. This restoration has given new life to a once dying town, job opportunities and a future for this part of Italy that I so love.”

In addition to expanding the Solomeo factory, Cucinelli’s foundation has started a new phase of restoration called A Project for Beauty. “This is dedicated to preserving the land surrounding the village, which is divided into three parks. The industrial park is becoming filled with color and fragrance, the Lay Oratory park now offers a youth center and sporting activities for young people, and the Agriculture Park is used for cropping vegetables, fruits, olive groves, orchards and trees; its produce will be used for local consumption and in the company dining halls.”

Bottom line, Cucinelli’s business philosophy is firmly centered on human dignity. As he puts it, “We focus on respecting people and honoring them with responsibility. With responsibility comes creativity. As a result, our company is filled with dedicated individuals who are intrinsically connected to their work. It’s very important to me to nurture and preserve the core values of humanity; I want my employees to have a quality of life filled with friends, family and genuine warmth.”

This sentiment is confirmed by Caronna. “It’s important to Brunello that we become highly involved in the communities we sell, so we do many charity fashion events for our multibrand accounts. (The recent Pink Aid event at Mitchells was incredible: I couldn’t believe how many beautifully dressed women attended and how much money was raised!) It’s also important to Brunello that all his employees have balanced lives so as hard as we work, he wants us out the door at 5:30 p.m.”

Asked about the extent to which his collection has recently been knocked off at lower prices, Cucinelli seems surprisingly unfazed. “I’m not concerned about what others do and I wish them success in their business models. My focus is as much about giving the best quality and service as it is about creating fabulous new collections. We strive to maintain the highest level of craftsmanship and creativity, which should allow us to stay original and authentic.”

“I’m very passionate about leaving a legacy beyond clothing.”—Brunello Cucinelli

Asked about some recent price-resistance in the luxury market, and whether he thinks his clothing is too expensive, Cucinelli is candid. “We are not a brand that is going to appeal or be accessible to everyone, and that’s okay. My focus instead is on creating a high-quality product that has meaning, purpose and a story at its core. Our customers want to feel emotionally connected to their purchases. We work hard to create an experience around their interactions with the brand.”

As to shopping styles of men vs. women, Cucinelli has been observant. “Men are keener to buy with a practical mentality, while looking for something that makes them feel modern and elegant. They go for quality, simplicity and feeling powerful. I find them more interested in taking style advice from our associates, whereas women prefer more freedom in their shopping. They want to feel luxurious, feminine and appreciated.”

Finally, we ask Cucinelli about his transition from a family business to part of a huge corporate conglomerate. “Nothing has changed about our company, with the exception that we are even more efficient now that we have to make time in our schedules for investors and road shows. I’m still doing the same job I did before we went public, with the same amount of dedication to product and to all our other projects. Going public has allowed us to have a more international vision for our brand and to have experts in the field share their opinions about our projects. But with all due respect, we will still be making decisions without altering our basic philosophy. My personal goal and our corporate goal are one and the same: to see this company grow steadily and graciously into the future.”


Brunello Cucinelli Gets Personal

On his inspirations: I am inspired by my books and the great men in history who wrote them. Philosophy has been my companion through life; it permeates every aspect of my being, in both my personal and professional paths.
On what makes him happiest: I am happy when I sit in front of the fire reading a great book in the quiet of my living room with my family nearby. I enjoy laughing and joking with my friends so I always make time to meet them for a weekly soccer match and then dinner. With my friends, I’ve had many moments of genuine, carefree fun.
On what makes him angriest: Arrogance.
On traits he admires: Simplicity; sincerity; good manners; respectfulness; honesty; humility; playfulness; kindness.
On his perfect day: Finding time for my mind, my body and my soul.
On his favorite vacation spot: Umbria! I’m fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful and spiritual regions in Italy. The land, the air, the people are all a part of what I love about this country. When I’m able to stay home, that’s what I truly enjoy. But my wife enjoys travel so we often go with friends to the Isola di Cavallo in Corsica, or to Formentera. In the winter season, we enjoy skiing in Saint Moritz.
On the best advice he’s received: From my dad, who asks, “Do you want to be the richest person in the graveyard?”