Brunello Cucinelli celebrates forty years of ‘humanistic capitalism’ in Solomeo, Italy
“My life’s dream has always been to promote the moral and economic dignity of human beings," said Brunello Cucinelli. "I imagined a business whose output was produced without damaging Creation, and I wanted it to generate a fair return in an ethical fashion. The great masters of antiquity trained us to heed the genius loci, to feel we are the custodians, and not the owners, of Creation, with a duty towards the beautiful things in our world. With my own work, I wanted to contribute to such beauty, and to enable others to enjoy it too."
These were the words with which Italian fashion entrepreneur Brunello Cucinelli greeted his 500-plus guests, the majority of them Italian and international journalists, in what he calls the ‘Borgo dello Spirito’ (soul village). His native hilltop village of Solomeo, near Perugia, where he celebrated the 40th anniversary of his locally-based company and the completion of the beautification project he undertook to restore the village and the valley below. A project which included building an Arts and Crafts school and a theatre, to bring artisan expertise, art and entertainment to the whole community.
“The outskirts [of Solomeo] turned into industrial sprawl in the last 50 years and I wanted to upgrade them," Brunello Cucinelli told FashionNetwork.com. "Firstly, with the help of architect Massimo de Vico Fallani, I decided to build my factory down in the valley. It extends over an area of 40,000 square metres and the buildings aren’t new, we took over some 1970s factories and adapted them to modern methods. There also were six industrial warehouses which I decided to demolish, restoring the landscape to its former dignity. We began from there, and today the last tile in the mosaic is slotting into place in the park of Beauty and Soul: 70 hectares of olive trees, vineyards and agricultural fields, with a winery and a monument to the Dignity of Mankind, a monument inspired by Greek culture which I hope will still be here in 2,000 years.”
Cucinelli’s social engagement, profound religious faith and noble ideals, a constant inspiration for this enlightened, enlightening entrepreneur, have now borne tangible fruit. What was a small family company in the heart of Umbria is now renowned worldwide, employing 1,700 people globally, and 1,000 in Solomeo alone. The numbers keep growing, as does Brunello Cucinelli’s revenue: in 2017, it was just shy of €503 million, and it is expected to achieve double-digit growth in 2018 too. In the first half of 2018, revenue indeed increased by nearly 12%, to €270 million, and net income was up 20%, above €23 million.
“Someone once told me that trying to run a business from a village wouldn’t be compatible with the fast pace of modern life. Yet my company has kept growing at a sustainable rate, and I’m now sure that it is the internet that will provide the solution to the problem of depopulation in ancient villages, because we will be able to work in places as wonderful as these without needing to travel, or least minimising the number of trips.”
Miscere utilem dulci (a Latin expression which translates as ‘combining work with leisure’) is how Brunello Cucinelli’s Roman ancestors defined this attitude. The attitude of a philosopher-entrepreneur whose life and work are inspired by respect for people, their environment and their heritage, by the notion of ‘fair employment’ and the ideal of humanistic capitalism. An ideal which he has realised, and described in a book, “Il Sogno di Solomeo: la mia vita e la sfida del capitalismo umanistico” (Solomeo’s dream: my life and the challenge of humanistic capitalism), which Cucinelli presented on September 4 and gifted to his guests.
“I’m not a writer, this is a book about a life, mine, and in it I collected my memories and my thoughts. I’ve done this now because, when you are at an advanced stage in your earthly journey, you start to look to the future in a very special way. I tried to put my soul into writing it, and I worked on it for five years. It is targeted to young people. I’m convinced that, without their history, future generations wouldn’t be able to gather and foster, for hundreds and hundreds of years, a constant renewal of those values and ideals which we must live by and in which we must never stop believing. Who else but young people are the future? I would like for this valley and this company to continue like this for two or three hundred years. And beware, the soul is immortal, and I will rise to the heavens in due course, but I’ll always come back to check that this heritage is properly safeguarded and preserved!” concluded Cucinelli with a smile.
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