Brunello Cucinelli celebrated his 70th birthday and the 45th anniversary of his eponymous fashion label in Italy this weekend in a way that was uniquely “Brunello.” An invitation was issued to around 500 friends, colleagues, and members of the press from around the world, to join him and his family in Solomeo, the Umbrian hamlet that he has painstakingly restored and is now home to BC HQ, where he and most of his employees live and work. The uniquely Brunello touch? The king of cashmere had decreed that the color code for the event was to be “Shades of white, panama, light grey, and beige.”
As the many devotees of Cucinelli’s ultra-luxe aesthetic who powered his brand towards US$1 billion (HK$7.84 billion) in revenue in 2022 will attest, this refined palette is very much the Brunello signature. The result was a sea of guests resplendent in the signature styles of quiet luxury: elegant women in wide-legged trousers, oversized jackets and silk dresses; men in soft suiting, chic double-breasted jackets and pale linen. Seeing so many people all looking of a piece gave a slightly cult-like air to the spectacle, but such was the spirit of celebration and the devotion that Cucinelli seems to inspire (he has long been the darling of the Silicon Valley set, dressing Zuckerberg and Bezos and the rest), that the effect was purely benign.
The main event, before a celebration sit-down dinner, was a fashion show, or presentation as Cucinelli preferred to call it, featuring Eva Herzigova alongside old-school male supermodels Mark Vanderloo, Tyson Beckford, and John Pearson, in front of the assembled guests, including Martha Stewart, Patrick Dempsey, Ava Philippe, Olivia Palermo, Ashley Park, and Vanessa Kirby.
Flanked by models in looks from present and past collections in the amphitheater he has built here, Cucinelli made an emotional speech, under the watchful gaze of an enormous bust of the Emperor Hadrian. It was an extended thank you to all those who had influenced his life and career: from his humble beginnings growing up on a farm with no electricity, looking after the animals, to his position now as the exemplar of Made in Italy excellence. As soon as the sun set over the farm, he said, the stars would come out, and as a child he’d sit and stare at the brightest of them and wonder at their meaning.
That changed when, at age 15, he and his family moved to the city and gained electricity, phones and other technology but lost that instant connection to the constellations. It was when his father took a job in a factory and one day returned from work teary eyed, questioning what he could have done in his life to deserve to be so humiliated, that the seeds of the future entrepreneur was sown. While the particular cause of his distress was not explained, this moment was the inspiration for the young Cucinelli to reach for success with “ethics, dignity and morals.” His philosophy of humanistic capitalism, the idea that corporations can be forces for good—not only for their shareholders, but their employees, who should be surrounded by beauty, compassion and creativity—was born.
In language littered with references to Seneca, Hadrian, Ptolemy III, Confucius and other philosophers, Cucinelli ended by making a request of youth—”the champions of mankind, the guardians of creativity.” It was that they “have the courage to dream,” for they hold the world’s future in their hands. He finished by touching on the advances of the age and, while stating that he believed that AI could be a tremendous force for good, said: “I can’t believe that there is a robot brought to tears by looking up at the sky.” He’d been working on this speech for three days without eating or sleeping, he said, but now he could relax—and his guests followed suit, with a lavish meal served under those same stars, featuring pasta prepared tableside and stirred, in an act of theater, by Brunello and Martha Stewart, and washed down with Cucinelli’s own olive oil and excellent Castello di Solomeo wine, a blend of four red grapes that produce what Cucinelli has called “an Italian Bordeaux.”
The night concluded with daughter Carolina presenting her father with a special birthday present, a statue of Apollo playing a lyre, as well as an enormous birthday cake with 70 candles, which the birthday boy proceeded to blow out whilst walking around table-sized dish. Dancing and drinking ensued. In all, it was a suitably stylish and thoughtful affair as befitting a man who thinks deeply not just about how to dress the world better, but how the world might be made better too.
Words: Paul Croughton
Images courtesy of Brunello Cucinelli