When we think of Brunello Cucinelli is not only because of his successful career as a fashion designer who made cashmere the hallmark of his creations. We also think of him as a man who has projected his dreams into a humanistic project that surpasses his fashion empire. Cucinelli has brought back to life historic Solomeo, a medieval village close to Perugia in Italy that was close to becoming an uninhabited ruin just three decades ago.
Back in 1978, Brunello Cucinelli opened a small knitwear company in Perugia, similar to others that existed in the region, with excellent results. Years later he found himself in a quandary: whether to continue with a secure business or specialize in a single product, thus becoming the best in the field. He chose cashmere as his material of choice and innovation. The talented entrepreneur surprised the fashion industry when he began to dye the exclusive wool in bright colors and with outstanding originality – cashmere had until then been produced mainly in neutral tones. He designed sophisticated pieces that were easy to wear, creating a style that became known as casual chic.
After years of growing success, and in response to the expansion needs of his business, the dreamer within him replaced the designer and Solomeo was the place where his dream became a reality.
Solomeo is a beautiful village, charmingly set amongst green, rolling pastures, with a castle and bell tower atop a hill, and surrounded by an intimate hamlet. Its foundation dates back to the late 12th century; the construction of the castle was completed in the last decades of the 15th century.
In 1985 Cucinelli, who was born in a nearby village, began buying and restoring the historic buildings in the center of town, with the faith and patience of a man who knows he is turning his dream into reality: bringing life to the forgotten village and providing livelihood for its residents, simply by relocating his company to this small town. Today there are more than 600 people working at the Solomeo factory, most of them natives of this region.
Knowledge is of supreme importance to the designer. The façade of his splendid home, one of the first buildings restored in town, is splashed with quotations from his most admired authors, including Socrates or Kafka. According to some of his houseguests, meals at the villa frequently start after reading brief passages from the classics of literature and philosophy. Cucinelli is also a man of strong social convictions.
As he has declared on more than one occasion, his two main objectives for undertaking the restoration of Solomeo were: to return the village to its former glory and donate it to future generations, as well as establishing a factory to improve the dire state of the textile manufacturing industry. This desire corresponds to his humanistic philosophy, which as he says, is a combination of Benedictine morality and ethical capitalism.
Today Solomeo is known as a destination for a select group of visitors: acolytes and connoisseurs of Italy’s charming villages, travelers in search of authentic cultural experiences, and customers and admirers of Bruno Cucinelli.
The amphitheater of the Fondazione Brunello Cucinelli hosts excellent annual festivals. Among the most popular: Solomeo’s Festival of Ancient Music and the Medieval Festival of Solomeo, both important cultural events that draw large numbers of visitors.
Bruno Cucinelli’s designs are a benchmark in the international luxury market, with rigorously curated products made entirely in Solomeo by local artisans. If to this we add the care he uses to select the most exquisite cashmere in his trips to China and Mongolia, and his creative talents, we’ll discover the recipe for his success and charisma. ■