In a time filled with uncertainties, this Italian fashion giant has decided to pay it forward through an initiative known as Brunello Cucinelli for Humanity. The label founder tells us why he has always been closely involved in charity and how he did not let the pandemic get the better of him as he went ahead with the launch of his collections.

When Italy was hit the hardest by the pandemic early this year, Brunello Cucinelli decided that it was time to launch his philanthropic initiative Brunello Cucinelli for Humanity. His aim is to generously give away the unsold, out-of-season clothes. He also worked with his team to partner with organisations worldwide that are in need of these garments.

Options is not surprised that Cucinelli made this generous offer as we had the opportunity to meet him two years ago when he gave a press conference to launch his masterplan to pay it forward. As his business grew, this poor farmer boy who started a garment factory in Solomeo — located in Umbria, Italy — churning out cashmere sweaters has turned into a fashion house that produces contemporary fashion that is loved by celebrities and royals alike.

His ideas for paying it forward include giving his employees a pleasant environment to work in while giving them fair pay. He also launched the Project for Beauty, a plan to enhance the areas in his hometown with gardens and parks and restoration works such as churches, theatres and more.

A monument was even built as a tribute to human dignity that symbolises Cucinelli’s work and dedication to humanity. The monument is approximately five metres high and 24 metres long, incorporating a tripod in the centre and with five arches, above which bold bronze letters spell out the words: “Tribute to Human Dignity”. To express the universal nature of this structure, the names of the world’s major five continents are listed, one under each arch: America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Today, the Cucinelli empire has grown into a facility that is a sprawling 30,000 sq metres with about 1,700 employees all working on the various aspects of the business that covers design, sewing, warehouse and administration. Options visited the facility and had a rare chance to observe some of the design and manufacturing processes and to witness how these in- house procedures contribute to making a garment that has a reputation for its quality and reliability.

Cucinelli did not let his fashion take a break during the pandemic and he continued with the launch of the men’s fall/winter 2020 collection. It is important to him that the show must go on as every garment that leaves his factory in Solomeo makes its way to 60 countries including Singapore (at Paragon and Marina Bay Sands) where you can find the Brunello Cucinelli signature style that has been described as effortlessly elegant with a touch of chic casual. It is all about the classic appeal in colours of sand, caramel and tobacco — all the ingredients you need to create a stylish wardrobe.

We can wax lyrical about the visionary leader behind the label, but in this exclusive email interview we get Cucinelli to talk about his charity work, his latest collections, updates on the projects he started two years ago and passing the baton to his two daughters.

BC Solomeo Headquarters - THE EDGE SINGAPORE

The pandemic has caused everyone to rethink how they look at their business models and Brunello Cucinelli has certainly done just that. How did you view your situation at the start of this year?

It has been a rather painful, intense, powerful time and I want to call it a time of transition to a new life. When human beings are grieving, they unleash great creativity, so claimed Einstein, and after this time of sorrow we are going towards a slightly better world, because this pandemic will leave behind two very important things, in my opinion.

The first: After perhaps losing a job, experiencing pain, mourning loved ones, we no longer need to come across people who may be a little violent and arrogant, but we need to meet people who are love-inspiring, kind, polite, well-mannered. Next, the other great epoch-making change will entail that each of us, but especially the young people, will all want to know where any product was made, how it was manufactured, whether damage has been caused to mankind along the process.

By the middle of the year you had the Project in Support of Mankind and the donation of unsold garments. Can you tell us about each of these initiatives?

There is always some good in evil and some evil in good. Both can teach us something. Bearing all this in mind, we felt the desire to gift mankind with the garments leftover in our boutiques due to the temporary interruption of sales. We have considered these surplus garments as some sort of “great resource” for mankind, so we would like to see this choice as an investment for the future of our enterprise, in keeping with the great project of “living and work- ing in harmony with Creation”.

How has this initiative helped one individual or family?

At the moment we are receiving back the unsold goods from our boutiques and some of our fine artisans are replacing the labels with those of the Project for Humanity. At the same time, the humanity council of ten people, six of whom are from our family, is evaluating the requests we have received so far, thanks also to our friends and partners around the world. We hope to be able to send them out within a few days.

You have always been committed to humanity, sustainability and more long before the pandemic. Can you tell us why these causes are so close to your heart?

It seems to us that this project in some way raises the dignity of mankind and honours all those who have worked in the making of these garments. It will therefore go hand in hand with the other one started many years ago which consists in repairing, recovering and reusing all our products. All this goes to complete that great project of “human sustainability” in which we have always believed: climate and emissions, care of the earth and animals and care of humankind.

How has the pandemic impacted your business and your manufacturing facility in Solomeo, Umbria? What is the definition of Brunello Cucinelli for Humanity?

We immediately considered the situation to be very serious and we shut down a week before the national lockdown in Italy, with a view to protecting our workers and their families. Clearly production stopped, but we have tried to keep our creativity active. The company has not changed since then and we are the same employees as when the pandemic occurred last February. When we came back, we got together and asked all the employees to work half an hour extra every day and on Saturdays. In a responsible and touching manner, everyone played their part and volunteered to do this, thus enabling us in just over two months not only to make up for the lack of production of the winter collection, but also to create a new collection for the spring-summer season 2021.

Can you give us an update on the Project for Beauty?

Solomeo as Hamlet of the Spirit is a project that is terminated with regard to the most intense phase of restoration and revival of the suburbs with the planting of our fruit trees, vines and olive grove. There is still a small project for the restoration of our church of San Bartolomeo which we expect to be completed by the end of 2020.

As the saying goes, the show must go on. How would you describe your fall/winter men’s and women’s collections?

I believe that in both men and women there is this strong desire for a return to “dressing well”, an ideal of clean and essential elegance in shapes and volumes. A revival of that style that derives from a beautiful product of high craftsmanship and manufacturing.

What are your plans moving forward? Is there going to be a sequel to your book The Dream of Solomeo — My Life and the Idea of Humanist Capitalism?

I believe that we need to retrieve and restore, together with our co-workers, a sort of humanistic capitalism. I am a capitalist, I want to make profits, I want to make healthy and graceful profits and to value my relationship with human beings. I would like our co-workers to earn fair wages, to live in slightly better places and to have the opportunity of not being online after work.

In the foreword of your book you dedicated this to your daughters, “You must have a dream, a dream that can bring happiness to the humanity of today and the one yet to come. You will experience hard days; they will not be many, but your soul will carry a burden. Reason will possibly explain it, yet your heart will not be relieved.” How have your daughters stepped into the role of running the family business? Have you taken a step back?

I wouldn’t say a step back, but rather because I wanted them beside me little by little in taking the important decisions of our company. Several years ago, now Camilla and Carolina decided to make their contribution by working in the family business and have gained experience in the field in the various departments in which they have worked up to now: an experience different in each case but with the common denominator of being both part of the production process. Their entry at this new level has meant a greater assumption of responsibility on their part and an even more harmonious search for that balance of spirit which, alone, allows them to become true guardians of beauty. This is why the invitation I addressed to them in the very first words of the book were to leave home and embrace with joy the colours of open spaces, the countryside, the air, the starry sky.

Brunello Cucinelli - THE EDGE SINGAPORE

Brunello Cucinelli - THE EDGE SINGAPORE

Brunello Cucinelli - THE EDGE SINGAPORE

 

Brunello Cucinelli - THE EDGE SINGAPORE

THE COLLECTION MUST GO ON

Brunello Cucinelli launches the men’s fall/winter 2020 collection that embodies the cosmopolitan man about town. He is swathed in the iconic blazer that fits the male physique with relaxed-fit trousers, an attractive option for everyday wear. Meanwhile, coats cover every style — expect to see pea coats and parkas in a new, slightly looser and straighter fit.

You can also look forward to seeing muted shades this season with dashes of pomegranate, carrot, corn and aubergine to uplift an otherwise sombre collection. Each piece in the collection is meant to be mixed and matched to create a seamless new look every time you step out of the house.