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Brunello Cucinelli, to WineNews, between wine and fashion, balance between gift and profit

“Face to Face” with the designer. “There is not one sustainability, but many: of climate, economic, cultural, spiritual, moral and for the Earth”

“I am happy that as Prime Minister Mario Draghi asked me to give testimony together with then Prince Charles (with the Address to the Great of the Earth at the G20 in Italy in 2021, ed.). The new King of England talked about climate sustainability, I talked about “Human Sustainability” and “Humanistic Capitalism”. Because I think there is a climate sustainability, an economic one, which is about how much you make and where you work, a cultural one, which is what a business does for the culture of its area and its people, and a spiritual one, because if you work in a better place where you are treated well, your spirit is better off too. But there is also moral sustainability, which is making you pay the right taxes and cooperate with your state for its growth. And then there is sustainability in how we deal with the Earth”. Achieving the balance between profit and gift, toward people, communities, territories, and the environment, and how this is increasingly necessary for businesses in fashion as well as wine, is one of the principles at the heart of Brunello Cucinelli’s personal and professional story, as he tells “face to face” with WineNews, one of Italy’s most enlightened and influential entrepreneurs, conversing about his love for the land and its fruits, bringing technology and Humanism together, what we need to do for young people, and, of course, his first wine.
Which could only be born from the vineyards of Solomeo, where Cucinelli's entrepreneurial adventure began and where with his family he realized his dream of a “Humanistic Capitalism”, after restoring it and reviving it as the “Borgo del Cashmere e dell'Armonia”, in Umbria land of great wines but also of St. Francis who, the son of wealthy textile merchants, made poverty, by choice, one of his founding traits, representing a source of inspiration also for his entrepreneurial rise. A new project, the future of which, we imagine, he already has clear in mind: “I wanted to honor the land”, he explains, “I come from the culture of the land and I thought I would make oil first and then wine. There were these industrial factories, we tore them down, and made an Agrarian Park there with vineyard and olive grove. I wanted to dignify my village because as I looked out to look at it after a 30-year restoration, I wondered but who knows how happy my children would be if they could see the playground, the Park, the orchards there. In the middle of the vineyard, for example, we have a row of persimmons and at this time of year you go there and eat them, all red because they start to lose their leaves. Another nice thing is also when we harvest and we still leave a lot of grapes as our parents did when we were farmers, because that way when we would go in the middle and look at the pigs and sheep we would bring bread and eat it with the raisins, until December. The goal with the wine was to restore dignity to all this, to the land from which I come and from which “everything comes” as Xenophanes said, but also to imagine my children and grandchildren working in this valley with industry, the orchards, the vineyard and the olive grove, hoping to make good wine and oil. But today you can also walk there, because it is an all open Park, surrounded only by hedges like a garden, and you can eat a cherry or an apricot”.
Solomeo, which is the heart of the family, spiritual and entrepreneurial life of the designer who founded the company that made him the “king of cashmere” made in Italy. That made in Italy of which wine and fashion are a symbol, but which, before that, in common, according to Cucinelli, have in common the fact that they are the fruit of a people as serious as the Italian people, whose foundations are culture and quality artifacts, produced with humility, creativity and courage. “I have always been in love with the Greeks and their immense and fascinating culture. And I always say that I conducted my enterprise as an Italian, but thinking in Greek. Greeks who were in love with wine, as were the Romans, and this is our culture. I have always been in love with the table as well, I was always taught that in the kitchen there must always be three flavors, rigatoni, tomato and mozzarella, and that there must always be a good wine, which is great company and not only in accompanying food. We make a few bottles, we cannot say it is an economic-financial operation, the oil is just donated, and we will do the same or almost the same with the wine. The future project is this because the vineyard is all there, with its just five hectares”.
But, the entrepreneur continues, before, “we used to live on this farm in the hills, and to gain 2-300 meters of land we used to clear it with a pickaxe, and the wheat would come to us 2 palms high. At times we used to make as much as 6 quintals per hectare which was quite a harvest. Today when we sow we work the clods with big tractors, but the smell of the earth is still the same. So like going back to the balance between profit and gift, my grandfather and my father used to donate the first bale of our wheat to the community, and not the last one, even though it was the only thing we produced at that time and we needed to live on, 50-60 quintals in all because the farm was not big. I think, then, we have to go back to rebalancing it, for fair profit and fair growth”.
A message aimed especially at young people, to whom Cucinelli, with a concept that fully reflects our idea of business and communication in which we need “science and soul”, explains that we must also find the balance between technology and Humanism, in order to create new jobs. "In the past few days, a team from Marc Benioff’s “Salesforce” from Silicon Valley (with whom he collaborates on a digital “polite”, ed.) came to us to talk about technology in the next 20 years. They are great innovators and I told them that their technology is wonderful, but to put “Humanism” in it, because I believe it is a gift from Creation, but it is stealing our souls. They came to us specifically to create programs that also give us a little more humanity. I tell my team members to buy the most advanced technology but to make right use of it, to work the 8 hours and go home without staying connected because we need our lives and to be with our children. I always tell Benioff whoever first gives technology great humanity will be the new Leonardo of our time”.
Addressing private individuals and public institutions, the designer’s invitation is instead to return to investing as a value and foundation for growth, and to do it together, believing in the art of creating but also restoring, for our souls and to produce work, for the future of our territories and to keep them alive. “The one I am wearing today is a 2016 jacket. I always thought that I wanted to produce garments that were clearly of quality and exclusive, but to be left as a legacy, as I hardly ever throw away what I wear for myself. I think it’s a great time to repair, recover, reuse, mix, and this applies to man for everything. We have to participate in improving the world, the Earth and man. In the company, we have always had a department where you send us the pullover, and we repair it, to use what the Earth gives us and not consume it as Epicurus taught us when he said that the human being has two problems: one is the sickness of the soul that he has to govern with philosophy and two use what the Earth gives us”.
“We have to start again by giving away beauty”, these are, finally, the words pronounced by Brunello Cucinelli at the beginning of the pandemic, when he was among the first to launch a message of hope for Italy. Did we? “We were perhaps one of the countries that managed the pandemic best”, he concludes, “our welfare state today can be seen in not having laid off workers and having all productive parts in full, with GDP growing. We are still the seventh power in the world and we are true manufacturers, we have one big issue: we have to restore moral and economic dignity to certain jobs, we have to work to build the new contemporary artisans of the next 30 years. It means slightly better workplaces, slightly better wages and slightly better human relations. But we have a special position in the world: in the noble Florentine Renaissance we were considered the cultural mediators of the world, and I have the impression that we are becoming so again. And we have to produce special artifacts because we are an advanced nation, however, it should be things that you almost leave as a legacy. Personally, I don’t want to buy to consume, and I don’t use that term: 40 years ago we didn't talk about consumers, and consuming is not good even for a car tire. I want to be a human being who uses what the Earth gives us, and give back as much. It’s now November, and I remember when December would come and they would go to the master's account. When my grandfather and uncle would come back, they would not say when we had earned but whether it had been a good year”.
“But I would like to say one last thing”, he tells us, “we are a country that has quality, and a different human quality. I tell my people to make good wine, according to nature, making the guys who make it earn a fair wage, and teaching them the craft. And to the company’s chefs I tell them to use our products for the canteen, sticking to Italian and Umbrian cuisine in our home. It’s a culture I would like to carry on”.

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