Today, ladies and gentlemen, I want to talk to you a little bit about Brunello Cucinelli, of Brunello Cucinelli fame. The Business of Fashion published an article about him last week, and I was reminded again why he’s one of my favourite people in the fashion industry right now. So basically this post is going to be a lot of gushing and a little bit of reflecting on what makes him such a great guy. I hope you’re as passionate about knitwear brands as I am.
It’s currently very trendy to criticise businesses; they exploit their workers, destroy the environment, encourage mindless consumption, and overall have no social conscience. Apparently. I’m not saying that this isn’t true of some large companies, because I know it is, but what I love about Cucinelli is that he has cultivated a brand that pulls in healthy profits, whilst being totally unique in the way he goes about things. Through his so-called ‘humanistic capitalism’, he has restored a historic village, his staff have brilliant work hours and are well cared-for, and he only seems to be making the world a better place. If you’re not familiar with him already, I’d really recommend that BoF article just to get an idea.
Cucinelli is a massive inspiration to me, as someone who hopes to run their own business in the future, as he demonstrates just how businesses can keep investors happy whilst creating more than an empire, but a legacy of conscientiousness and good practice. Paying employees above the minimum wage, and making sure they have free time and are otherwise comfortable not only creates good morale, but has the bonus of allowing the company to select only the best workers that truly want to be associated with the brand – I like to think that simply being nice comes back to you, and this is certainly an example. I could cynically say that this is just part of a business plan, but to me it feels like that and more; Cucinelli seems to genuinely care that his name and image isn’t solely associated with fine knitwear and luxury goods, but a more holistic idea of community and mutually beneficial relationships.
While I’m not going to tear down any business that people are happy to buy from, even with massive mark-ups – I’m not one to tell people how to spend their own money or impose my own ideas of worth stuff people want – I really appreciate the fact that his pricing reflects the quality of the products and the production system that maintains a happy workforce. Yeah, Cucinelli is far out of my own budget at the moment, but I really wouldn’t mind parting with my hard-earned cash when I don’t feel like they’re trying to squeeze every last penny from me.
Finally, the fact that he’s doing this whilst gradually restoring the 12th century village in which everything takes place is incredible; travelling via train through Tuscany, I’d always long to buy up all the crumbling historic villages and save them from ruin before it’s too late to do anything. By also using said buildings to house his business, they become useful and relevant – granted a second life, rather than being turned into museum relics of times past, a free market solution to preservation. He’s even built a theatre that sensitively blends in with the traditional architecture.
Sure, if and when I become rich (I’ve decided to be rich one day) I’ll still buy a load of rich people stuff like Valentino gowns and fully-staffed yachts (naturaly), but I’ll also want to feel like my money is doing some perceptible good, and changing the world for the better. Brunello Cucinelli does all of this, and genuinely seems to be striking the perfect balance between work and personal life. If there’s any business I’d want to model after, it’s this one.