Brunello Cucinelli’s Next Generation Covers 10 Magazine Issue 71

What’s it like to grow up in a cashmere dream world? Ask Carolina Cucinelli, the 32-year-old daughter of Brunello, the king of quiet luxury, who runs the company with her father. Like her parents and older sister Camilla, who heads the women’s design department, she lives in the medieval hamlet of Solomeo. It sits high on a hill overlooking the rich farmland of Perugia. At its foot are the sleek Brunello Cucinelli headquarters and workshops, where some of the most luxurious and sought-after knits in the world are made.

Her mother, Federica, grew up in Solomeo and persuaded Brunello, who was born in nearby Castel Rigone, to set up home there. They live in a comfortable villa filled with medieval art and altar pieces which boasts a veranda lined with busts of Mr Cucinelli’s favourite philosophers. Carolina and Camilla were born there and are raising their own children in Solomeo, too. “The most important feeling in our childhood was for sure the freedom because it’s a very small hamlet. We are around 800 people, but everyone knows each other. The freedom that the community lives with is beautiful,” she says.

On fine nights and feast days, residents come to the town square to use the communal pizza oven, including Mr Cucinelli and his family. “Even when you have a group of kids playing together in the square alone, you always know that someone is watching over them if they need anything.” They say it takes a village to raise a child, and for the Cucinellis, that village is Solomeo. She recalls her father describing it as a place “without poverty or loneliness, where everybody supports each other mutually,” and she wants the same sense of community and freedom for her toddler son, Brando.

Famed for his cashmere, Carolina’s father practises what he calls humanistic capitalism: he seeks to maintain a healthy bottom line but not at the expense of human dignity. A major philanthropist, he donates 20 per cent of the brand’s profits to cultural causes through his charitable Brunello and Federica Cucinelli Foundation. It’s been his life’s work to restore Solomeo’s medieval architecture, while he’s also set up artisan schools in the town to train the next generation of Italian craftspeople and built a theatre which attracts world-class performers. Under his watch, the town has become a cultural epicentre. His next big project is the creation of a Universal Library. Opening next year, it is a huge undertaking; devoted to books on art, philosophy, architecture and crafts, it will welcome all scholars.

As extraordinary as he is, Mr Cucinelli wanted his children to have as regular a life as possible, embedded in a nurturing community. “Our parents basically brought us up in a feeling of normality and tranquillity, always with an eye toward caring for your next-door neighbour, to support him when he’s in need.” Her mother was “more on the strict side”, setting rules and pushing the girls to do well at school. “The firmness with which she held it all together is a kind of attitude that I like to copy for my family, too. For me, Mom really means family because sometimes she really played the mom and dad roles at the same time.” Her father was often away, travelling for business, but when he returned, his intention was to create cherished times. “So, he was there only for fun,” remembers Carolina. “He would prompt us to do less, if possible, rather than more, and to enjoy life.”

from left: Camilla and Carolina wear BRUNELLO CUCINELLI

The family rule was never to talk business at home, so it was only when Carolina was older that she realised her entrepreneur parents were different. The penny dropped in 2012 when her father floated the company he’d founded with €550 as a university dropout in 1978. The IPO, on the Milan Stock Exchange, made him a billionaire. “We started seeing our dad on television and in the press,” she says. “That’s when we fully realised that we were part of something pretty big.” Then, as now, Solomeo was a sanctuary from outside pressures (“It’s the place where I feel most free”) and the factory was a home from home for the Cucinelli children. “We spent a lot of time in the factory while we were growing up because our parents were there a lot themselves, so to be closer with them, we were there too,” she says, describing the artisans who worked there as a second family. The seamstresses would look after the girls and give them offcuts of cashmere to play with.“They taught us how to sew and make dresses for our dolls. They are the ones who perhaps passed on to us a passion for this kind of work,” she says. Her parents encouraged both sisters to explore their own interests. Camilla, 41, studied literature at university, while Carolina had ambitions to be a painter, photographer or fashion designer.

Their parents suggested they spend six months working for the company, to understand its operations, before making any career decisions. Both sisters started at the bottom. Camilla began archiving buttons and Carolina made copies of knitting patterns, but when the six months was up, neither wanted to leave.

They worked their way through several departments and, over time, got to know the entire factory team. “We had an opportunity to have a full 360-degree view of the company, getting to know everything from the supply chain to the way the product is made, communicated and marketed,” says Carolina, who was drawn to the marketing and communications side of the business and is now co-president and co-creative director with her father. Camilla focused more on design and is now the creative director for the women’s collections. There’s a nine-year age gap between them, but she describes their relationship as being “like twins”. They often take coffee breaks together and relieve the pressure by making each other laugh. “My sister is my shoulder for sure,” she says. They’ve supported each other’s journeys through the company. “It was very interesting to find our own place here and bring our creativity into this world. It was very satisfying,” says Carolina. She met her husband, Alessio Piastrelli, at work (he’s the design director for the men’s collection) and her sister is married to Riccardo Stefanelli, the company’s CEO. The clan often get together for Sunday lunch, but business talk is not encouraged. “We all live very close by but also have a lot of respect for each other’s lives,” says Carolina of the boundaries they set.

Working with family brings both challenge and reward. “It’s not easy to play the two different roles of being a daughter and at the same time working for your father,” she says. She describes Mr Cucinelli, 69, as an inspiring boss. “He listens a lot and is very open to the ideas of the new generation. He supports this a lot.” It’s rare for luxury brands to have young women in positions of such power, and Cucinelli sees it as something which gives the brand a modern edge. “I represent the vision of my generation inside the company. You see, I am 32. I have my own point of view, a young woman’s point of view about the product and communication.” She’s supercharged the company’s digital footprint and social communications, and her youth brings a fearlessness and sense of optimism to the boardroom. “There’s an openness towards the new and to whatever the future makes available for us without any kind of fear. I keep repeating it during different meetings: we are not scared of new technology.” One thing that won’t change, though, is the signature Cucinelli mix of modern design and humanist values that her father placed at the heart of the brand. Carolina believes you can’t have one without the other. “I hope that we will always be able to design contemporary collections that are really up to date. Because you can talk and tell the story of any beautiful values in the world but unless you have a contemporary collection backing you up, there is no future.”


Resolutely unfrilly, she describes her own tomboy look as “very laid-back and easy” and credits her style to her father.“I think my dad played an important role in me liking the masculine style,” she says. “I like a trouser suit very much, maybe paired with a more feminine shirt or a total denim look.” She’ll mix pieces from the new collections with archive. “I love the ’90s knits that my father used to wear,” she says, and often borrows pieces from her husband’s wardrobe “although he’s not always happy about that!”

One of the main lessons she’s learnt, growing up as a Cucinelli, is that you only get out what you put in. “You need to work to make a dream. This is the story that I wanted to bring.” When she’s not travelling for business, she takes the short commute down the hill to the factory, starting her working day at 8am. “Every day, there are a lot of things on the table,” she says. Like all women with big jobs and young families, she feels the pressure.“It’s not always easy. It’s all about the quality of the time not the quantity, because if I stop and look at the quantity, it is not good. But the quality is important.” At lunchtime, the majority of the Cucinelli staff feast on delicious, locally sourced dishes served in the factory canteen, but Carolina takes the opportunity to pop home and have lunch with Brando. Then she’s back at her desk until 5.30. That’s when everyone clocks off because her father values quality of life over gruelling hours.

“He taught me to treat the others the same way I would like to be treated and also never to turn your eye away from poverty and from the needs of other people,” says Carolina. Those values are in the forefront of her mind whenever she has to make a business decision. “It’s all about respect towards people, towards the land, towards the wildlife, basically towards everything. Do whatever you want to do, but always with the utmost respect.”

Issue 71 of 10 Magazine – FASHION, ICON, DEVOTEE – is on newsstands September 7. Pre-order your copy here. For the reveal of the inaugural issue of 10 USA, click here



Photographer CEDRIC BUCHET
Make-up ANDREW GALLIMORE at Of Substance using Victoria Beckham Beauty
Fashion assistant GEORGIA EDWARDS
Shot on location the Brunello Cucinelli factory and the Project for Beauty, in Solomeo, Perugia.


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