THE PHILOSOPHER KING
Brunello Cucinelli founded his company in 1978 by selling brightly coloured cashmere sweaters. When he was young he witnessed his father working in an unwelcoming environment and became a close observer of the world. Such experiences built the foundation of his dream to develop a framework that uses capitalism to enhance the human being.
Cucinelli’s clothes might not be the most exciting. He measures the seasonal changes in his men’s jackets in millimetres, and has never indulged in celebrity endorsement. Instead of a catwalk show in Milan, he hosts a presentation at which buyers are encouraged to feel the quality of his merchandise. In a conversation with the The Economist 1843 he said: “I believe that’s what the entire world wants. Whether it’s a Swiss watch or a British car or Italian clothes, they want quality and they want to know a lot of work and a lot of skill has gone into its manufacture, and they want to know that nobody has been hurt making it.”
In many ways Brunello Cucinelli is an anomaly in an industry, which is focused on fast pace, advancement and changed. However, in Italy, the culture of slowly manufactured craftsmanship is as much a part of the national conversation as la dolce vita is the essence of the lifestyle. It is their way to slow down fast fashion. But his practice has been echoed by a growing number of smaller luxury brands building a loyal customer base and serving them with exceptional products.
Today, Cucinelli is the symbol of “humanistic capitalism”. He pays his staff more than the average wage for their jobs, insists they work no longer than eight-and-a-half hours a day, and returns around 20 per cent of his profits to the community.
Capitalism and Kant do not always go well together, and pleasing the stockmarket is not Cucinelli’s main priority. In his eyes, a "business has to be gracious" and an ideal growth rate is around 10 per cent. "Profit is the gift when creation is perfect.” Nevertheless, Cucinelli’s investors cannot complain. The company was floated in 2012. Since then, his shares have tripled in value. In the same period, the Dow has risen by around a half.