The Australian - Wish Magazine - - MOTORING -

So, the last time we met we talked about phi­los­o­phy, and phi­los­o­phy is still the same for us,” Brunello Cucinelli says through a trans­la­tor, sit­ting up­right be­hind a glass desk in his sprawl­ing, light-filled of­fice at the brand’s head­quar­ters in Solomeo, Um­bria. It’s four years since WISH talked with Cucinelli, the cash­mere king lauded in Italy for his cap­i­tal­ismo uman­is­tico (hu­man­ist cap­i­tal­ism), but he picks up on our pre­vi­ous thread of con­ver­sa­tion as though it were just last week. “First of all, I’d like to share with you some com­ments on the parco della bellezza, the park of beauty,” he con­tin­ues un­prompted, ges­tur­ing out­side his win­dows, “fol­lowed by some im­por­tant com­ments on these pre­cise mo­ments we are liv­ing. Then I’d like to share with you some com­ments on the de­cline of con­sumerism” – he points to my iPhone and gri­maces – “this in­for­mat­ics, this IT noise in which we are im­mersed. And then the other theme is the prob­lem that we over­work. We over­work and we there­fore we are too much con­nected.”

This is how an in­ter­view tran­spires with Cucinelli: equal parts con­ver­sa­tion, ser­mon and sym­po­sium. He places A4 sheets of pa­per in front of him, on which he sketches, cir­cles and un­der­lines notes to em­pha­sise his themes, which over the next hour will segue from the im­por­tance of liv­ing ac­cord­ing to our na­ture, to the lives of Michelan­gelo, Lorenzo de Medici, Leonardo Da Vinci and his con­cern about what he calls il male dell’anima, our “malaise of the spirit”, for which he be­lieves mo­bile tech­nol­ogy is partly to blame.

For 60 min­utes, how­ever, he won’t ut­ter a sin­gle word about fash­ion. Noth­ing about his de­sign in­spi­ra­tion or the de­sir­abil­ity of his lux­u­ri­ous ready-to-wear gar­ments – sig­nif­i­cant, con­sid­er­ing the pub­licly listed Brunello Cucinelli global em­pire turned over a net profit of 220 mil­lion ($320m) in the first half of 2016, and is fore­cast to grow sales and prof­its at dou­ble-digit rates for the sec­ond half. He will talk and talk in his rich, melo­di­ous voice, punc­tu­ated by pas­sion­ate ges­tures, and we lis­ten, happy to be mere pas­sen­gers in the di­a­logue. Be­cause it’s not what Cucinelli has to say that makes him such an ex­tra­or­di­nary hu­man be­ing. It’s what he does. In this lit­tle cor­ner of Um­bria, Cucinelli, the son of a farmer turned fac­tory worker, has cre­ated an in­dus­trial utopia for him­self and his 800 work­ers, with fair­ness and re­spect for hu­man­ity as the pil­lars of big­profit en­ter­prise. “Il fu­turo dell’Italia è nella bellezza,” Cucinelli is fond of say­ing. The fu­ture of Italy – and maybe of us all – is in beauty.

“Ev­ery­thing we can do, we do for some­one else,” Cucinelli had con­fided dur­ing our pre­vi­ous visit to his head­quar­ters in Jan­uary 2012. “This is the phi­los­o­phy of our life. I would like that when you buy a Brunello Cucinelli item you know that; I hope you know that we

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