Cashmere and Beyond
For spring-summer 2011, Brunello Cucinelli has gone far beyond his rich heritage of offering the finest cashmere for both men and women. “Even though we provide a full lifestyle collection, cashmere is always at its core,” says the designer. In 1985, he started his company as a “project with just 30 women’s tunics in colored cashmere inspired by Benetton’s take on colored wool.” It evolved through the years into a luxury lifestyle collection for men and women. Cucinelli is just as passionate about doing good as he is about living well. “Every year,” he says, “I challenge myself and my coworkers to be better people and better employees.” The designer checked in from his home in Italy to chat about his newest collections, explain why giving back is at the heart of his business and reveal his plans for the future.
Meet Cucinelli during a personal appearance at Marissa Collections on April 1.
Do you think fashion can play a key role in making women feel good during these tough times?
I think fashion has always played an important role in the life of women, especially during more difficult times. Women need to feel inspired by fashion season after season, but during tough times, they also need to feel an emotional connection to the brand. Our challenge was to make sure they always felt that by buying one of our pieces they weren’t just getting something new but were also making a smart investment.
What is your philosophy in running a business?
Our company is a “humanistic enterprise.” We focus not only on making a product of great quality and craftsmanship but also on improving the lives of our employees and dedicating 20 percent of our profits to making our surroundings more beautiful. With this in mind, we have been able to restore the medieval village of Solomeo, where our company is based. We have paid our factory workers higher wages, giving more dignity to their daily lives, and we’ve gone as far as Africa to open a hospital and a school in Malawai.
What is the inspiration behind your latest collection? What is the mood you wanted to create?
The spring collection had a safari and travel inspiration; it’s “a journey through space and time.” The palette ranges from khaki to tobacco, including military greens paired with touches of extra dark color [prune, cigar, brushwood and berry] that appear worn by time and by travel.
What are the key pieces a woman needs in her wardrobe for spring? What classic pieces should every woman have in her wardrobe?
For this spring, the foulard jacket, which has such a versatile style with cotton and chiffon, can be appropriate for both daytime and evening. Sage-colored oversize knits paired with a tobacco leather cargo legging is one of our signature ensembles for spring. The classics for every woman’s wardrobe should be lightweight cashmere sweaters in neutral colors, a crisp cotton white blouse with details in the collar or cuffs, and a pair of relaxed pants with pleat details.
Which designers did you admire most as you were building your business?
The two companies that have always inspired me are Ralph Lauren, for its capability of creating a true lifestyle from its merchandising and advertising campaigns, and Hermès, for building a brand based on the utmost quality and craftsmanship, focused on heritage and understated luxury.
Why has cashmere always been so important to you?
Cashmere was the origin of my entire concept. I chose to work with this special material because of its ability to create an emotional connectivity with the wearer. I’ve spent a lot of time in Mongolia, seeing how cashmere is made, meeting with the farmers who produce it and witnessing the love and care each farmer has for the job of producing this special product. This feeling is somehow transferred into the garments.
Where do you see your label going in the future?
I think growing our product offering is an important part of our strategy. In the past few seasons, we have invested a lot of our resources in the accessories category. I feel that we are finally getting to a point where we can offer our customers a full collection, from small leather goods to travel pieces and even costume jewelry. In the future, I could see us being involved with an eyewear collection and a fragrance.
For more fashion tips and trends, check out our Style File blog!
Gulfshore Life’s Style Council
Led by Denise Cobb, the members include Patty Baker, Mary Susan Clinton, Shirlene Elkins, Heather Fitzenhagen, Susie McCurry, Amy Oshier, Connie Rosellini and Cynthia Sherman.
WHERE TO BUY BRUNELLO CUCINELLI
1167 Third St. S., Naples;