Brunello Cucinelli: Supreme Good

The great Greek philosopher Socrates once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” That quote is a challenge to us to strive for better things. It challenges us to be great!”Being great is something that Fashion Designer Brunello Cucinelli has done quite well over the last quarter century.

Interestingly enough, the Socrates & Brunello Cucinelli link is beyond his latest designs in the fashion world. I mean, it’s not often that fashion designers and philosophers are mentioned in the same sentence, let alone one of the most profound philosophers in history like Socrates. But in this case, it’s not because of the clothing line that’s drawing such comparisons. It’s the way in which Brunello Cucinelli conducts business that earns him such a flattering honor.

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In order to fully grasp the essence of Brunello Cucinelli’s business philosophy, it might help to learn a bit about his upbringing. Brunello came from very humble beginnings in Castel Rigone, which is a province of Perugia, Italy. Born in 1953 to his father, a farmer and skilled worker, and his mother, a seamstress, Brunello witnessed at a young age the work environment his father was in. To put things nicely, it wasn’t very employee friendly. It was then that he began to aspire to create a better work environment. As he got older he continued to work towards that dream, and what exactly the workplace needed: something that provided moral and economic dignity. Brunello often calls this way of living and working the “Supreme Good.” Quoted on his website as saying, “Work as an expression of human worth is also a part of spirituality, and pursues the higher purpose of Supreme Good.” Digging deeper into the philosophy, he believes we should apply the higher purpose of goodness to everything that we do.

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Brunello believed that by being able to bring that type of work environment to the table, it would reflect on the business’ success. In addition to that, he believed that this was the blueprint to a society where such jobs would enhance the employee as a person. These are things that would propel him to the top, no sooner than he could get his business off the ground. In 1978, Brunello would have his first genius moment. He decided to go into fashion, and made a huge hit with his dyed, cashmere sweaters.

At this time, especially in Italy, cashmere was the newest trend. Brunello wanted to capitalize on the popularity of it, and did so by adding his own touch. He started out with a relatively small collection of just 50 sweaters, and the headquarters was in the garage at his parents house. But that wouldn’t be a detour in his path, just a stepping stone. As time progressed and he was able to sell what he had to local enthusiasts, gradual expansion was surely soon to follow.

The initial expansion took place in the mid-1980s when Brunello acquired a shareholding in Rivamonti, a company that specialized in the creation and production of knitting wool. The acquisition ended up helping both businesses to further their growth.

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Shortly after achieving a great deal of local and national success, it was time to take the show on the road. The time had come to shoot for international success. With much more to offer now than the cashmere sweater, along with the change in fashion over time, Brunello and company had been preparing for the big time ever since the Rivamonti deal. Working with different types of materials like silk, wool, and cotton on top of their already well-received cashmere pieces, stepping into high-end fashion was the next business goal to conquer. However, it was still secondary to making an impact on the people.

“Making a profit is part and parcel of business, but for me it’s not the end all be all,” Brunello states on his website. “I wouldn’t want to live in a world where the sole purpose was to make a profit.Money has real value only when it is spent to improve the life and development of people, and that is our goal.”

As the philosophy geared towards bettering the work environment continues to grow, so does the Brunello Cucinelli brand. This year looks to be yet another successful year for Brunello and crew. Brunello spoke briefly in The New York Times about one of the latest trends he and other high-end fashion designers have been focusing on for the upcoming season. “This is the season of the father and son in the wardrobe,” referencing the fact that many of the styles and trends are repeats that many people just aren’t old enough to remember. His brand, however, literally made its fortunes from knitted sweaters. As Bloomberg Business reported, in 2013, the brand’s value had doubled from 2012. Meaning that the already wealthy millionaire and his $100 million corporation was now worth over a $1 billion!

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Everyone has a niche and a purpose. Through that purpose, we are supposed to try to better our surroundings, and pave a way for future generations to do the same. So often nowadays whether it’s factual or just speculation, we hear that in order to achieve great success, we have to be willing to commit necessary evils. On the other hand, every now and then comes about a person who exemplifies great things happening for great people. Perhaps there are more talented designers with more impressive resumes and work history than Brunello Cucinelli, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more deserving person of such success. As the great Socrates once said, “Fame is the perfume of heroic deeds.” How perfectly it suits the lone designer to which he’s so often tied to.

– Blake Holmes