Brunello Cucinelli feted his 70th birthday and the 45th anniversary of his brand Sunday evening, with a debut runway display, authentic dinner and philosophical discourse in Solomeo, the perfectly restored village in Umbria he has made his home.

Brunello Cucinelli –

Though this atypical but hugely successful designer nevertheless insisted that the fashion performance was “not a show but a presentation,” even if some 50 dashing models starred in the event.
The coolly mixed cast of exotic beauties and handsomely matured guys, like 55-year-old male Dutch super Mark Vanderloo, marched out of Solomeo’s theater and down an aisle before posing on a pale gray open proscenium finished with four white Ionic columns and Mediterranean cypresses. Decorated also with a giant head of the ancient Roman emperor Hadrian.

An almost spiritual procession backed up by the soaring cathedral-worthy chords of Parce Mihi Domine by Hilliard Ensemble & Jan Garbarek. Before Brunello appeared over the top steps to much applause, dressed in a pristine white and ecru spilt linen. The dress code read white, Panama, light gray and beige, leading to the audience looking almost as splendid as the cast. Most of whom looked marvelous in Brunello’s blend of houndstooth check linen jerkins, ecru linen blazers and pale chalk-stripe suits for guys. Or sandy super fresh wool mannish suits, linen bloomers, boyish white cotton shirts and tulle and satin shirt dresses with breastplates in a natty expression of the designer’s effortless and spotless chic.
In a gently spoken sermon like 25-minute speech Cucinelli described Hadrian, St Dominic, Confucius and Seneca as his “masters,” intermingling quotations from these thinkers with anecdotes of his youth.
In an industry where many designers hide their modest roots – Coco Chanel even paid some relatives never to come to Paris – Cucinelli constantly draws inspiration from his own poor background.
Recalling “growing up without electricity in the countryside,” and standing outside after family dinners “searching for inspiration from the stars.”
“Moving to the city around 10 years old we finally got electric light and a warm home, but I missed our family dinners in the countryside,” he recalled, before gesturing to the surrounding village, or what he calls “our borgo (hamlet) of iconic cashmere.” 

Brunello Cucinelli –

His speech having a marked effect on his audience, including Patrick Dempsey, the brand ambassador of the house who flew in from Venice.
“I think Brunello’s generosity is inspirational. Giving back is his purpose. In a world that has lost compassion and care I think he is terrific. No wonder so many people have shown up to celebrate Brunello tonight. He is a gift to us all,” said Dempsey.

These days, Brunello is busy building a library or 2,000 square-meter Biblioteca Universale, in his model village, inspired by Hadrian, “the emperor who used to say that books were his first love. And books have taught me much about life too.”
Unlike his war-like predecessor Trajan, Hadrian’s rule was marked by the creation of semi-autonomous provincial towns, giant building projects like his wall in Britain and the creation of multiple monuments that still stand today. Hadrian spent half his rule on the road outside Rome, rather like Brunello who began as a one-man cashmere seller in 1978, and last year was ranked by Forbes as the 33rd richest person in Italy, with net worth of €2.4 billion.
A post-show dinner was another spectacle, local Umbrian delicacies and Brunello’s fetish pasta – Mezzi Paccheri alla Vittorio, prepared live by suitably rotund chefs, and partly stirred by Martha Stewart and Brunello in huge copper pots. All washed down with his own superb Castello di Solomeo red wine. A string quartet played classical airs during the main course, while a four-piece Italian band hit tunes like Tu vuò fà l’Americano at dessert.
Before his daughter Carolina presented him a birthday present: a classic white statue of Apollo playing his lyre, a reference to both the respect for Greek culture of both Brunello and Hadrian.
“In business and in work I have always acted like an Italian, but in my mind thought like a Greek,” said Brunello, before cutting the first slice of a billiard table sized birthday cake.

Cucinelli and Patrick Dempsey – FNW

History is never too far away in Italy, especially in Umbria. Not 30 minutes from Solomeo, a more warlike leader, Hannibal of Carthage, inflicted a legendary defeat on the Romans at Lake Trasimeno in 217 BC. Flying into Perugia, that lake is green and polluted today. And eco-concerns remain upper most in Cucinelli’s mind, especially now that he has become a grandfather.
“To me there is a new form of sustainability – economic, cultural, spiritual and technological,” argued the designer, who has won plaudits from King Charles for a joint project the Italian financed in the Himalayas, planting trees and shrubs to prevent soil erosion, and protect the future of local communities herding cashmere goats, living at over 4,000 meters.
Besides the visiting stars like Olivia Palermo and Stewart, Brunello invited scores of international media – “we’ve known each other for decades and shared so many thoughts, so grazie” – and a whole local crew of his buddies from school and university days, who backslapped and cheered him all evening. Though he never completed his degree or studied fashion, Perugia University made him a laureate honoris causa in philosophy a decade ago.

“Thanks also to youthful departed friends who have gone where Seneca said that we will all meet again – may they enlighten out path,” he said emotionally.
Before the fading light and the first twinkle of stars led him to his final phrase as he pointed to his dashing cast.
“To the new generation, when someone offends you, you should just go outside and look at the stars and that will calm you. May the sky and stars illuminate us all.”

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