SOLOMEO, Italy — Solomeo is a picturesque and quaint medieval hamlet in itself, perched on the hills a few miles from Perugia, but on Sunday night its charm was accented by the buzzy and celebratory event marking Brunello Cucinelli’s 70th birthday.
About 600 guests attended the evening fiesta in the town, which has been restored over the years by Cucinelli and which houses his namesake company. While there were some high-profile personalities — including Patrick Dempsey, Vanessa Kirby, Jonathan Bailey, Martha Stewart, Ava Phillippe and Ashley Park and her partner Paul Forman — the entrepreneur and designer invited his friends of a lifetime, his employees and editors and journalists he feels have supported him over the years.
Dempsey arrived from the Venice Film Festival after the premiere of Michael Mann’s “Ferrari,” where he wore Cucinelli on the red carpet. In the film he plays Ferrari driver Piero Taruffi. “It was an extraordinary moment just as the festival marks 80 years of history and, with everything going on, to be able to get the waiver felt very special,” he said, as the actors’ and writers’ strikes in Hollywood continue.
Affable and approachable, Dempsey then paid tribute to Cucinelli, “the beautiful little village he created, where it all started. He’s just a remarkable man, not only for the quality of his clothes and fabrics but also for the values and thoughts [behind] them. He makes you think about the important things in life, and with his love of stoicism, when you wear Cucinelli, you become a better person.”
After first gathering in Solomeo’s main square, the sea of guests wearing the host’s beloved colors of white, panama, light gray and beige — as per the dress code for the evening — descended the steps that led to the theater and the amphitheater built by Cucinelli, where a huge bust of the Roman Emperor Hadrian stood on the stage — one of his revered mentors from antiquity.
To the tune of the 1994 “Officium” album by Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble, 60 models — from Eva Herzigova and Bianca Balti to Mark Vanderloo and his son Mark Jr. to James Turlington and Lucky Blue Smith — walked to the stage wearing 60 retrospective designs. Cucinelli, wearing an off-white double-breasted cashmere suit, made quite an entrance at sunset, taking the stage for his speech, the church’s bells ringing in the background, the high cypresses in the background gently blowing in the evening breeze.
After admitting to a degree of nervousness, which Hadrian would “help overcome,” explaining he had worked on the speech for three days, Cucinelli spoke without notes of Solomeo as “the location of his soul,” of his relationship with nature, his youth, growing up in the countryside in a family of farmers and the life-changing move to the city, and his education at the town bar, where he was introduced to philosophy and politics by the young students spending time there.
Cucinelli took the opportunity to shine a light on the issues that have long been dear to him — including the dignity of work and social responsibility and the importance of “truth, justice and humanity” — quoting several of those who have influenced him over the years, from Confucius and Xenophanes to Saint Benedict and Dante Alighieri. “I would like this to be the birthday of gratitude,” he said.
Dante’s fourth Canto from the “Divine Comedy” was shortly after the speech recited by Italian actor Claudio Santamaria, while actress Ilaria Genatiempo read a passage from the “Cantico dei Cantici.”
After the dinner, which included Da Vittorio’s famed paccheri pasta, and blowing out 70 candles on the birthday cake, Cucinelli’s family and employees presented him with their gift — a life-size statue of Apollon, the god of music, dance and poetry, among others. “I am Italian and the company is Italian, but I admit I have always thought in Greek,” he said of his fascination with the philosophers from ancient Greece.
“I am convinced our souls are eternal,” said Cucinelli, “but I do wish my company will last for centuries.”