At the very beginning of this 9-year blog adventure, I wrote about writers and philosophers who have been very important during my formative years. Mostly because in my mind they have been guardian of those places where honest thought marries most practice. Brunello Cucinelli is one of them.
In a recent long form interview with Om Malik (Om, I would have LOVED to be your translator for the day), Cucinelli talks about how philosophy drives how he runs his company. A believer in mens sana in corporare sano (Lat., a healthy mind in a healthy body), he says there are three things money can’t buy:
- Fitness: You have to keep fit, whether you’re rich or not
- Diet: You cannot pay someone to be on a diet for you
- Looking after your soul. No one can possibly treat your soul but you yourself
Work should ennoble man, I grew up believing it. Emilia Romagna, where Modena sits, is a region where craft has value. Think Parmesan cheese, Balsamic Vinegar, Ferrari, Armani, Pavarotti, these are just a few examples.
They call Cucinelli the Franciscan of cashmere for a reason. A self-made person, Brunello believes in communicating emotion, in integrating mind and heart. His most prized value is tolerance. He also believes that the decision about what constitutes value is yours. I am the grand-daughter of a tailor and my style is fairly classic. A few years ago, I treated myself to a lovely cashmere Brunello Cucinelli jacket.
To me, inspiration is the connection we make with spirit, and when we have room to make that connection, when there is room for us in an organization, that’s when dignity and work come together.
From the interview
About the brand:
I wanted the brand to have my face. I wanted the product to convey the culture, life, lifestyle, dignity of work. We are a listed company, and I wanted to manufacture a product with dignity. I wanted a profit with dignity. Because the press all talk about the moral ethics of profit. Why can’t we have a dignified profit then?
Before going public:
We went public, and we have more than 50 percent American investors as shareholders. Before going public, I said to them, “Are you looking for a company that grows very fast, that makes profits that are too high, in our view, quick profits? Do not invest in our company. Do you want a company that grows in a gracious way? That allows suppliers to grow alongside it, so that your artisans can grow as well as the company’s staff?”
On running a company:
You must believe in the human being, because the creativity of a company — Let’s say you have a company with 1,000 people. Maybe we were told that there are only two or three genius people in the 1,000. But I think that if you have 1,000 people, you have 1,000 geniuses. They’re just different kinds of genius and a different degree of intensity.
Cucinelli lives in the Umbrian village of Solomeo, a thirteenth century village he has adopted and restored, where he wants to make work more human and put humans at its center. His entire production is made in Italy. We have to find a different kind of balance, he says:
A 58-year-old man committed suicide, a great Italian manager, I think last year, or a couple of years ago. He wrote, “I spent a whole life running, chasing work, without realizing, at all, of the great ideals, of great values of life.”
In this environment, we too often resemble souffles caving in after coming out of the oven (via Sharon.) Making products, building things are noble activities when craft is involved.
Head over to Om’s Pi.co project site and read the full interview.
[images via BoF]