With a small bank loan, Brunello Cucinelli founded his namesake Italian fashion collection in 1978. The king of cashmere’s claim to fame? Exquisitely, dyed cashmere sweaters whose colors popped against the industry’s standard neutrals. What began as oversized “boyfriend” sweaters for women, has grown into a full-blown lifestyle brand with menswear, outerwear, accessories, shoes, and home wares. The self-made billionaire shares his success by donating a large percentage of profits to the Brunello and Federica Cucinelli Foundation. Here’s more of his inspirational story.

What was your childhood like?

“I grew up the son of a farmer, so my childhood was very simple and sweet. We lived in the countryside in Umbria, where I still live. It’s home to me and where I feel happiest.”

What’s a typical day like for you?

“It’s a balance between work and family. I wake up early to read and meditate before arriving at the office at 8. I take a long lunch and rest occasionally after. I don’t permit myself or my employees to stay past 5:30, so we can spend time with our families. Spending time with my wife, daughters and granddaughter, whether we’re enjoying nature, laughing or eating a well-cooked meal together, is most important to me.”

What’s it like working with your two daughters?

“They’re very involved in the departments for women’s design and visuals. It’s been very exciting to see them grow in the business and take on more responsibility in leadership and creative roles. It’s an honor to work with them and for them to take part in my vision.”

In the 1980’s, your headquarters relocated to the medieval hamlet of Solomeo, and has since expanded with every amenity and service imaginable for its employees and the next generation of artisans, from a bona fide castle to a theatre to a tuition-free school that teaches tailoring and gardening, among several crafts. Is there any news?

“We recently announced phase two of its restoration, which is a beautification initiative. There’s a large piece of land at the foothill of Solomeo that my wife and I have wanted to return to a natural state for a while as a way to give back to our Italian heritage and honor the beautiful countryside. A Project for Beauty is divided into three parts: a 173-acre Agriculture Park with vegetable beds, vineyards, and olive and fruit groves to supply the company’s dining halls; Lay Oratory Park with a stadium for children’s sports, and Industrial Park, a colorful, fragrant garden in the former site of six industrial plants.”

Does Solomeo host tours?

“Yes, and they can be arranged through one of our stores or sales associates, or through our corporate offices in Italy and the U.S.”

Where else do you like to spend time in Umbria?

“I spend a lot of time in the town of Assisi, where I find inspiration and a spiritual connection. I bring guests there to share the experience.”

What’s your motto?

“A quote by Hadrian, the Roman emperor—‘Beauty will save the world.’”

Your relationship with Marissa Collections goes back more than 20 years. Why do you think it’s been so strong?

“Marissa Hartington was one of the first retailers in the U.S. to believe in the brand, and I’ll always be grateful for her faith in me. I really believe in building and investing in relationships, and we’ve grown our partnership in a very genuine and organic way.”

How does Marissa’s clientele relate to your collection?

“They appreciate its ease and flow. The lightweight, breathable, comfortable fabrics and light, fresh, crisp colors are a perfect fit for Florida’s climate and elegant lifestyle.”

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