MILAN — Humanism is not exactly top of mind for most entrepreneurs, but anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes with Brunello Cucinelli knows that is exactly one of his favorite subjects.
It’s also a topic that Cucinelli revealed on Wednesday was developed for three days with a group of entrepreneurs that reads like a Silicon Valley Who’s Who: Jeff Bezos, founder, president and chief executive officer of Amazon.com; Dick Costolo, entrepreneur, former ceo of Twitter; Reid Hoffman, cofounder and executive president of LinkedIn; Ruzwana Bashir, founder and ceo of Peek.com; Drew Houston, ceo and founder of Dropbox; Lynn Jurich, cofounder and co-ceo of Sunrun, and Nirav Tolia, cofounder of Nextdoor.
Gathering in Solomeo, the central Italian medieval village Cucinelli has restored and that is home to the company’s headquarters, the group met for the “Symposium on Soul and Economics,” May 23 to 25. “Next year, Jeff Bezos invited us to his ranch,” Cucinelli told WWD.
However, Cucinelli said that “economics” did not factor in. “These have been three beautiful days, and we never discussed revenues or business. It was a private visit, a moment to talk about humanity. I never saw Jeff Bezos or the others with their phones,” said Cucinelli. “It reminded me of the times under Lorenzo the Magnificent [de’ Medici, patron of the arts].”
The beauty, silence and quality of life of Solomeo helped matters — with a dinner at the cantina, or wine cellar, with a statue of Bacchus placed at the entrance and visible from the hamlet, or walking through the park to the travertine exedra, incorporating a tripod in the center and with five arches, above which bold bronze letters spell out the words: “Tribute to Human Dignity.” Spirituality is so evident in Solomeo, Cucinelli has said, that he decided to call the town the “Hamlet of the Spirit.”
Last year, Cucinelli unveiled the conclusion of his latest restoration project of Solomeo, 10 minutes outside of the central town of Perugia, which he has masterminded for the past 30 years, setting up a theater, a tailoring school, the Ginnasio garden and the Aurelian Neo-humanistic Academy, among other sites.
“They were fascinated by the life of the hamlet, that kind of humanity we must find again. Who says we can’t return to the hamlet and work there, surrounded by nature and silence? Nobody. We are all connected,” mused Cucinelli. Humanizing the web has also long been a priority for Cucinelli.
It was a first at Solomeo for all the guests, except for Tolia. “It’s not easy to find the time to look up to the sky and talk about the stars, but this enlightens us,” Cucinelli remarked. “Our goal is to plan for a thousand years for our children and their children and so on.”
Cucinelli said he considers his guests from California “the young Leonardos of the third millennium,” striving to “pursue the highest ideal of an economy imbued with humanity.”
Cucinelli, who first met Bezos in September and this time presented him with a sculpted bust of Hadrian, said he was touched by the “intimacy” of the discussions. Asked to identify the common denominator of the men in the group, helming public companies, Cucinelli said it was the “ongoing research for respect and dignity,” and a vision that went beyond quarterly results but rather into centuries ahead.
“I feel I’ve seen genius in their faces,” said Cucinelli. “They are moved by the great desire to find in work great humanity. Together, in these days of friendship and reflection, we have confirmed once again our respect and protection of what has always been seen as the deepest treasure of people, the highest evidence of the original nobility of man, the utmost expression of freedom and moral supremacy: the soul.”
In this light, Cucinelli believes “our ideas for the future entail the joy of a technology subject to humanity.”
Cucinelli enjoys having guests at Solomeo. In May, he said six Buddhist monks he had first met in San Francisco during a trip to Silicon Valley had been visiting the company’s headquarters. “It was fascinating to learn about the monastic culture, I came out enriched. I like the idea of opening up to the world.” Ahead of his company’s initial public offering in 2012, analysts were invited to Solomeo to see firsthand what lay behind the brand, and those trips were reportedly a hit and contributed to the success of the road show.
Cucinelli, who is chairman and ceo of his namesake company, earlier this year said that, starting from April 2020, he will become executive chairman and remain creative director and “guardian of the brand.” As reported, he will be flanked by two co-ceos: Riccardo Stefanelli, 38, the husband of his eldest daughter, Camilla, who has 13 years of experience within the company, and Luca Lisandroni, 41, who joined three years ago from Luxottica. One manager is from the family and will be based in Solomeo. Lisandroni, on the other hand, will be based in Milan. For the past year, they have been acting as ceo’s as “a general trial.”