Brunello Cucinelli

MILAN Brunello Cucinelli has long praised the potential of the digital world and of technology, while keeping a healthy distance from it at the same time, talking about “humanizing the Web.” The entrepreneur this week had a taste of the power of the Internet and social media that he did not imagine, taking stock of the backlash received after posting a photo revealed to have been Photoshopped.

As first reported by WWD, Cucinelli held an informal gathering in Solomeo, the central Italian medieval village he has restored and that is home to the company’s headquarters, for the first “Symposium on Soul and Economics,” May 23 to 25. Cucinelli invited: 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. However, in the photo that Cucinelli uploaded on his Instagram account, Jurich and Bashir were Photoshopped, surrounded by the other guests and other men.

Social media, following a Buzzfeed report, did not take this well, accusing Cucinelli of dishonesty and blaming him for adding the two women just to show that there were not only men at the event.

Speaking with WWD, Brunello Cucinelli kept his cool, but took the time to explain what happened, saying simply: “They were there, that is the truth, it’s all true. During the visit, we took several photos in different areas of Solomeo, at the theater, in front of the monument to the dignity of man, at the Cantina, but I really wanted a photograph with us all standing below the plaque with a phrase by Leonardo that reads “I will create an invention that will mean great things.” I wanted to pay homage to Leonardo with the modern Leonardos of the world. And that was the photo I wanted to upload on social media.”

But there was one glitch. Cucinelli said that, when the photo was taken, Jurich and Bashir were just around the corner looking at the shops in the hamlet. “When we realized that they were not in the photo, they said ‘what shall we do? Why don’t you just insert us with Photoshop?’ They were fully in agreement. There was no duplicity, and, in fact, they themselves posted the photos on their own social media accounts.”

Cucinelli is also dodging another accusation, that of having invited only two women. In reality, the photo shows more men because a number his collaborators joined in, but Jurich and Bashir were two out of only six guests. “It was not an open invitation extended widely, but a focused one, to a group of friends I have known for the past four years or so,” said Cucinelli. To further drive this point home, he noted that Bezos is not in the photo either. “He is a public figure but this was a personal visit and, although he did not have any special request, I as a host thought it was a courtesy to sort of protect him.”

Asked how he felt about the comments left online, Cucinelli took it in stride. “It’s all part of our modern times, everyone can speak their mind and I find it only fair for people to object if there’s something to correct, but we stand behind our truth, it all happened and they were there.”

As reported, next year, Jeff Bezos invited the group to his ranch for a similar event — and photo ops are likely to be penciled in.