Cucinelli on restoring one’s wardrobe and soul

Brunello Cucinelli was in New York for a just a day in April to promote his new book on humanistic capitalism, but the iconic Italian designer had plenty to say about fashion and life in a recent interview with Women’s Wear Daily.

At age 65, Cucinelli says he is taking a step back from managing his fashion empire, giving more authority to his co-CEOs. “I’ve never overworked: always eight hours a day, lately seven. But I am very focused during those hours.”

Indeed. And his humanistic approach to management means his employees all have 90-minute lunch breaks and are forbidden to send work emails on weekends. He strongly believes that people today are far too digitally connected. “We’re always online: on weekends, after work. We need to disconnect, to rediscover ourselves. We’re missing time to dedicate to ourselves, to restore harmony and spirituality. We haven’t focused on our souls for a good 30 years…”

Although he acknowledges that certain aspects of our lives are improving (longer lifespans, cures for many illnesses, gay rights, women’s rights), Cucinelli worries that this “malaise of the soul” has become increasingly widespread. In a recent conversation with Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, the two discussed what their businesses will leave for humanity 1,000 years from now. “Now is when we need to dedicate time to teaching and education,” Cucinelli maintains, adding that business leaders need to pass on their legacies in the same way prior civilizations acted to build a better world.

Of course, adding beauty to the world is part of Cucinelli’s legacy so this widely respected designer never hesitates to talk fashion. He insists that the number one item every man must own is a dark blue suit, flattering to all skin tones and always slimming. (His grandfather had only one suit, dark blue of course, which he wore with the same white shirt to church on Sundays and to all special occasions.) He predicts that after three to four years of streetwear-inspired fashion, menswear is returning to “sporty chic” elegance. “Fashion works in cycles and the streetwear trend is starting to tire a bit. As an Italian, when I meet someone, I like to see him dressed in an elegant way. I would never show up wearing a T-shirt, unless it’s for breakfast on the beach.”

He also likes the idea of wearing a shirt and tie without the jacket, a look he feels is very American. “But in the evening, wearing the jacket is important,” he insists. Also important is the fit of both the jacket and pants, which should trace the body. “The fit of the pant and the jacket updates the entire look. It needs to highlight the body, even if you have a few extra pounds.”

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