This is an edition of the newsletter Show Notes, in which Samuel Hine reports from the front row of the spring and fall fashion weeks. Sign up here to get it in your inbox.
On Sunday evening on the Umbrian hilltop that Brunello Cucinelli calls home, the menswear mogul hosted a 70th birthday party of epic proportions. It was a milestone moment in more ways than one: his brand recently announced its best sales figures in its 40 years, with revenues set to hit the $1 billion mark in 2023. So there was much more than cake in store for the some 500 friends, clients, and celebs who were invited to Solomeo, the medieval hamlet that Cucinelli has spent decades restoring with a benevolent, well-manicured hand. Like a fashion show. A lengthy philosophical speech. A mountain of food and barrels of wine. And a chance to see Solomeo, the town that’s achieved a mythic status in the menswear world. Cucinelli calls it the “Hamlet of Cashmere and Harmony.”
One guest of honor, Martha Stewart, was practically bowled over by the cashmere kingpin’s beige-hued world. “It’s very inspiring, and it actually makes me wonder: what have we been doing with our lives, really?” she told me. “I mean, I know I’ve done a lot, but he’s done more.”
Stewart, swaddled in a sparkly caftan, was sitting with Cucinelli at a large dinner table festooned with wildflowers and plates of perfectly marbled prosciutto. I could sense that the woman who knows a thing or two about good taste and hospitality wasn’t really joking. We were about to have a meal catered by Da Vittorio, a restaurant outside Bergamo that serves rustic Italian cuisine and has three Michelin stars. Under a soaring tent, every single guest—seriously—had adhered to a strict dress code of rustic tones. “Shades of white, panama, light grey, and beige” read the invite. (Panama is the color of the hat, basically—I had to ask.) From afar, it looked a bit like a gathering of the world’s most rich- and relaxed-looking cult.
Solomeo, where Cucinelli’s wife was born and raised, is practically engineered to make you consider life’s big questions. It’s not just the enormous bust of Emperor Hadrian that guards the town’s amphitheater, or the quotes by Socrates and Papa Francesco that adorn walls around the town. For many menswear enthusiasts, the town (pop: around 400) is a Mecca of quiet luxury, the seat of Cucinelli’s cashmere empire and the source of his creative drive. It is also where his ethos of humanistic capitalism has taken root; almost every resident of the town works for Brunello Cucinelli, where they are paid solid wages, encouraged to read great books, and sustained with three-course lunches and chill work hours.
Real Cucinelli heads will tell you that there’s more to the brand’s flaxen blazers and plush sweaters than the gorgeous fabrics and highly considered design details. A certain soulfulness. A secret sauce that sets them apart from the other stealth wealth brands. Earlier, when the village was bathed in golden light, I toured the town’s renovated 13th-century church and gazed from perfectly manicured piazzas at Cucinelli’s vineyards in the valley below. Hardly a leaf on an olive tree was out of place. “It doesn’t look like this for your benefit,” noted a Cucinelli employee as we walked by a cat lounging in a sunbeam beneath a lemon tree. “It is always like this.”