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The Cashmere Whisperers

Portrait of Carolina and Camilla Cucinelli

Portrait of Camilla (left) and Carolina Cucinelli outside of their father Brunello Cucinelli’s home in Solomeo, where they grew up. Photo By Fabio Lana, courtesy of Brunello Cucinelli.

Town of of Solomeo, in the Umbria region of Italy

The picturesque town of Solomeo, in the Umbria region of Italy, has been the longtime home—and heart—of Brunello Cucinelli.

By Kat Herriman

Even over Zoom, it is clear that Camilla and Carolina Cucinelli are cut from the same cloth. Some of what the sisters share is readily apparent: micro-expressions, turns of phrases, honey-colored hair tied neatly back. But the true foundation of their intimacy is based in that which is not readily visible, but that is ever-present on the horizon: their joint future at the helm of the behemoth that their father, Brunello Cucinelli, 70, built. During our interview, they batted questions back and forth like co-stars promoting a summer blockbuster. They finish each other’s sentences with smiles big enough to comfortably fit across two faces. This palpable harmony makes it easy to forget that these two young women, the next generation of Brunello Cucinelli, are in fact nine years apart. Growing up, they never shared resources, responsibilities, or secrets the same way they do now.

Camilla, 41, the eldest, has been at the company for 20 years, and is the co-head and creative director of womenswear collections. Camilla is too shy to brag about the accomplishments of her tenure: for instance, the consistency of her collections helped position the brand at the epicenter of quiet luxury’s rise. Luckily, her sister, Carolina, 33, the brand’s co-president and co-creative director, is happy to do it for her—having had a front-row seat during her own 14 years at the brand. She praises Camilla’s ability to invent even within the brand’s stringent guidelines. “Imagine having to create a new collection of a thousand pieces every year, knowing that no matter what you create, it has to adhere to a light color palette, rely solely on clean lines, and never flash a logo,” Carolina says. “It’s not easy. Our collections must resonate around the world.” What Brunello Cucinelli looks like season to season is just a part of the larger question the sisters must answer as the second generation. Because how exactly does one innovate within a house founded on preserving traditional ways of work, no matter the cost? How does one find ways to evolve without compromising the high, self-imposed standards of a brand synonymous with that hard won excellence?

 

Brunello Cucinelli blazer in cream with silver metallic sequins and embroidering

Linen blazer with magnolia embroidery

Brunello Cucinelli shorts in cream with silver metallic sequins and embroidering

Paillette Magnolia embroidered linen shorts

 

 

Brunello Cucinelli beige suede ballet flats with black textured toe

Suede flats

Brunello Cucinelli Oversized Sunglasses in Beige Acetate

Modern acetate square sunglasses

 

For Camilla, the answer has been to throw herself into fieldwork. So, when she and her sister are not working with the team in Solomeo (the Italian hamlet where she was raised, and which Brunello has transformed with his business and largesse), they are on the road—traveling the world to professionally people-watch. “We enjoy the research part of the job very much,” Camilla says, “We travel very willingly anywhere: In Asia, we visit Korea and Japan to research what is worn on the street. The same goes for Europe and the United States. In America, women’s clothing is unlike what you find in any other market. We try to take inspiration from the world, and then we bring the idea here, and try to make it Cucinelli.” In other words, the Cucinelli sisters must master every tongue without losing their accent. A strong narrative is an essential ingredient in the Cucinelli recipe for success. And not surprisingly, the brand wields language with the same precision and eye for detail evident in its textile production. Storytelling is the first thing you’ll encounter on their website.

 

Brunello Cucinelli white pleated and embroidered cotton jersey mini tennis dress

Cotton interlock dress

Brunello Cucinelli canvas and leather tennis tote bag with tennis racket

Canvas and leather tennis tote bag

 

In the world of Brunello Cucinelli, shopping takes a back seat to education. If you are going to invest in products and the brand’s lifestyle, they want you to know why. It is ultimately the brand’s story that converts onlookers into devotees. Each piece of Brunello Cucinelli is a fraction of a larger ethos of fighting against global efficiency’s panoptic greed with human excellence. It is Camilla and Carolina’s job to effectively bring this narrative to its future clientele, on all the new platforms they will frequent. The story of Brunello Cucinelli in 2023 was one of growth. In a year that many other luxury brands slumped and stumbled, Brunello Cucinelli triumphed: The brand ended 2023 with a record 1.14 billion euros in revenue, surpassing its 1-billion euro sales target five years ahead of schedule. They are expanding their footprint with the foundation of a new workshop, 75 craftsmen strong, and with plans to employ up to about 350 specialist craftspeople, in Penne, a small town in Abruzzo known for the supremacy of its tailors.

 

Brunello Cucinelli beige cotton textured visor with black band and rim

Hemp and cotton visor with precious band

Brunello Cucinelli Sunglasses in titanium and Rose Gold

Sartorial Sunset titanium sunglasses in rose gold

 

Carolina and Camilla peg the house’s recent success to an award-filled year—reminding me that their father took home the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion 2023. “It’s the fashion equivalent of the Oscars,” Carolina beams with pride. What we don’t touch on in our review of the brand’s year is its affinity with the sartorial tone set by HBO’s Succession, which introduced the term “quiet luxury” and thrust logo-less and other IYKYK brands like Brunello Cucinelli into the zeitgeist. This connection sets up a funny comparison between the two families: one real, one imagined. Because if you look at them on paper, they are similarly positioned. Camilla and Carolina—like Kendall, Roman, and Siobhan Roy—are the inheritors of an international corporation founded by influential fathers. But when more closely examined, the fictional, power-sick family of Succession seems like a ghoulish cartoon next to the living example of Carolina and Camilla, who, rather than attack each other for the family talking stick, have folded themselves seamlessly into a community-driven, creative enterprise, and found their niche within it. No power grabs necessary. “Usually, when the next generation comes in, they want to change everything,” Carolina says. “We don’t want to change anything. We want to keep the story going.” And this is why while Camilla and Carolina have been the beneficiaries of current trends—they still don’t see their work in those terms. “To be honest, I’m not sure if luxury is exactly quiet,” Carolina says. “But it does travel by word of mouth, which is why my sister and I prefer an Italian phrase, lusso sussurrato, that when directly translated into English means whispered luxury.” The workshops of Solomeo are never quiet. They hum with the sound of effort, past and present. It is a symphony of whispers telling the stories of yesterday, so that tomorrow, we don’t forget the beautiful place we came from.


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