Brunello Cucinelli: Fashion and philosophy

Brunello Cucinelli: A fashion for industry

In a country where thousands of little towns are being deserted by younger people moving to the cities, the village of Solomeo is thriving, and it's mainly the work of one extraordinary man. His name is Brunello Cucinelli, and if you haven't heard of him, maybe it's because you're not shopping in the right places.

Cucnelli makes luxury wear – the finest fabrics all very carefully made into clothing bound for the best stores and the brightest lights. Ryan Reynolds has been known to show up on the red carpet wearing Cucinelli; so has Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio. 

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Designer Brunello Cucinelli. CBS News

A Cucinelli cashmere sweater can cost $2,000. A suit? Closer to $5,000. And it was all started by a man with a dream, and not much else.

Brunello Cucinelli was born near Solomeo in 1953, and grew up in a house with no plumbing or electricity. As a young man, inspired by the woman he would eventually marry, he hit on the idea of making knitwear.

He had no money when he started his business. "We were farmers, so I did not have even a dollar in my pocket," he said.

So, with a $500 loan, he made a handful of cashmere sweaters. And now, Cucinelli is an international $500 million a year company. 

But it's not all about money. Through this company, Brunello Cucinelli changed his life, and the lives of nearly everyone around him. 

He started with Solomeo's medieval church, which was practically a ruin, and had it restored to its original glory. And then he built a 240-seat theatre in the heart of the village. He tore down old warehouses that cluttered the valley, and let trees grow there instead, restoring the magnificent view.

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The town of Solomeo, whose fortunes have been raised by Brunello Cucinelli's company. CBS News

The Cucinelli factory is beautiful, too. An entire wall is mostly windows, giving people the feeling that they're working outside.

And as you might expect, Cucinelli also pays his workers more than they'd get just about anywhere else.

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A sunlight-filled Cucinelli factory. CBS News

But forget about overtime; it's forbidden to work after 5:30 p.m. The boss believes that working too many hours will "steal your soul." He advocates a balance of "mind, soul and work." 

And so, at precisely one p.m. every day, the very stylish Cucinelli workforce heads to the company dining hall en masse for a mandatory, and subsidized, 90-minute lunch.

So, why does Cucinelli pamper his workers? Part of it comes from watching his own father drag himself home each day from his back-breaking job in a cement factory. Cucinelli saw the tears in his eyes.

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Brunello Cucinelli fashions. CBS News

"Yes, I was 15, 16. It was really impactful to see my father being humiliated. That's where I got my inspiration, and that's where my big project of life came from, the moral and economic dignity of the human being," he said.

Cucinelli calls all of this a "humanistic enterprise in the world of industry" … and apparently, it works. The company is growing, and Cucinelli himself is a billionaire,

Correspondent Tracy Smith asked, "You were on the Forbes list as being a billionaire. And people showed this to your father, and what did your father say?"

Cucinelli replied, 'He pointed at me. He said, 'The only thing that matters to me is for you to be a good man. So this was the dream of my life.'"

And looking at Solomeo, it seems dad got his wish.

      
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Story produced by John D'Amelio.