Photographer: James Mollison
Under the Umbrian Sun
When you arrive at the tiny hilltop village of Solomeo to meet sisters Camilla, 33, and Carolina Cucinelli, 25, you feel as though you’ve landed in the Umbrian version of Camelot. For the past three decades, the medieval hamlet in the heart of Italy has been restored by their father, Brunello Cucinelli, who grew up in the area. After he and his high school sweetheart, Federica, transformed a line of cashmere sweaters into a fashion empire, Cucinelli started what has become a painstaking “urban” renewal: organizing tailoring and masonry schools, and overseeing the repair of buildings “that had fallen into total degradation,” says Camilla, who co-chairs the Brunello Cucinelli design department. “We’ve had workmen around pretty much all our lives.” One hopes they didn’t knock into Annunciation to Abraham, the Baroque oil painting by Artemisia Gentileschi in Carolina’s apartment. The artwork was a gift from Dad, similar to one Camilla received when she left home—to move 100 yards down the street. Carolina, who earned a fashion degree in 2010 and currently creates accessories for Cucinelli, and her boyfriend, Alessio Piastrelli, the head of leather buying at the company, now live next-door to Camilla and her husband, Riccardo Stefanelli, who heads up sales. Life in a village of 500 inhabitants is beautiful, say the sisters: No one locks their doors, jasmine abounds, and everybody knows your name.
Both Camilla and Carolina are devoted to their father. He didn’t push them into the family business, but the sisters never considered doing anything else. When she was little, Carolina used to create Barbie looks out of atelier scraps and hang them in armoires she made out of biscuit tins. She can rattle off the most minute factoids from every ledger, including how many employees eat daily at the company cantina (350) and what will be planted in the organic orchards next year (walnuts, cherries, apricots, persimmons). They are their own best clients: Carolina pairs paper bag–waist Cucinelli trousers with sneakers; Camilla goes for masculine Cucinelli brogues and high-waters. If either daughter is unfaithful, stylewise, it’s with Lanvin, The Row, and maybe a Chanel accessory. The only conspicuous piece of jewelry between them is Carolina’s 1950s Vacheron Constantin watch—a present from…guess who?
Their homes are a reflection of the luxuriously down-to-earth Cucinelli aesthetic: whitewashed walls, terra-cotta tile floors, exposed beams, and Molteni sofas in muted tones. The nearest town is Perugia, where Camilla went to university to study literature, but most of their time is spent in Solomeo, enjoying intimate dinners for friends and family. If the weather gets too hot, there is always Brunello’s pool, flanked by busts of Sophocles, Eros, and Apollo. And once a year the town comes alive when Solomeo celebrates the olden days by throwing a 10-day version of a Renaissance fair, complete with fire jugglers and acrobats. Camilla and Carolina, in period costumes, serve roast goose.
Photography assistant: Giorgio Schirato; fashion assistant: Mariangela Filippin.