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The BoF Podcast | Brunello Cucinelli on Humanistic Capitalism in an Age of AI

At BoF VOICES 2023, the Italian designer spoke about the balance required to run an ethical fashion business while embracing new technologies.
Brunello Cucinelli speaks at BoF VOICES 2023.
Brunello Cucinelli speaks at BoF VOICES 2023. (Getty Images)
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Background:

Since 1978, Brunello Cucinelli’s namesake brand has been a standard-bearer for both luxury clothing and a more responsible way of doing business. At a time of great change, Cucinelli believes that businesses must strike a balance between embracing technological innovation that could threaten livelihoods, like AI, to push creativity forward while also keeping humanity at the heart of business.

“I believe in a kind of contemporary way of capitalism. We are a listed company. We do want to make a profit, but a fair profit at that. There should be a balance between profit and giving back,” he explains.

This week on The BoF Podcast, Brunello Cucinelli speaks with BoF founder and editor-in-chief Imran Amed about ethical business building, artificial intelligence and his philosophy of “humanistic capitalism” during conversation at BoF VOICES 2023.

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Key Insights:

  • Cucinelli’s approach to labour is guided by his working-class upbringing and seeing his father was demeaned and belittled at work. “I saw tears in his eyes and that was my source of inspiration to have a completely different vision of the world,” he says. “I wanted my human beings to be surrounded by pleasant places. I wanted them to make handsome money. And I wanted them to be treated like thinking souls.”
  • This philosophy of ‘humanistic capitalism’ also extends to customers. “We need to redress the balance. Shoppers want to know exactly where a specific item has been made, how it’s been made, whether creation has harmed it along the process. We need a new social contract with creation,” he explains.
  • Mr Cucinelli believes artificial intelligence offers both solutions and challenges. “Technology is a blessing from creation, but sometimes it steals the soul that creation bestowed upon us,” he says. However, he adds, when used correctly, “AI will be just a partner for us, and we will rediscover the value of truth and human beings.”
  • When it comes to planning for the future of his company, Cucinelli hopes his successor will share his humanistic ethos. “I would like my company to still be there for the coming 100, 200 years. And I would like whoever runs it to keep believing in a contemporary capitalism, to make a fair profit while respecting human beings and creation.”

Additional Resources:

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