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Who’s the Next You? Designer Brunello Cucinelli on Law Professor Maurizio Oliviero

The King of Cashmere and this law professor see the similarities between fashion and academia.

Brunello Cucinelli Maurizio Oliviero Photo by Mark Mann

Brunello Cucinelli is founder and CEO of the namesake Italian men’s and women’s clothing firm. He’s nicknamed the King of Cashmere, a nod to the origins of the firm, which he founded selling women’s cashmere sweaters and now logs annual revenue of $550 million worldwide. ¶ Maurizio Oliviero is a law professor who was recently appointed rector of Università degli Studi di Perugia, one of the top jobs at the centuries-old Italian university. ¶ They met at the university 15 years ago.

“Maurizio was born in a small village, similar to me. He came from a humble family close to Naples to study in Perugia at our ancient university. We can spend hours in the evening discussing life, and our lives—as you would do at the coffee shop in the village.

“We don’t talk too much about daily issues. We talk about the next century, or next two centuries—how to be guardians of the university or of my company. We’re all guardians for a very short amount of time, and it’s our duty to honor this.

“I think there is a strong connection between the fashion world and a university. The connection is spiritual, ethical, moral. And fashion, by nature, needs to be inspired by younger generations. Now that he is the dean of the university, I go there to hang out. I’ve been in the fashion industry for 40 years, and I’ve always tried to create fashion inspired by philosophy. But in this specific moment, I see a rebirth of great ideals.

“We got to know each other better by playing football together, about once a week. I play defense, and he plays center forward, so I’m often playing against him. He is definitely a little better than I am, but also he’s younger—I’m 66 years old, he is 52. I don’t have the skills, but I play on the physical side. I always tell him, ‘If you don’t want to be pushed, you need to play Ping-Pong.’ Il calcio, football, it needs some masculinity.

“I’m in love with the theater, and he has started to come with me. He is fascinated by music and could have been a DJ. When we meet at home, sometimes he is the DJ.”

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