Tag Archive: solomeo


Golden Fleece

Phrixos, modeling a finely-woven himation around his waist, reaches towards his sister Helle as the golden ram carries him away; Fresco from Pompeii, Insula Occidentalis House VI.17, Naples Museum inventory: MANN 8889.

In the Argonautika, the Greek hero Jason goes on a quest with a ship full of heroes to the junction of the Black Sea and the Caucasus to find the Golden Fleece, the glittering pelt of a magic ram. That ram had once rescued a pair of royal twins, Phrixos and Helle, from the deadly designs of their stepmother Ino in the kingdom of Boiotia. The ram began to carry the twins to the kingdom of Colchis, at the eastern end of the Black Sea, but Helle swooned into the channel between Europe and Asia, thus naming the Hellespont. In Colchis, Phrixos sacrificed the ram to to the gods and gave its fleece to King Aietes. Aietes hung the fleece in a tree and set a dragon to guard over it as a guarantee of his wealth and power. Years later, Jason tries to retrieve the fleece in order to reclaim his own Thessalian throne from evil uncle Pelias.

Cashmere goats, from the Times. Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Today the soft undercoat of capra aegagrus hircus, from the highlands of Central Asia (northern China and Mongolia), supplies cashmere for Brunello Cucinelli. Recently our friend Marzia and I got a tour behind the scenes of Cucinelli’s production facilities in Solomeo. Here is how hairs 14-15 microns thick (six times finer than a human hair) become fashion gold.

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Solomeo

The village of Solomeo

The village

About two weeks ago, we visited Solomeo, a small town west of Perugia with a population (last census, 2001) of 436. Buses come just a few times a day, mostly for ferrying kids back and forth from school. Automobile is the most practical form of access. We went because Solomeo is the location of Brunello Cucinelli‘s factory and outlet store (photos of the factory here, located in the castello). Cucinelli is also a founder, and the patron, of Castel Rigone Calcio, about which I am continuing to write, and he supports local historical and cultural initiatives, such as the € 1.1 million consolidation and conservation of the Arco Etrusco, the ancient northern gate to the city of Perugia, which has been under scaffolding since we arrived.

The Restoration of the Arco Etrusco in Perugia

The Restoration of the Arco Etrusco in Perugia, entirely funded by Cucinelli

At a time of serious ongoing economic constraints in Italy, Cucinelli’s success is a bright spot for Umbria, and his rise from farm to fashion has become quasi-mythical both locally and internationally. Profiles have appeared in the Financial Times Weekend Magazine (October 2013); Vegas Magazine (October 2013); Forbes (March 2013); GQ (April 2012); and Harper’s Bazaar (March 2011), to name a few.

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