For my generation, Texas was such a charming place,” says Brunello Cucinelli, who grew up watching Westerns filmed in Europe and directed by Italians. “When we thought of America, we thought of Texas and of Sergio Leone films with Clint Eastwood. And then, of course, came Dallas.”
It’s been 20 years since the Italian designer inked his first deal with the Dallas- headquartered Neiman Marcus, and during those two decades, the retailer and Cucinelli have worked together to provide exclusive offerings to discerning customers. This month, Cucinelli drops perhaps his most ambitious capsule collection yet, appropriately dubbed Icon, on the heels of receiving this year’s Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion.
“When [Neiman Marcus CEO] Geoffroy van Raemdonck asked to have a call with me, I was a bit nervous and worried that we had done something wrong,” jokes Cucinelli, who is receiving the first such award since 2016 (past recipients include Yves Saint Laurent and Carolina Herrera). “But what a great honor. I wanted to create something special to mark the occasion.” That he did, working alongside his daughters Carolina, co-creative director and co-president, and Camilla, co-head of the women’s style team, to create a collection that pays tribute to both the heritage of the department store and his Italianissimo aesthetic. The 50-piece capsule includes several limited-edition and numbered hand-knits that are sure to be snapped up by collectors (so loyal are his clients that one individual purchased the designer’s full Muse of the West collection, his previous capsule for Neiman’s). Also notable: separates featuring Cucinelli’s signature Monili trim in gold.
“Having had a relationship with Brunello for 20 years, I know that he knows what our client wants,” says Neiman Marcus president and chief merchandising officer Lana Todorovich. “He’s known for his knitwear, and this collection is really about what’s iconic, hence the name.” To mark the occasion, the retailer will be hosting events (details to be announced) throughout the year in Paris, Dallas, and Los Angeles.
For the campaign photo shoot, Cucinelli, always the philosopher, chose the old Roman port of Ostia Antica. “We wanted to show an immortal place in terms of history, in order to pay tribute to Neiman Marcus and its century-plus in business,” Cucinelli says. “It is an immortal brand for fashion.” He also sees the project as a gift to the States, which played a large part in building his brand (according to Cucinelli, 35 percent of his business comes from North America), and as a means to restoring Solomeo, the medieval hamlet that serves as HQ for all things Cucinelli.
“Brunello transcends fashion,” Todorovich says. “This award is also an acknowledgment of his lifelong dedication to humanistic capitalism, sustainability, and environment.” The feelings are certainly mutual: As Cucinelli says, “What I can vouch for is that Neiman Marcus is the most beautiful department store in the world.”
This article appears in the April 2023 issue of ELLE.
Naomi Rougeau is ELLE’s senior fashion features editor.