Far before, actually, to a time when the paparazzi took care of telling his story; to when every success and every pitfall was document through the lens of an obsessed camera man who knew that access to Elkann’s life would sell like hot cakes. The man is a tightrope walking, risk taker with a keen sense of what he wants. He is the magician and the magician’s beautiful assistant all in one—both practical and decorative—you just can’t look away. So why not just look a little closer?
Born in New York but a proudly and loudly self-proclaimed Italian, the 38-year old is the grandson of Gianni Agnelli, former CEO and controlling shareholder of Fiat Automobiles and, as such, one of the richest men in Italy. For those who revel in the splendor of royal titles, he is also the son of Countess Margherita Agnelli de Pahlen, daughter of Don Filippo Caracciolo, 8th Prince of Castagneto, 3rd Duke of Melito, and hereditary Patrician of Naples. His father is Italian-American prized writer Alain Elkann and his brother John, the current Chairman of Fiat and as well as Chairman and CEO of Exor, an Agnelli-controlled investment company which counts the third oldest professional Italian association football club, Juventus as one of it’s prized possessions. And while Lapo helmed departments within the families business empires working in marketing for both Ferrari and Fiat, going as far as reissuing the Fiat Punto and the Fiat 500 as well as launching a Tailor Made program for Ferrari that allows clients to customize their own super car, it’s the strides he’s made of his own accord that are really most laudable.
The serial entrepreneur has founded some eight companies on his own, starting with Italia Independent: a lifestyle brand producing particularly eyewear along with forays into clothing and accessories—often as part of collaborative unions—all created, start to fruition, in Italy. Because, well, #ItaliansDoItBetter.
Some of the most notable of these collabs have included an ongoing partnership with Del Toro Shoes; a marriage with Adidas Originals which has included a selection of kicks along with an eyewear collection and some other accessories; and the launch of the Hublot Big Bang Unico Italia Independent, a 500-run timepiece which uses a new material called Texalium: an aluminium-coated carbon fiber that can be designed in different colors with all the same lightness; and comes with a pair of shades for each proud new owner. Today free-standing Italia Independent stores have been popping up across the United States in such hip spots as Miami’s Wynwood district and New York’s SoHo.
Not far after the creation of Italia Independent and in the vein of another of his favorite hashtags, #BeIndependentEverywhere, Elkann launched Independent Ideas, an advertising and communications agency with an aim to tell brand stories in the same creative way that all of the industrialist’s work is done; “creative contamination,” they call it. The collaborative message and brand building filtered through Independent Ideas includes such projects as a Lapo-designed blue Vertu telephone with a tagline that speaks to individualism in style and taste, and a video campaign to promote “The Pinko Invasion by Italia Independent,” the S/S 2016 release of the Pinko brand’s very first sunglass collection made in partnership with Italia Independent. Not the first of Elkann’s fashion collaborations by any stretch, whether by way of eyewear creation through Italia Independent or just by way of lending his impeccable sense of style like was the case with Lapo’s Wardrobe, a made to measure capsule collection designed for Gucci by Lapo and the brand’s at-the-time creative director, Frida Giannini. The unique partnership drew inspiration from Giannini’s vision and creative know-how crossed with Elkann’s passion for executing his own interpretation of Italian legacy and style, given that he has openly spoken about fashion as being ephemeral as well as about his desire to create something deeper that never dies, ie: style.
Moving forward projects continued to surface giving Elkann the opportunity to cut his teeth in such industries as spirits, for example, where he along with Arrigo Cipriani of Harry’s Bar, and other partners launched I SPIRIT: a 100% Italian vodka with a promise of five-times distilled high quality and the Elkann seal of innovation to drive it decidedly forward. He is also a film distributor via privately held Good Films—a producer-distributor entity that he owns with his sister, Ginevra, and which she runs out of Rome.
His most recent venture, not surprisingly, is in the automotive world. A clever pairing of the running-through-his-veins love for cars he so openly embraces and his bar-raising sense of aesthetics, Garage Italia Customs is another design arm to his businesses but one with a focus on customizing modes of transportation. Cars, boats, aircrafts, motorcycles, jet skis, you name it, all deliverable anywhere on Earth exactly as you’d dream them. Take for example the matte camouflage Ferrari 458 Italia that Elkann drives, also customized in his 1952, Mario Bacciocchio-designed studio that was formerly an AGIP gas station in Milano. It’s a Euro Pimp My Ride complete with Fiat heir apparent and his stellar business acumen as your blue-eye protagonist, except for in this rendition, #ItaliansDoItBetter.