LAPO EL KANN
A tumultuous lifestyle and a complete
Plaza Uomo meets the restless entrepreneur who’s confronting his dark past.
wardrobe of his late grandfather’s suits have helped Lapo Elkann achieve style icon status. Plaza Uomo meets the restless entrepreneur who’s confronting his dark past by turning it into something positive.
The expression ’if the shoe fits’ captures the story of Lapo Elkann and his grandfather Gianni Agnelli . As head of the family run company, Fiat, for over 30 years, Gianni Agnelli was one of the leading business magnates of the twentieth century. With a rigorous approach to work and a sharp tailored look, characterised by eye-catching personal nuances (such as wearing a wrist watch around the shirt cuff), Gianni came to embody the archetype of the powerful and handsome businessman. As Italy mourned the passing of the closest thing they had to a king, his family were left with sorting out his material possessions. Among those was a complete wardrobe of meticulously tailored suits, a collection which a 25 year old grandson, Lapo Elkann, inherited. As young Lapo began wearing the enviable hand-me-downs, he became increasingly recognisable, making a name for himself as someone more than just Gianni Agnelli’s grandson. Before long he topped international rankings of the most influential style icons of the decade – his patented blend of double-breasted suits and bright colours combined with a penchant for street-fashion secured him a permanent spot on Vanity Fair’s best dressed list. In addition, a GQ magazine poll ranked him among the 25 sexiest men and Tom Ford named him the world’s chicest man. The fashion designer described him as “so confident of his look, of what he is doing, of who he is as a person … that he becomes iconic”. But while Agnelli’s suits fit Lapo like a glove, he was never fully content to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps when it came to business.
Lapo Lapo joined Fiat’s marketing and communication department the same year Agnelli passed. It wasn’t long before people started to realise there was more to Lapo than style and looks. Not only did he drive the successful relaunch of Fiats’ new city car, the Fiat 500, he also boosted Fiat’s popularity among a younger demographic as he incorporated the retro Fiat logo into his third party fashion collections. But while he went from strength to strength professionally, his personal life had spiralled out of control. When not in the office, he attended an endless string of parties where drug abuse was a natural part of the scene. The vicious lifestyle came to an abrupt halt when Lapo Elkann was found unconscious after he had overdosed on cocaine and heroine. What made the event particularly newsworthy was the fact that he was discovered in a Turin based apartment belonging to a 54-year-old transsexual prostitute named Patrizia. The story made headlines across the world and when Lapo woke up the following morning he knew he had to leave the country.
Lapo Elkann’s voice is that of a young Al Pacino with a throat full of gravel, virtually sending vibrations through the ground. He talks to the person on the other end of the line in a manner that could best be described as a mix of tender care and aggression. He abruptly finishes the conversation with a “ciao, ciao, ciao, ciao!” before slamming the phone down on the table.
“So, where were we?”
We’ve agreed to meet at Nobis hotel this bright and warm afternoon. Lapo Elkann is wearing a somewhat subdued outfit of dark jeans and a navy shirt, a far cry from the eccentric attire he’s normally seen in. But there’s no doubt the rockstar charisma is still intact – despite
“I’M IN AN IMPORTANT PHASE OF MY LIFE RIGHT NOW.”
the anonymous outfit, he’s instantly recognisable. Lapo’s joined by a small entourage consisting of a security guard and friend Fosco Giulianelli, a Sweden based photographer and actor.
“Lapo, you must sign.” Fosco hands him a thank you-card addressed to the hotel owner Sandro Catenacci. Lapo, who has never visited Sweden before, hopes to be able to expand his Scandinavian network, particularly for the benefit of one of his latest ventures, Italia Independent Group. Lapo has now recovered from the tumultuous lifestyle, both physically and professionally. Not only has he given up alcohol but he’s also cutting down on coffee (“from 12 to 4 cups a day”). His only addiction appears to be apple juice (four glasses in 45 minutes) and Marlboro Reds.
“I’d like to work with big Swedish brands,” he explains, without mentioning any names. In addition to his share of Exos – the mother company that owns Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the umbrella firm of Ferrari, Maserati, Jeep and Dodge – Lapo Elkann has two big business ventures. First up is the advertising agency Independent Ideas, with clients such as Ferrari, Diesel and Moschino. Then there’s Italia Independent Group, a fashion house that creates clothes and glasses based on the principle of ’ democratic customisation’, that, recently opened a flagship store in Milan.
“I consider myself an entrepreneur and creator. To succeed, those roles have to go hand in hand.”
This confident man knows what he wants and how to communicate it. And there’s no doubt he’s a hard worker; the Turin based office is furnished with a bed, ensuring he wastes no time commuting. When he doesn’t sleep there he’s likely to be out of the country on business as his
current roles require him to be on foot 140 days a year.
He has nearly one hundred employees spread across offices in Milan, Barcelona, Paris, Miami and Amsterdam.
“I love work and I love working with other people,” Lapo says. “I’m not the kind of person who sits on a pedestal looking down. I’m on the floor, constantly running around.”
You’re not like your grandfather who kept the management team on a separate floor?
“No, I’m not on a throne. I don’t mean to badmouth those on thrones, but they’re for royalty and I’m not. I was born an industrialist. My foundation is entrepreneurship and I use creativity as a tool to make a difference.”
Lapo’s professional dedication is reflec-
Lapo Elkann captured next to his grandfather, the Fiat tycoon Gianni Agnelli, in 2001 – two years before Gianni passed away.
Lapo Elkann has had to work hard to clean up the bad boy-image, still attached to him since his period of heavy partying in the noughties. “People want to portray me as a playboy, but I’m not. I’m a serious person.”