A tu­mul­tuous life­style and a com­plete

Plaza Uomo UK - - Contents - WORDS kon­rad ols­son PHO­TOG­RA­PHY LOR ENZO BRINGHELI

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


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.”

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