Lapo Elkann, heir to Fiat, speaks to JETSS about entrepreneurship and his empire that earns more than $80 billion

Interviewed by JETSS

Lapo Elkann the millionaire businessman, car collector, Gucci model and eligible bachelor is one of the heirs to the Fiat Group and currently oversees the Italia Independentbrand in the world of fashion.  JETSS spoke this week with Lapo on the launch of his brand Italia Independentin Brazil’s domestic market and his concepts for it’s exponential growth.

The son of Italian Countess Margherita Pahlen and grandson of the legendary Gianni Agnelli, the largest Italian businessman postwar, who died in 2003 from cancer; Lapo learned early on how to manage a conglomerate of companies that reaches figures into the billions. Together the companies controlled by his grandfather, including Fiat, Ferrari and the football team Juventus in Turin form an empire that grossed more than $80 billion in 2013. But Lapo has talent all his own and is proving his brilliance by overtaking the busy fashion industry with his custom creations and might we say, with remarkable profits even during an economic crisis.

According to Lapo,Italia Independenthas grown approximately 33% in the last two years and will finish out 2014 with revenues close to $32 million.  Not bad for a business that began in 2007 from an idea scribbled on paper by Lapo and his best friend Andrea Tessitore. The decision to bring his brand to Brazil in 2014 was justified. The Brazilian optical industry had revenues reaching $8 billion in 2006 and up to $22 billion in 2013.

Check out the full interview!

JETSS – Do you believe consumers are moving more toward product customization & design rather than concept-design?
Lapo Elkann: Nowadays nobody really needs anything; customers are looking for something new, different, unique. This is something possible with the customization, and it is what we are doing with our Tailor Made Program. We create eyeglasses fully customized in colors, in materials, shapes and lenses offering an almost infinite number of possible combinations.

JETSS – With the ongoing struggling economy, how do you feel this will affect future sales of luxury items?
Lapo Elkann: In the hardest years of the crisis the luxury market has represented an anti-cyclical sector, showing a double-digit growth, especially for the top-level luxury, which was not hidden by the difficulty of the medium class. Now things are changing and big groups are starting to face some difficulties as the sector is getting smaller and full of competitors.

We are not worried about this since our focus is on “affordable luxury” and our strength is an innovative business model which – differently from the biggest companies’ one – is very flexible and linked to a strong market timing strategy. The revenue of our Group is not only stable but is rapidly growing. Few days ago we announced the financial data as at 30 September 2014: consolidated turnover in the first nine months of 2014 raise by 33% compared to the previous first nine months of 2013.

JETSS – What differentiates ‘Italia Independent’ from other fashion brands?
Lapo Elkann: With Italia Independent we want to update the Made in Italy by revisiting the classic icon, we want to export the Italian style into a global world. Italia Independent is not a fashion brand, but a lifestyle brand. We contaminate and are contaminated by different worlds, as for example the automotive and the home design ones, and, of course, also by the fashion world. Since the very beginning, we explored new frontiers by using unconventional materials and technologies on our products.

JETSS – What type of Brazilian consumers do you feel would be a good fit for ‘Italia Independent’ products?
Lapo Elkann: Everybody could wear our glasses, men, women, and even children…we have one the most diversified range of eyeglasses in the market for children from 7 to 14 years old. Most of our eyeglasses are unisex and we have more than 600 SKUs…almost everybody can find one pair of eyeglasses.

JETSS – What can we expect from ‘Italia Independent’ in the near future?
Lapo Elkann: We will have a lot of news between the end of this year and the beginning of next year…and we are all very excited about them. Stay tuned!


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