Lapo Elkann

By
Photography ANDREA COMPAGNONE

Published November 25, 2008

The fast-living Fiat heir, fashionable bachelor, business tycoon, and all-around hyperactive nice guy is really a family man at heart. Teenager Arielle Baron reports.

I am 17, and my friend Lapo Elkann is 30. I call him an array of names, from Laps and The Freak to Lap-dance, plus the interesting combination of my unfortunate nickname, Chuck, and Lapo : Chapo. I met Lapo when I was 14, on Thanksgiving Day. I woke up that morning to loud voices. Lapo, my stepdad Wayne’s friend, had arrived straight from rehab. All I knew about this dude was that he was kind of a big deal in Italy because he’s the heir to the Fiat fortune and he overdosed in Turin in the company of trannies. The traditional family friend? I believe not.

I heard them coming up the stairs. One was defiantly bounding up the steps two at a time-no doubt that was Lapo. I decided it was necessary to introduce myself, since one of my principles is always to say hello with a big happy smile, even if it’s early in the morning, even though I hate everyone then. Lapo beat me to the punch, and before I could open my mouth, he had finished the whole Italian introduction thing (the embrace and the “Baci, baci!“). Well, this was a very different person from what I had expected. I could sense fun orbiting around him.

I followed him the whole day as he bounced from place to place, including a tattoo shop where he got, not one, but two tattoos. I guessed he was the kind of guy who does everything on impulse and in excess. He definitely had the H in ADHD, the one quality that he doesn’t like about himself because it’s “difficult to cope with.” I personally think he would be a complete bore without it. Over the next few months Lapo attended AA meetings, bought an apartment in SoHo, and started scheming about future plans.

One day Lapo leaped through our front door very excitedly to explain a new idea. These little outbursts of creativity would happen very often, and every week he would explain something new. One idea was a service where people could call for a driver if they were too drunk to drive. Good one. Another day, he explained very animatedly his Theory of Personal Belongings. According to Lapo, the idea was to make a product “personal” to someone, giving the consumer the opportunity to make it his own and to live as if he were the only person who possessed it. I kind of scoffed at this, wondering what the hell it meant. To my surprise, a few months later he founded Italia Independent, a company based on his philosophy of personal belongings. The brand started out with three models of sunglasses. One pair is made from carbon fiber, the same material that Stealth, Lapo’s late grandfather Gianni Agnelli’s boat, is made from. Today, the brand has expanded into a clothing line and original household items, including a carbon-fiber candelabra and a fabric vase.

Just three years after his overdose, Lapo has rebounded with full force, staying true to his favorite tattoo: never surrender. Although he doesn’t exactly live in New York anymore, we are generally his first stop when he arrives in the city. Lapo hates being alone in a house, so he doesn’t sleep at his apartment—he sleeps at our house. Apart from leaving the occasional cigarette butt in the fireplace and an assortment of garment bags in the entrance, he is a good houseguest. In fact, if we didn’t protest, he would sleep on the kitchen floor.

Sometimes Lapo likes to give me “Lapo life advice” while he Googles himself (one of his favorite pastimes). Once, while we were on the subject of drugs, he told me, “Unfortunately, I’m a very addictive person . . . It is something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life.” His advice is good, normally very metaphorical. He told a friend of mine, after she didn’t get a part that she really wanted in a play, “I’ve missed a lot of trains in my life, and another one always comes.” Now we’re like a little family-my mother is “Mamma di New York,” and I am “Sis.”

On a recent trip to Italy, Lapo drove us to his home in his matte-black Maserati. Très chic.

The car is insane. I felt like I was in a James Bond movie, though Lapo says it looks like a Batman car. At 140 kilometers per hour, with a cigarette in hand, he gleefully pointed to a small dip in the road where he’d “gotten some air.” He explained that driving was very therapeutic and added, “I like listening to music and driving. How do you say . . . It’s the only way I can chillax.” I wonder if he knew that the word chillax has been in and out of American terminology for more than a decade. Even if he did know, why would he care? He’s Mr. Different. Lapo would wear an electric blue suit when everyone else was wearing black. I guess that worked out, since he’s considered a fashion icon and has been a regular on Vanity Fair‘s International Best-Dressed List.

The drive from Turin to Villar Perosa, his house, is 45 minutes, but we arrived in 20. “Let’s talk and relax for a while,” Lapo demanded cheerfully. For an hour we talked about his new company. Truth be told, I was half listening, and all I got from the convo was something about techno surf and the fact that we were waking up at eight! Dear God.

At last Lapo took us to bed. Or so we thought. Like a child showing his parents how well he had cleaned his room, he showed us his domain. I almost burst out laughing when I saw that he slept in a canopy bed with a flowered print, a very different style from the stealth bomber we had just arrived in. He had one rack of suits, organized by color, and other items of clothing in the hallway outside his room. In his room there was another rack of jackets ranging from shades of blue to pink. I thought that might be it, but then he opened four closets. Although Lapo has more than 70 suits, he does have favorites, including a black-and-white pin-striped suit in heavy linen, “which,” he says, “brought me the most luck and reminds me of my grandfather.”

I think it is safe to say that Lapo might have a bigger obsession with shoes than I do, which is really saying something. Four shelves of one closet were dedicated to sneakers. On his night table, he kept a pyramid of Marlboro Reds packs, about five BlackBerrys, and a small basket holding piles of euros and dollar bills all tied with rubber bands. Generosity is a great quality that Lapo possesses. Over the course of these three years, I have become his Salvation Army-I have so many of Lapo’s belongings that I could fill a whole new closet.

Before retreating to his room, Lapo triple-checked that we both had water and aspirin, weren’t too hot or cold, and knew how to open the window. Ten minutes later, Wayne and I were back in Lapo’s room. It was time to talk about girls. Lapo explained, “I drive girls crazy because I might call them 20 times in one day and then the next day not once.” We spoke for another four cigarettes, and then it seemed that Lapo’s energy level had gone down enough for the possibility of sleep . . . Joy!

I drive girls crazy because i might call them 20 times in one dayand then the next day not once.Lapo Elkann.

 

At eight in the morning, Lapo woke us up. I didn’t believe him when he said he was tired, because he was super hyper again, furiously biting his nails. Lapo introduced me to his dog, a Saint Bernard named Comodino. First of all, that thing was not a dog; it was definitely a Shetland pony. Normally, Saint Bernards are not very energetic, but Comodino was more lively than the classic Saint Bernard-he was hyper like Lapo. Once the master had been slobbered on enough, I was ushered into his car for the drive back to Turin.

During the ride, I asked Lapo about the speculation that he and Mary-Kate Olsen were going out. He said, “There is nothing to say. It’s simply not true. I like journalism that has balls, and what they wrote doesn’t.” Lapo has a spot of vanity, and when I started to tell him what the article said about him, he interrupted and asked, “Is the picture good? I don’t care about the other things.” Sometimes you can catch Lapo taking a quick look at the reflection in a store window. No wonder he likes to sleep on the chaise longue in our house-it’s in the room with the most mirrors!

I recently learned that Lapo served in the Italian military. He said it was one of the best experiences he’d ever had. It was quite surprising that someone of his wealth would actually find military service fun. “I wanted to do something for my country,” he told me very sincerely. He’s obviously patriotic, since he sports an Italian flag on many pieces of clothing he owns, including the trademark minuscule Italian flag on his shirt cuff.

When we arrived in Turin, we went to a café. How funny it was to see Lapo being recognized. In New York he’s a VIP-a Very Italian Person-but in Italy he’s definitely the real deal. Congregations surrounded our table. One girl came up, said, “T’adoro,” and asked for a picture. Basically she was freaking out. Lapo asked what her name was, gave her a hug, and said thank you (I suppose for her admiration). This happened a few times. During our coffee, Lapo was also being filmed for an interview. I think he is a little robotic in front of the camera. He’s not the Lapo I know; he’s too rehearsed.

I got to see the real Lapo. He is someone who seeks and survives on love and energy-exactly what Italy has to offer. And as a character who always wants to be loved, he knows how to show a great appreciation for others, apart from the occasional attention problem. Lapo always insists that arrogance is the worst quality. He said: “I’ve learned that if one is arrogant and if something bad happens to him, people won’t want him to succeed. They will make more of an effort to bring him down.”

In all honesty, I have never met anyone who knows Lapo and doesn’t like him. They might say he is crazy and exhausting, but he does have a quality that can brighten a whole room. Before I left I said, “Laps, I like how you know when to shake things up a bit.” With that, he grinned and replied, “I hope I didn’t shake things too much.”

Lapo Elkann

By

Published November 25, 2008

The fast-living Fiat heir, fashionable bachelor, business tycoon, and all-around hyperactive nice guy is really a family man at heart. Teenager Arielle Baron reports.

I am 17, and my friend Lapo Elkann is 30. I call him an array of names, from Laps and The Freak to Lap-dance, plus the interesting combination of my unfortunate nickname, Chuck, and Lapo : Chapo. I met Lapo when I was 14, on Thanksgiving Day. I woke up that morning to loud voices. Lapo, my stepdad Wayne’s friend, had arrived straight from rehab. All I knew about this dude was that he was kind of a big deal in Italy because he’s the heir to the Fiat fortune and he overdosed in Turin in the company of trannies. The traditional family friend? I believe not.

I heard them coming up the stairs. One was defiantly bounding up the steps two at a time-no doubt that was Lapo. I decided it was necessary to introduce myself, since one of my principles is always to say hello with a big happy smile, even if it’s early in the morning, even though I hate everyone then. Lapo beat me to the punch, and before I could open my mouth, he had finished the whole Italian introduction thing (the embrace and the “Baci, baci!“). Well, this was a very different person from what I had expected. I could sense fun orbiting around him.

I followed him the whole day as he bounced from place to place, including a tattoo shop where he got, not one, but two tattoos. I guessed he was the kind of guy who does everything on impulse and in excess. He definitely had the H in ADHD, the one quality that he doesn’t like about himself because it’s “difficult to cope with.” I personally think he would be a complete bore without it. Over the next few months Lapo attended AA meetings, bought an apartment in SoHo, and started scheming about future plans.

One day Lapo leaped through our front door very excitedly to explain a new idea. These little outbursts of creativity would happen very often, and every week he would explain something new. One idea was a service where people could call for a driver if they were too drunk to drive. Good one. Another day, he explained very animatedly his Theory of Personal Belongings. According to Lapo, the idea was to make a product “personal” to someone, giving the consumer the opportunity to make it his own and to live as if he were the only person who possessed it. I kind of scoffed at this, wondering what the hell it meant. To my surprise, a few months later he founded Italia Independent, a company based on his philosophy of personal belongings. The brand started out with three models of sunglasses. One pair is made from carbon fiber, the same material that Stealth, Lapo’s late grandfather Gianni Agnelli’s boat, is made from. Today, the brand has expanded into a clothing line and original household items, including a carbon-fiber candelabra and a fabric vase.

Just three years after his overdose, Lapo has rebounded with full force, staying true to his favorite tattoo: never surrender. Although he doesn’t exactly live in New York anymore, we are generally his first stop when he arrives in the city. Lapo hates being alone in a house, so he doesn’t sleep at his apartment—he sleeps at our house. Apart from leaving the occasional cigarette butt in the fireplace and an assortment of garment bags in the entrance, he is a good houseguest. In fact, if we didn’t protest, he would sleep on the kitchen floor.

Sometimes Lapo likes to give me “Lapo life advice” while he Googles himself (one of his favorite pastimes). Once, while we were on the subject of drugs, he told me, “Unfortunately, I’m a very addictive person . . . It is something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life.” His advice is good, normally very metaphorical. He told a friend of mine, after she didn’t get a part that she really wanted in a play, “I’ve missed a lot of trains in my life, and another one always comes.” Now we’re like a little family-my mother is “Mamma di New York,” and I am “Sis.”

On a recent trip to Italy, Lapo drove us to his home in his matte-black Maserati. Très chic.

The car is insane. I felt like I was in a James Bond movie, though Lapo says it looks like a Batman car. At 140 kilometers per hour, with a cigarette in hand, he gleefully pointed to a small dip in the road where he’d “gotten some air.” He explained that driving was very therapeutic and added, “I like listening to music and driving. How do you say . . . It’s the only way I can chillax.” I wonder if he knew that the word chillax has been in and out of American terminology for more than a decade. Even if he did know, why would he care? He’s Mr. Different. Lapo would wear an electric blue suit when everyone else was wearing black. I guess that worked out, since he’s considered a fashion icon and has been a regular on Vanity Fair‘s International Best-Dressed List.

The drive from Turin to Villar Perosa, his house, is 45 minutes, but we arrived in 20. “Let’s talk and relax for a while,” Lapo demanded cheerfully. For an hour we talked about his new company. Truth be told, I was half listening, and all I got from the convo was something about techno surf and the fact that we were waking up at eight! Dear God.

At last Lapo took us to bed. Or so we thought. Like a child showing his parents how well he had cleaned his room, he showed us his domain. I almost burst out laughing when I saw that he slept in a canopy bed with a flowered print, a very different style from the stealth bomber we had just arrived in. He had one rack of suits, organized by color, and other items of clothing in the hallway outside his room. In his room there was another rack of jackets ranging from shades of blue to pink. I thought that might be it, but then he opened four closets. Although Lapo has more than 70 suits, he does have favorites, including a black-and-white pin-striped suit in heavy linen, “which,” he says, “brought me the most luck and reminds me of my grandfather.”

I think it is safe to say that Lapo might have a bigger obsession with shoes than I do, which is really saying something. Four shelves of one closet were dedicated to sneakers. On his night table, he kept a pyramid of Marlboro Reds packs, about five BlackBerrys, and a small basket holding piles of euros and dollar bills all tied with rubber bands. Generosity is a great quality that Lapo possesses. Over the course of these three years, I have become his Salvation Army-I have so many of Lapo’s belongings that I could fill a whole new closet.

Before retreating to his room, Lapo triple-checked that we both had water and aspirin, weren’t too hot or cold, and knew how to open the window. Ten minutes later, Wayne and I were back in Lapo’s room. It was time to talk about girls. Lapo explained, “I drive girls crazy because I might call them 20 times in one day and then the next day not once.” We spoke for another four cigarettes, and then it seemed that Lapo’s energy level had gone down enough for the possibility of sleep . . . Joy!

I drive girls crazy because i might call them 20 times in one dayand then the next day not once.Lapo Elkann.

 

At eight in the morning, Lapo woke us up. I didn’t believe him when he said he was tired, because he was super hyper again, furiously biting his nails. Lapo introduced me to his dog, a Saint Bernard named Comodino. First of all, that thing was not a dog; it was definitely a Shetland pony. Normally, Saint Bernards are not very energetic, but Comodino was more lively than the classic Saint Bernard-he was hyper like Lapo. Once the master had been slobbered on enough, I was ushered into his car for the drive back to Turin.

During the ride, I asked Lapo about the speculation that he and Mary-Kate Olsen were going out. He said, “There is nothing to say. It’s simply not true. I like journalism that has balls, and what they wrote doesn’t.” Lapo has a spot of vanity, and when I started to tell him what the article said about him, he interrupted and asked, “Is the picture good? I don’t care about the other things.” Sometimes you can catch Lapo taking a quick look at the reflection in a store window. No wonder he likes to sleep on the chaise longue in our house-it’s in the room with the most mirrors!

I recently learned that Lapo served in the Italian military. He said it was one of the best experiences he’d ever had. It was quite surprising that someone of his wealth would actually find military service fun. “I wanted to do something for my country,” he told me very sincerely. He’s obviously patriotic, since he sports an Italian flag on many pieces of clothing he owns, including the trademark minuscule Italian flag on his shirt cuff.

When we arrived in Turin, we went to a café. How funny it was to see Lapo being recognized. In New York he’s a VIP-a Very Italian Person-but in Italy he’s definitely the real deal. Congregations surrounded our table. One girl came up, said, “T’adoro,” and asked for a picture. Basically she was freaking out. Lapo asked what her name was, gave her a hug, and said thank you (I suppose for her admiration). This happened a few times. During our coffee, Lapo was also being filmed for an interview. I think he is a little robotic in front of the camera. He’s not the Lapo I know; he’s too rehearsed.

I got to see the real Lapo. He is someone who seeks and survives on love and energy-exactly what Italy has to offer. And as a character who always wants to be loved, he knows how to show a great appreciation for others, apart from the occasional attention problem. Lapo always insists that arrogance is the worst quality. He said: “I’ve learned that if one is arrogant and if something bad happens to him, people won’t want him to succeed. They will make more of an effort to bring him down.”

In all honesty, I have never met anyone who knows Lapo and doesn’t like him. They might say he is crazy and exhausting, but he does have a quality that can brighten a whole room. Before I left I said, “Laps, I like how you know when to shake things up a bit.” With that, he grinned and replied, “I hope I didn’t shake things too much.”