By  on January 31, 2008

MILAN — Lapo Elkann has found a high-wattage launch board for the debut of the Care Label denim brand — the amfAR gala tonight at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York.

Mixing goodwill and business, the scion of the Agnelli dynasty will present the year-old Care Label jeans line and auction off a special black tinted style with a detachable black diamond rivet that turns into a pendant. The dinner will honor Julian Schnabel, Carine Roitfeld of French Vogue and Bobby Shriver, founder of the (Product) Red campaign.

"I firmly believe in Care Label's creative ideals and I'm happy to be part of this challenge because I don't think the denim market is saturated, but offers stratifications that are open to a very specific and high-end product," Elkann told WWD.

Made of selvedged denim on 50-year-old shuttle looms, the tight-fit jeans have metal buttons and rivets in natural copper and steel. They feature a "Care Label for amfAR" tag and 20 percent of the wholesale price will go to charity, an initiative that will be prolonged after the auction.

"I first met Lapo three years ago in Cannes," said Sharon Stone, amfAR's global fund-raising chairwoman. "He was a nice but distracted and unfocused kid. I knew his grandfather [Gianni Agnelli], a powerful and interesting man, and other members of the family. When Lapo had his crisis [a drug overdose], I was deeply concerned for him and stayed in touch with his family throughout his ordeal. I encouraged him to change and, because of this, Lapo decided he wanted to do things differently. I'm very pleased and proud of him and honored that he has chosen amfAR for his project. You have to hand it to him for being so humble and grounded....Whether he does jeans or toothpaste is not the issue because I like him as a person and I like seeing him evolve both publicly and personally. It's not so much how you hit the floor, but how you get up."

Aside from Elkann, who has a 25 percent stake in the project, there is majority shareholder and designer Leopoldo Durante, whose denim stints have included consultancies for Evisu, Lee and Wrangler, and Enrico Gallo, who owns Torinovantuno, the brand's worldwide distributor.Care Label aims to position itself as a niche brand that places the focus on quality, the best fabrics, dyes, finishes and erstwhile manufacturing techniques. "We want to make this a beautiful product and only offer variations of one product — jeans," Elkann said.

After a spring capsule collection that was picked up by a dozen upscale Italian retailers, fall 2008 officially marks Care Label's launch. The offering includes jeans in 15 different treatments and 12 fabrications. The men's and women's fits range from slim to soft and wholesale from $124 to $161.

Gallo expects Care Label to post sales of $7.3 million this year, with 20 percent annual growth over the next two years.

Care Labels buys its denim from Japanese leader Kurabo; treats it at Martelli, the Italian company at the vanguard for washes and finishes, and tells consumers about the workmanship by printing a summary of the process inside its jeans.

There's also an organic style made with eco-friendly cotton and dyes and a model with a green, white and red selvedge representing the Italian flag.

Having struck a deal with Isetan in Japan, Gallo now hopes to secure 50 top retailers in the U.S. and 100 points of sales in Europe in the first year.

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