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Lapo Elkann’s Endless Summer

The first Italia Independent men’s collection designed by Eric Wright wants to make summer last longer.

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Friends of Lapo Elkann, Fiat scion and founder of Italia Independent, model looks from the 70-piece collection designed by Eric Wright.

Courtesy Photo

MILAN — The first Italia Independent men’s collection designed by Eric Wright wants to make summer last longer.

This story first appeared in the June 20, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“It’s an easy, pleasurable and colorful collection with a California-meets-Italian Riviera feel,” said Lapo Elkann, whose personal style and knack for jazzing up classic staples set the mood for the spring lineup.

The venture with Wright, a protégé of Karl Lagerfeld who has worked for Fendi, Roberto Cavalli and Trussardi, marks I-I’s first ongoing collaboration with a designer. The brand generated buzz with one-offs with Swarovski Elements, Alfa Romeo and Diesel, and continues co-branding projects with Arfango, Borsalino and Orciani.

The 70-piece collection bows today at the brand’s headquarters, an all-black space with Samsung flat screens projecting images of Italia Independent’s fledging five-year history.

Since its inception in 2006, in fact, the self-financed I-I has built a strong reputation cemented by the appeal and notoriety of founder and Fiat scion Elkann.

According to Andrea Tessitore, co-founder and chief executive officer of I-I, by yearend, wholesale revenues will reach 9 million euros, or $13 million at current exchange rates. With a 12.5 million euro, or $17 million, retail volume, eyewear makes up the lion’s share but growing the ready-to-wear is a top priority as the category is “completely unexpressed,” said Tessitore.

I-I eyewear is available in about 1,000 doors worldwide, with two thirds located in Italy and the balance in the U.K, France, Spain, Israel and in the fast-growing U.S. market. Next on the agenda is to improve visibility in the 140 doors, including Colette, Barneys New York, Isetan and 10 Corso Como, that carry the rest of the products, while two new freestanding stores will open in Italy by yearend.

Channeling joie de vivre via vivid fruit salad colors such as banana yellow, kiwi green, orange, cherry red and sky blue, highlights include crisp cotton piquet jeans, unlined blazers, printed swimming trunks, superfine jersey polo shirts and Italian Independent’s signature four-button shirts in featherlight cotton poplins.

Wright also sought edgy and imperfect finishes displayed with cotton pants that are hand-dyed with a paintbrush and a denim blazer whose borders were rubbed with stones. “These treatments make each piece different and with an irregular feel,” said Wright.

Elkann’s fascination with sport cars, architecture, art and mechanics influence the product because “we feel that research and development is fundamental to diversify the product,” said Elkann. “Our vision is that of a long-selling product versus a best-selling one.”

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