BEHIND THE WHEEL: Fiat scion Lapo Elkann is passing through Tokyo to launch his lifestyle brand Italia Independent’s latest product extension: a limited edition Alfa Romeo Brera featuring a matte charcoal gray titanium finish and a carbon dash and steering wheel. Elkann, who developed the car with legendary design firm Italdesign Giugiaro, said he already sold 15 models of the “stylish, groovy, glamorous and sexy” set of wheels before presenting it to the press. The car retails for nearly $68,000 in Japan. He was also in town to launch the Diesel-branded Fiat 500 Cabriolet, meet with Italia Independent’s retailers and seek out other potential projects. “I’m not doing a 100-meter run, but I’m doing a marathon,” said a shirtless and tattooed Elkann, relaxing in his hotel room before descending to the Alfa launch party Thursday at the Conrad Tokyo. Elkann sees several parallels between Japan and Italy. “[Japan] has great heritage and a great past, but needs to build a better present,” he said, adding he considers the country the best entry to Asian markets. “Korea and China might be numbers, but here they have a sophistication for taste and trend and materials.”
FRENCH DRESSING: Tommy Hilfiger, which was sold last month to Phillips-Van Heusen, is very close to signing a deal to open a massive Paris flagship at 65 Avenue des Champs-Elysées, according to sources. The site, a three-story space of more than 10,000 square feet, is occupied by the bar-restaurant-store Culture Bière. It sits between chain restaurant Léon de Bruxelles and the Nike store, on the stretch that runs between metro stops Franklin D. Roosevelt and George V. Although Hilfiger officials are mum about the French flagship, it was learned it is slated for an October opening. The store will feature all of Hilfiger’s women’s, men’s and children’s lines. Tommy Hilfiger intends to keep his store on Rue de Saint-Honoré, which opened in fall 2006.
COME TOGETHER: Mario Boselli, president of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, Italy’s fashion chamber, is keeping his promise. Reacting to one of the most controversial fashion weeks ever, essentially truncated to four days in February, Boselli had vowed things would change in September. So last week, he and leading designers met to discuss the dates of the upcoming edition slated for Sept. 22 to 28. Top fashion houses now will show sprinkled throughout the week, making the event less stressful. “I’m pleased that my call to responsibility was well received and I don’t think I was the only one hoping it would be,” said Giorgio Armani. “The time had come to seriously reconsider the calendar issue around which a whole industrial system rotates. It also shows that we Italians are perfectly capable to assert ourselves to enhance what the world acknowledges to be a rich and inimitable creative heritage.”
Prada Group chief executive officer Patrizio Bertelli echoed a similar sentiment. “The Milan Fashion Week is fundamental for our businesses, and it’s indispensable that it continues to be the driving force it has always been,” said Bertelli. “We have made a significant step forward that signals an important sense of belonging we had been afraid of losing because of recent polemics.”
HOPE FOR FALL: French denim maker April77 may be down, but it’s not completely out, according to founder Brice Partouche. On March 29, the company entered “redressement judiciaire,” a French legal status similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but Partouche is confident April77 will emerge from it and start shipping product again in the fall. “The brand is alive and safe. We are going to come back for production. We will have a proper offer for fall,” he explained. “We had some internal issues that led to financial problems, which prevented us from shipping spring goods. We missed a season, but we are not out of business.” Partouche said the company plans to restructure, move to a smaller office and downsize its workforce to cut costs. He said creditors owed money will be paid at some point in the future. According to sources who work with April77, many, if not all, employees have been absent from its offices for some time. Partouche declined to comment on the status of his employees until French administrators make decisions on the company’s future. “I will know more in a week,” he said.
TALENT SHOE: In the past, shoe company Melissa collaborated with the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler, Vivienne Westwood, Patrick Cox, Karim Rashid and Zaha Hadid. Future partnerships, however, could well be with American talent. The Brazilian firm just became a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Business Service Network. As part of the partnership, the company, known for its eco-footwear, plans to work with the CFDA and develop opportunities for its designers. “Melissa has mostly collaborated with international designers and artists,” said CFDA executive director Steven Kolb. “They have been really amazing, but we think adding an American voice with CFDA now involved will push Melissa to new creative heights.”