Lapo Elkann’s Italia Independent Eyewear Brand Unveils New Strategy
MILAN — Italia Independent is aiming to get its engine roaring again, debuting the first collection under new owner Modo Group at the upcoming Mido eyewear trade show, which runs from Saturday to Monday here.
“I’ve been a fan of Italia Independent since Day One and I believe we have shared the same values although with different design outputs,” said Alessandro Lanaro, founder and chief executive officer of Modo Group, describing the integration of the brand as already a “well-oiled synergy.”
The acquisition by Modo Group last September as limited to the Italia Independent brand, not the company, founded by Lapo Elkann in 2006. The eyewear firm founded in New York in 1990 by Lanaro and operating the Modo and Eco brands paid 1 million euros to secure Italia Independent label, according to paperwork available on Italy’s Bourse watchdog Consob’s website.
“We count a few independent brands in our portfolio…with a precise history and Italia Independent represents the perfect add-on, a story that we lacked but that perfectly integrates within our home,” Lanaro said.
Soon after the acquisition, Modo Group named Elkann Italia Independent’s creative director, recognizing his larger-than-life personality and creative spin that are intertwined with the identity of the eyewear label.
Lanaro praised Elkann’s talent and knowledge of the brand’s roots and codes. “Combining his great sense of style and our team [expertise] we started working on the Italia Independent 2.0,” he offered.
The brainchild of Elkann, Italia Independent managed to capture the zeitgeist in the first years of its foundation, experimenting with carbon fiber frames and its signature velvety sunglasses. Heavily reliant on its founder’s image and style, it was hit by financial troubles in 2015, which required the company to restructure by reducing costs and reinforcing the product offering. Despite several efforts from its shareholders, the company eventually filed for a composition with creditors procedure in mid-2022 approved by an Ivrea, Italy Court.
Last week, as part of that procedure, the IIG company, which owned the Italia Independent brand before the Modo Group’s acquisition last year, has been put into liquidation.
Lanaro stressed that the new course is to mark a departure from the brand’s recent past without neglecting its icons and heritage models, such as the denim and velvet eyewear, which are being reissued with a stronger focus on quality and performance under the “Azzurro” design.
Readying the spring 2024 collection in time for Mido required a strong effort, Lanaro contended. The company is banking on the trade event to plant the first seeds and start rebuilding the community of “brand lovers,” as he nicknamed loyal customers and retailers. “Since the acquisition we have received many messages from independent opticians and end consumers enthusiastic about the brand’s next steps,” he said.
Elkann said his ambition and creative impulse was aimed at “recreating the magic that has always permeated Italia Independent, to go back to the emotion that our brand lovers know so well.”
The spring collection comprises eight sunglass styles and nine optical frame designs available in 110 variants overall. Largely crafted from acetate, they are occasionally finished to look like metal in nods to the livery of ’90s race boats and oftentimes in see-through iterations revealing the inner metal core in the same shape as the brand’s logo.
The color palette is inspired by Elkann’s own wardrobe, from bright blue and neon colors rendered in the see-through versions to more conservative shades, such as gray.
The Fiat scion and creative pointed to Made in Italy, tailoring, independence, and innovation as among the values embedded in the brand’s new course.
“When we talk about research we talk about quality, and I think this collection best represents the latter….Italia Independent is a nonconformist brand by nature. We will keep on being like that,” Elkann said.
“For me creativity is an intuition, very much linked to the moment and inspiration can come from anything, a trip, a movie, an artwork, a walk. Creativity is fed by curiosity and crosspollination among different worlds,” he said.
Guests arriving at the Mido trade show held at the Rho-Fiera fairgrounds in Milan will be welcomed by “Piece of (He)art,” an immersive installation teasing the brand’s revamp. An AI-generated ad campaign developed by Independent Ideas, a boutique creative agency first founded by Elkann and part of Publicis Groupe, is to bow in tandem with Mido. It features hyper-realistic avatar models donning some of the key spring 2024 eyewear designs.
In the latest days of the Italia Independent brand before the acquisition, distribution was almost nonexistent, leaving room for a new strategy, Lanaro offered. “This has created a void and a pause before the new products hit the market. It has enabled us to restart from scratch, leveraging Modo Group’s network and brand lovers ready to welcome us back,” he said.
The eyewear group plans to leverage its distribution network in the U.S. and Europe to reboot the Italia Independent brand. The group has a presence in more than 80 countries overall. “Our strength in the U.S. will benefit Italia Independent, which has traditionally had little footprint in the country. The market knows [Modo Group] for its quality, reliability, stock and high level of services,” Lanaro enthused.
In due time the group plans to forge ties and structured partnerships with key opticians globally for window display concepts, co-advertising and special initiatives on social media to rebuild awareness and positioning.
In a saturated eyewear market dominated by juggernauts with several house and licensed brands, as well as directly operated retail, the new Italia Independent plans to tap into niche and independent opticians eager to differentiate their offering. “Our ambition is to become the one-stop-shop brand for independent, differentiated [products],” Lanaro said.
Asked about the fate of licensing deals and partnerships Italia Independent had put in place, with Adidas, Hublot and CR7, the brand by soccer champion Cristiano Ronaldo, among others, Lanaro said that the goal is to focus on rebooting the namesake brand first.
“I don’t rule out collaborations in the future; we will be actively looking for them, but right now, in the upcoming year, our focus is on doing things right with what we have…and show the market our offering, before venturing into phase two,” the executive said.
Although other brands in the Modo Group portfolio do not operate retail, he didn’t rule out embracing it for Italia Independent, which had tested it in the past, Lanaro said, adding it could benefit the brand’s image, storytelling and desirability.
Lapo Elkann’s Italia Independent Eyewear Brand Unveils New Strategy