Fiat heir turns to fashion after drug recovery

FLORENCE, Italy Wed Jan 10, 2007 4:52pm EST

Lapo Elkann, the heir of Fiat's founding Agnelli family, poses during the Pitti Uomo fair in Florence, January 10, 2007. REUTERS/Marco Bucco

Lapo Elkann, the heir of Fiat's founding Agnelli family, poses during the Pitti Uomo fair in Florence, January 10, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Marco Bucco

FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters) - Lapo Elkann, a young member of Italy's Agnelli family who nearly died of a drug overdose in 2005, has returned to public life by launching a line of expensive sunglasses.

Elkann, an heir to the Fiat fortune, said the glasses were the first of a number of accessories he wanted to market under the "Italia Independent" brand.

The price tag of the glasses is more than 1,000 euros ($1,300) a pair and he said the brand was intended to promote Italian craftsmanship.

Elkann is the grandson of the late Gianni Agnelli, the patriarch of automaker Fiat. As head of brand promotion at Fiat, Elkann had dabbled in fashion, overseeing a line of sweatshirts with the Fiat logo emblazoned on the front.

Fond of the playboy lifestyle pursued by his grandfather, Elkann fell into a drug-induced coma in October 2005. He has been recovering abroad since.

"I made a mistake. I paid for it," he told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Florence. Elkann will appear in the January issue of Vogue's L'Uomo magazine for men in Italy.

His older brother John has been working in the top echelons of Fiat with the aim of eventually taking over the group.