Zooming over the cobbled streets of Turin, Italy, with the family’s driver at the wheel, Ginevra Elkann is ready to let loose a family secret: The eldest granddaughter of Gianni Agnelli—the man synonymous with Fiat and fast cars—doesn’t have a driver’s license. In fact, she never even took the test. And, much as she loved her nonno, who died in 2003, she’s not interested in working for the family firm, unlike her brothers John and Lapo. “Never!” says the thoughtful, dark-eyed beauty from the backseat of the black four-door Fiat. Instead, Elkann, 29, shows her loyalty to the clan in ways that don’t involve engines or gearshifts.
It is an overcast autumn afternoon, and Elkann is headed back to her apartment in the center of the city, with its narrow streets and coffee bars. She’s running late for the opening of an exhibition at the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli, the family art space where she serves as vice president. “It’s been a crazy day, and I have to wash my hair,” she says, referring to the mass of chocolate-colored corkscrew curls that graze her shoulders.
Later that evening Elkann, decked in Christian Louboutins and Lanvin, greets guests including her two brothers; Lapo’s girlfriend, Bianca Brandolini d’Adda; Franca Sozzani; and Serge de Yugoslavia at the Pinacoteca, a light-box-like structure designed by Renzo Piano on the roof of a former Fiat factory. Although Elkann clearly possesses the knack for style that tends to run in her family—her Agnelli grandparents and Lapo have been fixtures on best-dressed lists—she insists that, for her, clothes are mostly camouflage. “I don’t have a supermodel body,” she says matter-of-factly. “I’m always trying to hide something.”
The youngest child of Margherita Agnelli and her first husband, the Franco-Italian journalist and author Alain Elkann, Ginevra is the most low-key member of her immediate family—and probably the most sardonic and self-deprecating. “My grandmother has a great aesthetic sense,” she says, referring to Marella Agnelli, famous for her long neck and impeccable elegance. “Unfortunately I didn’t inherit it.” She doesn’t reserve all the put-downs for herself, however. “[Ginevra] can exert the influence of a grande dame when necessary,” says her friend Farhad Farman-Farmaian, a London entrepreneur. “Once, when she did not care for a ubiquitous character, she decided to refer to [the hanger-on] as ‘Elle me fatigue’ (‘She tires me’) rather than [by] her name,” he says. Even so, Elkann’s offbeat choice of holiday home is testament to her unassuming ways. She is building a house in an unglamorous part of Portugal, south of Lisbon. “There are 80 miles of beach without anyone on it,” says Elkann, who has a master’s degree in directing from the London Film School and who juggles art and film projects when she’s not whipping up spinach soup for friends in her kitchen in London’s Notting Hill. Life under the radar clearly suits her. Besides, isn’t there enough family drama already?