Montblanc has dominated the luxury writing instruments category for over a century with its well-crafted pens. Now, the German heritage Maison is turning its attention to contemporary leather goods to dust off its “old man” image of utilitarian briefcases with a more updated look worthy of the millennial and Gen Z consumer.
In 2021, the brand engaged accessories and leather goods connoisseur Marco Tomasetta, as its artistic director. Formerly from Prada, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, and most recently Givenchy, Tomasetta aims to elevate the look of Montblanc’s leather goods without losing its brand identity. The range should be revamped entirely in two years with a more elevated and consistent style.
Tomasetta’s inaugural line, the Extreme 3.0 Collection, was launched at Paris Fashion Week 2022. Synonymous with life on the move and everyday adventures, the collection comprises 31 gender-neutral pieces in various formats, such as a green crossbody bag, black backpack and black clutch with a modern interpretation of classic designs like textured leather.
The geometric leather motif, applied to all the products, draws inspiration from graphic images created by Grete Gross, Montblanc’s head of advertising which was deeply influenced by the Bauhaus style of the 1920s. “You can see in the new collection that I’ve used the expression of ‘writing’ (the embossed pattern on the full-grain bovine leather is a reference to pen strokes) to mark the leather and make it iconic. It’s a logo that’s not a logo, with a strong connection to the concept of writing,” says Tomasetta.
Another nod to its Montblanc 1858 timepiece designed for mountain exploration is the application of a mountaineer-inspired clasp for some bags and belts. To honour its strong sustainability ethos, the leather is obtained from a CO2-neutral tanning process, and the lining is made from recycled fibres.
In an interview with Vogue, Tomasetta says: “This new collection connects with the younger generation, while also keeping the ritual of Montblanc's older clients alive. The young love to express themselves and communicate through fashion, bags, and shoes. I want Montblanc’s young clients to express themselves through our creations, to bring a unique dimension and leave a mark through their style.”
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This September, Tomasetta launched the Meisterstück Selection capsule — an assortment of duffel and messenger bags crafted in Croco-embossed leather — inspired by the timeless luxury of the Meisterstück pen. Crafted from soft and matte black leather, each piece is a statement of style with a nod to a rich heritage. Meisterstück-inspired designs include nib-shaped zip pulls in vintage palladium, nib-shaped leather detailing with handles or straps attached to the bag, and a leather key holder on the Duffle bag.
“We are not a fashion brand, nor are we trying to compete in this arena, but I believe leather goods is going to become one of our biggest categories,” says CEO Nicolas Baretzki, speaking at a round table gathering at the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore. “What I like about Marco is his clear concern for the brand’s heritage. He doesn't want to change things completely, but he wants to enhance the beauty and assets of Montblanc.”
He’s confident these changes will also appeal to Montblanc’s loyal older clientele. “I know our existing customers will be completely amazed by Marco’s ideas. He has a vision for the Maison but is still very Montblanc. Even though we are presenting cooler styles and shapes to fit the younger generation, we will still offer evergreen products that people love, like our duffel bags.”
Minimising the brand’s environmental footprint is extremely important for Baretzki. For leather goods, the Maison plans to remove polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from all its products and remove plastic from all its packaging. The PVC lifecycle — its production, use, and disposal — is said to release toxic, chlorine-based chemicals that are building up in the water, air and food chain.
To mitigate the impact, the brand also is committed to being 100% carbon neutral by 2025. It intends to secure packaging suppliers in various parts of the world to minimise carbon emissions from transportation.
To break the mould and be an industry disruptor, Montblanc has collaborated with unlikely brands like streetwear giant Bape, Parisian label Maison Kitsuné, and, most recently, the Naruto manga character. “It’s showing that we can be a bit more daring, a bit bold, or a bit more fun.”
The same goes for actor Cillian Murphy — who has no social media presence — and former football star Zinedine Zidane as Montblanc brand ambassadors, aka Mark Makers. “We want to be different. We choose these personalities not for their fame but for their authenticity. They all have a point of view that celebrates storytelling and inspires writing," says Baretski.
“I think the brand’s transformation is about elevating Montblanc in all we do. It's about revamping the experience for our customers. And it's about using our strengths as a manufacturer in writing, in leather and in watches.”