Old is gold

Mont­blanc launches a veg­etable-tanned leather col­lec­tion with vin­tage fin­ishes for the ur­ban trav­eller.

Esquire (Malaysia) - - MACHINERY - Words by ian Loh

We’re sit­ting in Florence’s Giardino Tor­ri­giani, the largest pri­vately-owned gar­den in Europe within city bound­aries, on a warm sum­mer night, sip­ping cham­pagne and savour­ing canapés, be­fore the of­fi­cial launch of Mont­blanc’s new leather goods col­lec­tion sim­ply dubbed “1926 Mont­blanc Her­itage”. The lat­est range fea­tures small leather goods, brief­cases, port­fo­lios, mes­sen­gers, back­packs and a week­ender with a de­tach­able pouch/belt bag—all crafted in Tus­can veg­etable-tanned leather.

As the night un­folds, we find our­selves sit­ting be­neath a sa­fari-style canopy tent made from the very same can­vas and veg­etable-tanned leather that’s used in the col­lec­tion, across the ta­ble from Hugh Jack­man.

“I’m in­volved in the busi­ness of cre­at­ing things all the time,” Jack­man chimes, as he stands up to make a toast. “Some­times, hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars are spent on things that we’re cre­at­ing. Some­times, I can have a movie, with years be­hind it, which opens on a Fri­day and is ir­rel­e­vant by Satur­day morn­ing.” The din­ner guests laugh as Jack­man con­tin­ues: “So, if you think about the job that Zaim Ka­mal, cre­ative di­rec­tor of Mont­blanc, and the team do in terms of hon­our­ing a tra­di­tion of 110 years, but also cre­at­ing a prod­uct that will be rel­e­vant—not just the day you buy it, but at the end of your life—that is a task, which in my job, you’re lucky if you have one in your whole life, let alone 20 prod­ucts in the 1926 Mont­blanc Her­itage Col­lec­tion. It’s a great hon­our for me as a Mont­blanc am­bas­sador to sup­port Zaim and his team, and to tell the world of his great work.”

Jack­man’s toast per­fectly sums up our sen­ti­ments about the col­lec­tion. As we raise a glass to Mont­blanc’s lat­est craft, at the other end of the ta­ble sits Jens Hen­ning Koch, Mont­blanc’s ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing, with whom we had chat­ted ear­lier in the day.

esquire: tell us more about the veg­etable-tanned leather used in this col­lec­tion.

Jens hen­ning Koch: This is ac­tu­ally a very im­por­tant col­lec­tion for Mont­blanc be­cause it is the first time that we’re us­ing veg­etable-tanned leather. The leather has been tanned in a nat­u­ral way, so ev­ery piece is unique. It’s also a piece of leather that can de­velop a nice, new patina over time. But it is the crafts­man­ship process that makes the leather very soft. Re­ally, the leather is so su­perb you can only find it here in the Tus­can area when it comes to the tan­nery. We wanted to add a very spe­cial style ex­pres­sion to [the col­lec­tion], hence, the veg­etable-tan­ning process. I think it is im­por­tant to make a prod­uct unique be­cause in to­day’s world, ev­ery­one wants to ex­press his or her own per­son­al­ity, and not just be one of the masses. And to fur­ther en­hance that, we wanted to stress that crafts­man­ship and our her­itage in leather.

esq: de­sign-wise, there’s a very ’70s retro, sa­fari style to it.

JHK: That is the story we want to ex­press—the ’70s ex­plo­ration of the sa­fari in Africa. You can see it from the dark brown, those golden-fin­ished hard­ware el­e­ments and the vin­tage el­e­ments of how the leather stitch­ing has been done. And to make it even more spe­cial, we added linen that has been in­spired by Maa­sai tribal colours.

esq: it’s beau­ti­ful in­side and out.

JHK: Yes, you have a bag that is so­phis­ti­cated (on the out­side), but there is also a wow fac­tor when you look in­side. We like to think that it’s a piece that fol­lows you through the ur­ban no­mad life­style, so to speak. Ba­si­cally, the col­lec­tion is about great crafts­man­ship and a strong style ex­pres­sion; each piece is truly unique.

esq: Would you say the tar­get cus­tomer for this col­lec­tion is younger than the cur­rent Mont­blanc de­mo­graphic?

JHK: Yes and no. I think the set-up of the busi­ness life­style has changed from very for­mal to a more ca­sual or un­con­structed one. When you think back, per­haps 10 or 20 years ago, young cus­tomers who stepped into busi­ness went for the most for­mal out­fits pos­si­ble be­cause that was the ex­pres­sion then. To­day, it’s al­most like the guy who dresses the most ca­sual in the meet­ing is the most im­por­tant one. I think the ex­pres­sion has changed. So, we’re very much fo­cus­ing on mentioning that gen­er­a­tion, and es­pe­cially in your (Malaysia) mar­ket, there is that young gen­er­a­tion who is de­vel­op­ing in busi­ness and so­ci­ety life at an in­cred­i­ble speed.

esq: speaking of age, what does the year 1926 sym­bol­ise?

JHK: That was the first year when Mont­blanc of­fered leather goods. We started off in 1906 with writ­ing in­stru­ments and, in 1926, we cre­ated leather pouches for them.

esq: at Mont­blanc, there are writ­ing in­stru­ments, watches and so on. Where do you see the leather goods range po­si­tion­ing it­self within the com­pany?

JHK: Leather goods are very im­por­tant to us. We are re­ally a mai­son of that and what we call to­day an in­spir­ing lux­ury life­style. It is re­ally about en­hanc­ing your life and ex­press­ing your­self be­yond the busi­ness life. I be­lieve it is through leather goods that you can ex­press your per­son­al­ity and style the best. So, it is a very strong cat­e­gory within Mont­blanc.

esq: how will the col­lec­tion res­onate with trav­ellers from dif­fer­ent parts of the world?

JHK: I think it is more of a ques­tion of how you want to travel; how you want to ex­press your style; whether you are some­one who sticks to more for­mal el­e­ments or are more ver­sa­tile. I think it is not so much a case of na­tion­al­ity or re­gions, but rather a seg­ment within a mar­ket.

esq: so, who is a Mont­blanc ur­ban trav­eller?

JHK: I would say that per­son is on a mis­sion. There is a cer­tain am­bi­tion in life: it can be a busi­ness one, or just how to bal­ance life or how to achieve cer­tain el­e­ments. He or she is some­one who wants to move for­ward and is aim­ing for new heights. He or she is an ac­tive per­son who is open-minded, trav­els for ex­pe­ri­ence and is con­stantly in­spired. These are the peo­ple we want to talk to, who we want to inspire to new heights. We want to tell sto­ries like, “Hey, this is how you can ex­pe­ri­ence a func­tion; this is how you can ex­press your style; this is how you have never writ­ten or trav­elled be­fore.” This is what we want to achieve.

esq: how do you see a Mont­blanc prod­uct com­ple­ment­ing that per­son’s life­style?

JHK: I think it is very im­por­tant that what you buy re­ally fits what you want to ex­press and what you feel most com­fort­able with—be­cause that re­ally en­hances your per­son­al­ity. Over the last three years, we have launched many prod­ucts that ex­press that, and the cus­tomer can re­ally find the right of­fer for him or her. It is not a Mont­blanc prod­uct that car­ries you; it is al­ways you who car­ries a Mont­blanc prod­uct. We don’t want our cus­tomers to be hid­den be­hind our prod­ucts and logo; they should be at the front. Our cus­tomers are so strong and on their own mis­sion, and they want to ap­pre­ci­ate prod­ucts that en­hance their way.

Hugh Jack­man. Jens Hen­ning Koch.

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