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Esquire (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - In­ter­view by Ian Loh

Mont­blanc launches its first lug­gage col­lec­tion, #MY4810 for the ur­ban ex­plorer.

ka­mal was stand­ing by the win­dow of the suite in the st. regis florence, qui­etly ad­mir­ing the sub­lime views of the Arno River as I walked into the room. “How beau­ti­ful is this view?” he greeted me. I smiled and nod­ded. It was in­deed a beau­ti­ful sum­mer day—florence was bask­ing un­der the Tus­cany sun, over­whelmed by tides of colours that turned the city into a golden pic­ture. “You should see the city dur­ing full moon, it is some­thing else,” Ka­mal added, hav­ing just flown in from his home in Lon­don.

As the Creative Di­rec­tor of Mont­blanc In­ter­na­tional, Ka­mal spends his time be­tween Ger­many, Switzer­land, France, Italy and UK. There’s no one bet­ter to in­tro­duce the new #MY4810 lug­gage col­lec­tion than the fre­quent trav­eller him­self.

esquire: Tell us more about the lug­gage col­lec­tion. Why did Mont­blanc de­cide to launch a lug­gage col­lec­tion? zaim ka­mal: When we looked at our new clients and we looked at the way they func­tion and work, in what we called ur­ban ex­plo­ration, we asked how do you move through the city, and what are the re­quire­ments and the ne­ces­si­ties you need. That’s how the lug­gage col­lec­tion came about. Over the last five or six years, there has been this idea of trav­el­ling from your city into an­other city, and be­cause you know the codes and rules from your city you don’t re­ally feel alien in the new city, be­cause you know how to work and act and re­act. For ex­am­ple, if I go from Lon­don to Shang­hai, I don’t speak the lan­guage but I know how to be­have be­cause I know my code. So, this ur­ban-to-ur­ban ex­plo­ration is some­thing that’s very in­ter­est­ing.

esq: How does this new way of trav­el­ing in­spire the col­lec­tion? zk: For ex­am­ple, you travel to Florence, and then to Lon­don, and then you might go to Paris, and you do all of this in the course of five days. This means you have no time to wait in line to check in your bags, or to wait for your bags—you want some­thing you get on and off re­ally quickly. That’s why we cre­ated this lug­gage line that al­lows you the max­i­mum free­dom and abil­ity to take max­i­mum con­tent whilst ad­her­ing to all the size and weight and lim­i­ta­tions.

esq: So, func­tion­al­ity is the key? zk: When we started re­search­ing into the ma­te­ri­als, we said “it has to func­tion; it has to run over dif­fer­ent sur­faces; it has to be sturdy; it has to be easy to use.” But,


it has to be beau­ti­ful as well. You want some­thing that also stands out. We asked who the best man­u­fac­turer to han­dle this is—ger­many beau­ti­fully en­gi­neers parts, the best wheels are from Ja­pan and the best poly-car­bon are from Italy. So, we took all th­ese things and we started de­sign­ing the aes­thet­ics around it.

esq: How about the de­sign on the body? What in­spired the lines? zk: This might sound a lit­tle crazy, but when we were de­sign­ing this, I was ac­tu­ally re­search­ing ex­oskele­tons from cy­borgs. Be­cause ex­oskele­tons are ba­si­cally struc­tures around which you wrap a skin, it gives rigid­ity; it gives strength. At the same time, there’s a tac­til­ity. I found that con­cept re­ally in­ter­est­ing, and we re­alised that we could use the struc­ture of the lines to stiffen the poly­car­bon and give it a bit more struc­ture; we could also use it as an aes­thetic em­blem as well. So, the struc­ture and the ribs hold the piece to­gether giv­ing it strength, rigid­ity, and light­ness, as well as flex­i­bil­ity.

e s q : How do you see the #MY4810 col­lec­tion fit­ting into the world of Mont­blanc? zk: When we started, the idea was to have a lightweight, easy to use, re­sis­tant and re­silient, piece of travel lug­gage. The next step is to have five dif­fer­ent sizes, not just one. The name MY comes from a per­son­al­i­sa­tion as­pect; not only be­cause I can put my ini­tials on it or se­lect colours, it also means “how do I put the needs of my travel com­pan­ions to­gether?” It could be just that I need the trol­ley and the bag that goes with it, it could be that I need the trol­ley and the mid-size with it. It’s “how do I put the tools to­gether to ful­fil the role of my travel?” It’s a log­i­cal step to take. I also think the rea­son is to have a cer­tain aes­thetic. It’s made in Italy, it’s got the crafts­man­ship; so it was a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion for us to move for­ward.

esq: Do you find it chal­leng­ing de­sign­ing lug­gage as com­pared to leather goods or watches? zk: It’s chal­leng­ing be­cause it’s a com­pletely new ma­te­rial. We have to learn a new way of work­ing. When we went to look at the ma­te­ri­als, I was sit­ting there with the chem­istry guys and talk­ing about poly­mers and I was think­ing: “I wish I had paid more at­ten­tion in school.” Mont­blanc as a de­signer al­ways chal­lenges you to learn new things. It doesn’t say “do this again and again”; it says “OK, you’ve done this, now go into an­other di­rec­tion”, and that al­ways pushes you. I’ve learned about ma­te­ri­al­ity, tech­ni­cal de­vel­op­ment, ball­bear­ing, siz­ing, and ce­ramic ver­sus stain­less steel; it’s amaz­ing. When I have a new pro­ject, it’s not like “oh my god, I know noth­ing of this,” it’s more “OK, where do I start and how do I get into it?” For in­stance, I in­sisted on hav­ing th­ese leather cor­ners, which meant we had to work into the mould. It also meant I’d be los­ing space for some­thing else, so we have to re­ally con­sider all th­ese things, like the ra­dius. I think it sounds very tech­ni­cal, but it was very ex­cit­ing.

esq: Has the dig­i­tal side of things changed the way you de­sign? zk: No, it’s just the tools. Ev­ery­one has their own bal­ance—it de­pends where you put the slider. When I was first asked this ques­tion, the jour­nal­ist across from me asked: “yeah, but do you sleep with the iphone next to you?” I said: “Of course I do, ev­ery­body does. Be­cause without this, I don’t know what time it is, and I don’t get wo­ken up.” This [the iphone] lies next to my bed, but my sketch­book is in my bed. It doesn’t change the way I de­sign, it just changed my mix of tools nowa­days. When I have four de­sign teams, and I travel, how do I com­mu­ni­cate with them? I make a sketch. I take my phone, I take a photo, and I send it to them. They work on it and send me a PDF. I take the PDF and I com­ment on it, and then, this sketch be­comes a 3-D piece which we model. It’s this mix­ture, and I think it’s amaz­ing to have all th­ese tools. But you have to find your own bal­ance.

esq: Speak­ing of ur­ban ex­plo­ration, what does the term means to you? zk: Ur­ban ex­plo­ration means the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween peo­ple, it’s not only about how I’m walk­ing around the city and look­ing at build­ings and ar­chi­tec­ture. Ur­ban ex­plo­ration starts within you. It’s “how do I in­ter­act and integrate my­self with the en­vi­ron­ment we live in?” It’s also an edit­ing process: edit­ing how you move, edit­ing the peo­ple you in­ter­act with, edit­ing with your jobs, edit­ing with the ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment. The other thing one shouldn’t for­get with all this is beauty and tac­til­ity. When you look at a city dur­ing the day, there’s the func­tion; walk through the same city at night, and that’s when the glam­our, the ro­mance, the mys­tery, the dark­ness, ap­pears. It’s to be aware of what it is, and to learn and utilise that. You can find that in ev­ery city you go, and you’ll find codes that work in dif­fer­ent ways. Two weeks ago, I was in Paris. I couldn’t sleep so I walked out of my ho­tel at mid­night. I’ve been in Paris for 30 years and know it like the back of my hand. I just went into the left bank and got lost. You know what time I came home? 4:30 in the morn­ing. I was walk­ing the whole night. It’s see­ing things through new eyes.

esq: Like see­ing the full moon in Florence? zk: You should re­ally see that—it takes your breath away, ev­ery time.

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