‘A TENTH OF A MIL­LIME­TRE CAN MAKE A DIF­FER­ENCE’

Zaim Ka­mal, cre­ative di­rec­tor of Mont­blanc, tells Selina Den­man why there is un­ex­pected free­dom in work­ing with a mi­nus­cule can­vas

The National - News - Luxury - - CONTENTS -

Mont­blanc’s cre­ative di­rec­tor on work­ing with a mi­cro can­vas

“Bauhaus, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones.” These are the in­flu­ences that have shaped Zaim Ka­mal’s aes­thetic, he tells me with a smile. It’s per­haps not what you would ex­pect from the global cre­ative di­rec­tor of Mont­blanc, a 112-year-old her­itage brand best known for its exquisitely crafted foun­tain pens. But Ka­mal, with his un­hur­ried man­ner, melo­di­ous voice, grey hair and slim frame ha­bit­u­ally clad in black, is noth­ing if not un­ex­pected.

“I am a child of the 1970s and I was very much in­flu­enced by that era,” he con­tin­ues. “So it’s all a lit­tle bit, for lack of a bet­ter word, edgy. I grew up with rock bands and elec­tric gui­tars; my mother used to go to Stu­dio 54 – that’s the world I come from. So I think I tend to look at things from a dif­fer­ent an­gle.”

He has de­vel­oped a knack for pre­sent­ing things out­side of their usual con­text. This has trans­lated into projects such as the Mont­blanc Se­cret Adorn­ment Tat­too col­lec­tion – brief­cases that fea­ture se­cret, hand-drawn tat­toos by Mo Cop­po­letta on the in­side of their flaps. “I said I wanted to do a tat­too on leather,” Ka­mal re­calls. “They asked why. What does a tat­too have to do with leather? I said it’s the idea of writ­ing with ink on a sur­face… of us­ing the idea of writ­ing, of mak­ing your mark, but in a dif­fer­ent way.”

Ka­mal started his ca­reer as a fash­ion de­signer, grad­u­at­ing from Cen­tral Saint Martins in 1991, in the midst of a ma­jor re­ces­sion. “There were no jobs – ev­ery­body went bust. We were these highly trained, highly mo­ti­vated de­sign­ers, and we just wanted work. Any job,” he re­veals. Any job ended up be­ing an in­tern­ship with Vivi­enne West­wood. “She lit­er­ally taught us how to cre­ate some­thing out of noth­ing,” he re­calls. “It takes two me­tres of fab­ric to cre­ate a jacket. At the time, there wasn’t money for two me­tres of fab­ric, so we used to go to the bins and get the of­f­cuts – they were be­tween 90 cen­time­tres and one me­tre wide, and so we had to be very clever with our pat­tern-cut­ting. There were all these lit­tle things, of un­der­stand­ing how not to waste any­thing, of be­ing aware of what you do, of not be­ing pre­cious about it.”

Although born in Pak­istan (into a con­ser­va­tive fam­ily that must have baulked at the idea of him study­ing fash­ion), Ka­mal has called the British cap­i­tal home for more than 30 years. “I have al­ways loved Lon­don, since I was a child,” he says. “I grew up in Pak­istan, but Lon­don had ev­ery­thing that I wanted. It was cre­ative; it was big; it was crazy; okay, the food sucked, but Lon­don has an en­ergy that you will not find any­where else in the world. The weather sucks, but when the sun shines, the city glows.

“You can sit in cen­tral Lon­don and you will see ev­ery trend – ev­ery­thing that is go­ing to hap­pen, that has hap­pened, that is hap­pen­ing – walk past you in a sin­gle day. If you want to see what the world is go­ing to be, go to Cam­den Lock on a Satur­day; just sit there on the bridge and let the world go by. You will see ev­ery­thing that’s in the mak­ing.”

It was per­haps fated that he would end up at Mont­blanc, since he has al­ways been sur­rounded by the brand’s cre­ations: his grand­fa­ther used to col­lect writ­ing in­stru­ments and Ka­mal, him­self, has long been a fan of the brand’s iconic Meis­ter­stück pen.

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