WEST MEETS EAST
ZAIM KAMAL, the creative director of Montblanc, tells STEVE ROCKOWITZ about the brand’s latest limited-edition High Artistry collection: the Homage to Emperor Kangxi
WHEN DESIGNING ITS latest limited- edition collection of writing instruments, German luxury manufacturer Montblanc turned to an unusual source of inspiration: Emperor Kangxi (1654–1722) of the Qing Dynasty. With the High Artistry Homage to Emperor Kangxi Limited Edition, Montblanc captures the spirit of one of China's most heralded rulers through a variety of dazzling jewels, gold work and complex techniques. Zaim Kamal, the company's creative director, explains the inspiration behind the Kangxi collection.
You joined Montblanc about five years ago – what was your background prior to that?
I attended Central Saint Martins in London. After I graduated in
1991, I started working for shows, designing shoes, bags and other accessories. Since I was still a junior at the time, they always assigned me to do the accessories. I was given a handful of addresses in London, and I wandered off with my sketches and met some shoemakers – but I showed them my sketches and they told me I was doing everything wrong. Long story short, I learnt how to make accessories because
I was working with the people who made them. Back in the day in London, there were these workshops that did all of those things. I got into it and started enjoying it, and over time, it became quite strange, because people would come up to me and tell me to build collections of accessories for them, which was the complete opposite of what I was doing a few years back. Since I knew how to construct them and had been working in that field for the past few years, it was fairly easy for me to translate my skills when I came to Montblanc.
When you were designing this High Artistry collection, did you have all of the brand’s various products in mind, or did you start with the writing instruments and take it from there?
I started with the writing instruments because the High Artistry collection was very much based on those. When we did the basic outlines, I had more of an overall picture. The High Artistry collection always has to be a little separated from the other collections because it follows very specific rules and craftsmanship. Every time we create a High Artistry line, we always aim to adapt a new and challenging technique to a special piece. You start with the persona and character, then you try to find the link to the maison. This is very important because it gives a reason for Montblanc to do a Kangxi collection – we don't do it just for the sake of doing it.