SUM­MIT OF OP­U­LENCE

Lux­ury goods brand Mont­blanc has reaf­firmed its com­mit­ment to Africa by ap­point­ing a re­gional MD and launch­ing a mul­ti­prod­uct range in Jo’burg

Destiny Man - - NOTEBOOK -

I’ve al­ways been enamoured of the foun­tain pen. It’s a writ­ing in­stru­ment that elic­its a sen­sual plea­sure and en­cour­ages an ex­pres­sion and unique style far re­moved from the mun­dan­ity of quick­fire work­place emails and gro­cery lists.

Owned by South African bil­lion­aire Jo­hann Ru­pert’s Richemont, Mont­blanc is one of the world’s lead­ing brands of lux­ury writ­ing in­stru­ments, watches, jew­ellery, leather goods, fra­grances and eye­wear made mostly in Ger­many and Switzer­land. The com­pany’s been cred­ited with sin­gle­hand­edly bring­ing the foun­tain pen back into fash­ion and re­mains one of an ex­clu­sive club of pen-mak­ers that pro­duces its pens – from nib to crown –in-house, at its Ham­burg ate­lier.

Mont­blanc’s ul­tra-ex­clu­sive Great Char­ac­ters range of writ­ing in­stru­ments cel­e­brates his­tor­i­cal fig­ures such as Avi­cenna, the Bea­tles, Han­ni­bal,

King Lud­wig II and Miles Davis.

The in­tri­cate de­sign process can take up to a year, with a team of spe­cial­ists – whose spe­cially de­signed, one-off tools are im­me­di­ately de­stroyed af­ter pro­duc­tion – ap­ply­ing more than a cen­tury of ac­cu­mu­lated knowl­edge into turn­ing these out. With price-tags of more than R500 000, you wouldn’t want to leave these pens on the counter at your lo­cal Post­net, but I imag­ine us­ing them would make quite a state­ment – es­pe­cially when cou­pled with a cheque­book.

In ad­di­tion to its trade­mark pens,

Mont­blanc show­cased an ex­ten­sive range of time­pieces, jew­ellery and lug­gage of­fer­ings at its

Black & White Week. These in­clude the mil­i­tary- styled 1858 watches and the painted calf­skin leather ex­tra­van­ganza that is the Meis­ter­stück Se­lec­tion Sfu­mato lug­gage range.

To over­see African op­er­a­tions, Mont­blanc has ap­pointed its first-ever re­gional MD, 20-year group vet­eran Alain dos San­tos, whose most re­cent as­sign­ment was lead­ing the Swiss com­pany’s ac­tiv­i­ties in Brazil.

“SA is the most im­por­tant mar­ket on the con­ti­nent for us. Our plan is to de­velop our ac­tiv­i­ties in our four stand-alone bou­tiques and se­lected net­work of re­tail­ers and our am­bi­tion in the rest of the con­ti­nent is to be closer to our part­ners and sup­port their growth. We’re also on the look­out for new part­ner­ships in coun­tries where we don’t cur­rently have a foot­print,” says the French­man, who’s en­joy­ing the beauty of SA af­ter five years in the “con­crete ver­ti­cal­ity” of São Paulo.

Dos San­tos is ex­cited about the new col­lec­tion and ex­pects it to do well on the con­ti­nent. “I’m con­fi­dent about the suc­cess of our new col­lec­tion and have met com­mer­cial part­ners who are equally en­thu­si­as­tic. We’ve launched the range in Johannesburg at the same time as other global cen­tres like New York, Lon­don and Hong Kong. We’re a unique mai­son in the lux­ury seg­ment, of­fer­ing four strong pil­lars – writ­ing in­stru­ments, watches, leather and lug­gage. We have no com­pe­ti­tion across the world for these ranges,” he says.

These are try­ing times for lo­cal con­sumers, what with VAT in­creases, fuel price hikes and eco­nomic headwinds, but Dos San­tos is bullish about Mont­blanc’s prospects.

“We have over 110 years of his­tory with unique Meis­ter­stück products. We’ve seen many highs and lows over the course of our his­tory. We’re a global brand and have never pulled out of any of our mar­kets. We un­der­stand that we’ll face chal­lenges, but we also know that there are eco­nomic cy­cles and that there’ll be bet­ter mo­ments to come,” he says.

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