@MusingMutley: Interview with creative director of Montblanc, Zaim Kamal
Industrial lighting, a backdrop of steel, and neon graffiti plastered across bare cement walls. It's the first night of Paris men's fashion week, and esconced in a refurbished warehouse in the third arrondissement, a motley crew of models, actors and international media have gathered to celebrate the launch of Montblanc's Urban Spirit Leather collection. Case in point: Seated at the dinner table in front of me is Victoria's Secret model, Bruna Lirio (rather shy, often retreating to the safety of her phone); a few seats down is Alex Pettyfer (from Magic Mike fame); and, interspersed throughout, are notable digital influencers such as Matthew Zorpas, Kadu Dantas, and Adam Gallagher. Clearly, tonight is a big deal for the maison.
The new Urban Spirit Leather collection is a bold push by the famed accessories maker to hone in on the discerning globe-trotting gent. All clean lines and functional pockets, the 22-piece collection sports sort-to-touch black Italian leather (crafted in the Montblanc pelletteria in Florence), and for the first time, the traditional Montblanc emblem has been replaced by a modern metal edge on the corner of both small and large leather products. Fresher? Definitely. Younger? To be expected. Sophisticated? Still, and always.
Inbetween cocktails, and surrounded by his latest creations exalted as contemporary artworks on white pedestals, I speak to Montblanc's creative director Zaim Kamal about the rationale, and intended resonance, of his latest leather offering.
How do you define the 'urban spirit'?
The answer is simple, powerful and exciting: a man and his city. How their needs, habits and movements intertwine, creating emotive patterns and tactile interactions. Each of us has a very personal relationship with our own cities. Even when we are in a strange city with habits we are not familiar with, it is the streetwise codes of our own city that allows us to circumvent any obstacles we might encounter. It is precisely this spirit of street, or urban wisdom, that we used as inspiration for Montblanc's new Urban Spirit Leather collection.
Tell us about a unique detail or fact about the Urban Spirit leather collection that might not be obvious to the consumer.
With the Urban Spirit collection the maison wanted to bridge elegance and sophistication to functionality. We designed the pieces to fulfill all the daily needs a man expects from his daily companion. An internal organisation that can be individually set — such as slots on the outside of the small leather goods that allow him to access his travel cards discreetly and quickly. We introduced Montblanc Shield, a special foil integrated into a pocket in all bags and small leather goods, that protects all your cards and documents with sensitive data from unauthorised reading and copying.
Who did you had in mind when designing the Montblanc Urban Spirit Leather collection?
A progressive creator-doer with a strong spirit of mobility, exploration and daily mindfulness. He poses an ability to fuse his urban environment with the elegance of urban functionality and transversability. The codes of which he sets everyday to reflect his very own streetwise attitude.
What is more important: Aesthetics or function?
For Montblanc it is the balance of both. If you have only aesthetics, or only function, we would be missing the counterpart that imbues a Montblanc piece with the refinement and sophistication that our clients expect. This is the tactility that we embed within our pieces and in everything we design.
There are many luxury leather goods in the market. How have you tried to separate your collection from the rest of the pack? What is its competitive advantage?
We always have the man we design for in mind before we start on any new product. What are his needs? How does he work, move, and play? His habits and interaction with his urban environment are at the top of our minds when designing a collection. This approach ensures that we create products that he wants, which is emotive rather than merely needs. We try to surprise him without compromising on functional quality, craftsmanship or innovation.
Is this collection a new staple for Montblanc, or will it evolve with new trends and fashions?
When we design a piece we always think of the longevity of each piece and line. How will it be perceived in three years? How will the functions evolve? From the onset, we create with a long-term view. This doesn't mean that a line will always stay the same, as innovation is a main part of the maison's DNA. So whenever we create something, we always go back and think about how can we make it better.
Every now and then, women covet an 'It' bag. Do you think this will ever happen for men?
In my personal opinion the prefix 'It' implies a need that is imposed rather than a desire that comes from within. There will always be both ends of the spectrum, which is equally valid for men and women.
For the launch of the collection, there were short videos created with digital influencers such as Adam Gallagher, Kadu Dantas and Matthew Zorpas. Why did you choose to work with these particular gentlemen?
All three of them represent a very specific sense of style, which resonates well with the way we see the maison. Montblanc is about diversity and an individual approach to style. Our lines are diverse and transversal to accommodate being carried by a wide range of personal style without losing their own voice. That is one of the most exciting aspects of Montblanc. I think that true style will always stand out and be recognized for itself. It is the voice that counts and not its packaging.
The Urban Spirit Leather collection is now available in Montblanc stores located at Ngee Ann City, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, and Raffles City.
Check back every Monday for another @MusingMutley column from Norman Tan, Editor-in-Chief of Buro 24/7 Singapore. For more columns from @MusingMutley, click here.
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