Montblanc's new creative director highlights the power of the written word

Marco Tomasetta, Montblanc’s new creative director, holds up one of the brand’s Meisterstuck writing instruments. “This is the total code,” he tells me. “The total DNA.”

The Meisterstuck is a distillation of Montblanc’s know-how, history and heritage. It is, says Tomasetta, “an icon”, something that only a handful of luxury brands have succeeded in creating. “It is very difficult to create icons. Maybe four brands have a truly iconic symbol. This is the reason I am here. It is so strong.”

First unveiled in Hamburg in 1924, the Meisterstuck has been a companion for scholars, scientists, poets, artists, statesmen, creatives and industry leaders for almost a century. While the writing instrument has been reimagined in various guises since its launch, every nib continues to be hand-sculpted from solid gold by master craftsmen in a painstaking 35-step process, and an additional 70 steps are required to assemble and test it.

Tomasetta’s first Meisterstuck was a gift from one of the creative directors he worked with early on in his career. The pen was a catalyst for his decision to join Montblanc in March last year, and is the bedrock of his creative vision for the house moving forward.

In his exuberant Italian way, Tomasetta speaks of “the emotion of working with a brand that has a very strong identity that is linked to writing, which is such an important topic, connected to education and to literacy. When you write and when you draw, the connection is very different to when you type on a computer. Writing is powerful.”

He hopes to pass this message on to a new wave of luxury consumers. “I want to communicate to a new generation and convey a very important message: we need to continue writing, regardless of new technologies. When we write with a Meisterstuck, we are more authentic than when we type on WhatsApp.

"And I am taking this message of writing on to the leather goods. My message is very translatable. It is the thread that runs through the entire collection.”

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The idea of authenticity is key for Tomasetta. Emblazoned across his forearm is a tattoo of the Latin phrase “omnia vincit amor”, or love conquers all, and it is clear that emotion is the driving force behind his creative output. “In fashion, there isn’t that real connection,” he says. “Every season, every collection, you change. Whereas here, at Montblanc, you have a very strong, authentic story.”

The industry veteran has worked at Prada, Chloe, Louis Vuitton and, most recently, was creative design director for men’s and women’s leather goods at Givenchy. A graduate of the Instituto Europeo di Design in Milan, he started his career at Dolce & Gabbana (“Stefano and Domenico were my school,” he says) and cites Coco Chanel as the ultimate creative. “For me, she is the best designer in the world. She is a complete designer. She created bestsellers in every category, from perfumes and bags to dresses and jackets,” he says.

Montblanc's new creative director highlights the power of the written word

It is clear that Tomasetta has also set out to create something that endures — his equivalent of the Chanel 2.55 bag. His first leather collection for Montblanc arrived in stores this month and his imprint and vision are already crystal clear.

For his debut, he revisited Montblanc’s existing Meisterstuck Leather Collection, imbuing it with new shapes, finishes and details that promise to become house signatures. Much of his inspiration was drawn from the Montblanc archive.

“I went very deep into the archive. It is so beautiful. Imagine, more than 100 years of history. I could stay there for ever,” he says. “There is infinite inspiration there.”

In the archive, he discovered a wealth of colour — blues, yellows and reds that are perhaps unexpected given the brand’s more recent leanings towards a more classic, monochromatic palette. He has incorporated shades of blue, coral red and white into the new collection, elevating bags, cardholders and wallets with bold blocks of colour.

He drew on the blue hues found on one of Montblanc’s first advertising campaigns, a poster designed by American painter Rudolph Sternad in 1910, showing the glacial peaks of Montblanc mountain with a writing instrument in the foreground. Tomasetta then reimagined the silhouette of the mountain on a new pouch, which is uplifted with blue accents on the exterior.

When it came to colour, Tomasetta found himself drawn to the black of the Meisterstuck, applying the distinctive hue across the collection. “It’s a very specific shade of black,” he says. “It’s Montblanc black. Colour is important for identity. And black is the total colour, the absolute.”

In creating this connection between Montblanc’s writing instruments and leather goods, Tomasetta is reiterating a relationship that dates back almost a century and that he saw clearly illustrated in the archives. “Montblanc’s first leather goods were pen pouches, created to protect the writing instruments. So the connection is very strong.”

A more literal ode to this relationship is evident in the nib-shaped details that run through the new collection. Metal hardware and zip pulls are shaped like the tip of Montblanc’s fountain pens, while leather handles and straps elegantly taper into the same outline where they attach to the bags. “I want to create something that’s recognisable in the street; something where people can say immediately: ‘That’s Montblanc,’” says Tomasetta.

He also embraced the original Montblanc logo, as featured on the brand’s first writing instruments. While it was the same shape, it was much larger and more prominent, and Tomasetta has played with these shifts in scale when applying the logo to the new leather goods.

The designer simultaneously experimented with new bag shapes, proportions and materials, including a new leather that is soft to the touch, but has a slight sheen that references the reflective surface of the Meisterstuck. A hybrid briefcase and backpack reflects how the Montblanc man is evolving — he is active, on the move and seeking more relaxed and multifunctional fashion solutions.

The collection of large leather goods includes the Neo Briefcase, a new take on the traditional satchel with an elegant metal closure, a document case, a tote and a duffel bag, while smaller accessories include the portfolio and the pouch, which can be worn either cross-body or carried as a clutch, as well as wallets, card holders, key pouches and luggage tags that also carry a nib-shaped design.

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In addition, Tomasetta has designed a range of accessories using textiles, with a distinctive glacier-inspired motif and hardware taken directly from mountain climbing equipment. Light, practical and sustainable, the collection is crafted from recycled nylon and offers a more sporty aesthetic.

This is all part of the designer’s attempts to introduce Montblanc to a younger, more unisex audience. Women currently represent 40 per cent of the brand’s customer base, but they are generally buying gifts for the men in their lives. Tomasetta hopes his products will appeal to them, too. “This collection is not only for men,” he says. “The proportions can be good for men and women. I want to create products that are very chic and very sophisticated. Simple but strong.”