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In 1906, Montblanc was founded by two German friends—Alfred Nehemias, a banker in Hamburg, and August Eberstein, an engineer in Berlin. The duo had just returned to Hamburg from a trip to New York and set upon the idea of inventing beautifully-designed “writing instruments.” For over 100 years, the brand has gone back to that very story, sourcing inspiration for its many collections that exist today—from pens to watches, bracelets to suitcases.
On April 24, we found ourselves in Berlin with the brand to celebrate the launch of its new #MY4810 Nighlight Silver Trolley luggage. The lightweight suitcase—equipped with leather corners, personalization features, inch-by-inch adjustable handles, a portable charger, and more—is a luxurious nod to traditional craftsmanship for today’s modern traveler.
After unpacking, we sat down with Montblanc’s CEO, Nicolas Baretzki, to talk about how the brand’s focus on travel has evolved. “I’m not sure if we’re here today for a product or if we are here today to talk about Montblanc, and if not its vision, at least its expression in the travel world,” he said. “One of the many reasons we brought this nice crowd to Berlin was to say that travel is a very important segment for Montblanc. We were basically born on it after the founders came back from New York, discovered the patent of the fountain pen, and from this innovation created the company.”
He elaborated, saying that just four years after the brand’s foundation, they created the name “Montblanc.” The name had nothing to do with Germany, but it was, Baretzki said, “really about the spirit of going outside of our own territory.” Since, the brand became one of the first luxury companies to enter countries like India and Brazil—destinations far from its foundation.
Modern day travel is, however, changing. With consumers focused on experiences, the luxury maisons are up for a challenge to keep its clients as engaged with the product. “The modern traveler isn’t just a traveler for business or leisure; I think they’re a bit of everything,” continued Baretzki. “We needed to create a collection that can go anywhere—not just a high luxury trip, or a casual weekend. Our positioning is of course luxury, craftsmanship, and quality, but that’s not enough. We don’t want to be similar to other brands. When it comes to Montblanc, there is always this notion of performance and functionality that is linked to the product. We try to think how we can bring this all together while thinking of the modern traveler.”
Our conversation led us further interested in how the brand’s Creative Director, Zaim Kamal, translated this. To hear more on why we were in Berlin, and what the modern-day traveler is looking for, we stopped in for a quick chat before the big celebration that night.
“Number one, travel has changed a lot. I remember when travel used to be glamorous, when people put on their best. Nowadays, you need companions that celebrate the rituals you have pre- and post-travel—like packing and unpacking. You need a piece that accompanies you all the way through that you never have to separate from,” said Kamal. “I lived here in Berlin in the 80s, and we’re here today because it was very well-known as a destination for a lot of creative travelers. From Bowie and Nick Cave, everyone came to Berlin because it was a city of free thought. This is a celebration of the 21st century Berlin, in its role in this global root of travelers when it comes to creativity.”
That night at the city’s famed Metropol Theatre at Nollendorfplatz, we celebrated the travel experience joined special guests like Adrien Brody, Quincy Brown, Alex Pettyfer, Poppy Delevingne, Suki Waterhouse, Toni Garrn, Pierre Niney, Frederick Lau, and Jürgen Vogel. After mingling with the globe trotters and during sips of champagne, we were wowed with live music by German techno marching band, MEUTE, and DJed tunes by Peggy Gou, Palina Rojinski, and Lars Eidinger.