Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
It has been 115 years since Montblanc was founded by two friends and explorers in Berlin. Throughout the course of the brand’s history, it has navigated many twists and turns to offer high-quality products for travelers, starting with an elegant writing utensil that many collect today. Since, Montblanc has specialized in watches, small leather goods, luggage, and more.
In 2019, though, an unexcepted move prompted by the brand’s CEO, Nicolas Baretzki, led to a new look for the European maison. It was a collaboration with the streetwear brand BAPE, shocking seasoned collectors and younger generations alike with contemporary designs and an undeniably luxurious feel. It was a deliberate decision to show that while Montblanc remains dedicated to heightened materials and craftsmanship, it can also be approachably cool.
The success of this collaborative spirit, blending old and new, timeless and trendy, led Montblanc to collaborate this past year with The Webster and Maison Kitsuné, too. And most recently, the brand partnered with Public School New York (PSNY).
For the latest collaboration, Montblanc focused on simplicity of design, with most pieces in black, trimmed in neon or white. But the kicker for the collection is rooted in its revolutionary materials that won’t harm the planet. Each material chosen for the eco-friendly line was selected to minimize impact, including an environmentally friendly and recycled nylon yarn called ECONYL®.
Whitewall spoke with Baretzki to learn how the collaborative line with PSNY continues Montblanc’s excitement for collaboration, how the brand is expanding with sustainability in mind, and how the pandemic impacted his view of travel.
WHITEWALL: Why did Montblanc want to partner with PSNY on this collaborative line?
NICOLAS BARETZKI: Once in a while we disrupt what we are doing in an avant garde and cool way, and this fall, we did it with PSNY. The brand has a strong footprint within the lifestyle space, blending ideas of convergence and disruption. PSNY is also best known in the industry for resetting their brand based on low-impact principles and Maxwell and Dao-Yi embody a restless energy and represent a vision of NYC that’s beloved by many.
For Montblanc, our goal was to reset the idea of luxury business lifestyle and to reach people who are redefining “success” on their own terms. We wanted to partner with someone like PSNY who understood this ethos and shared our values— attracting new customers to our diverse and versatile brand universe.
WW: The collection has a sustainable component to it, made from nylon yarn sourced from regenerated waste. Can you tell us more about this?
NB: Every material used in the creation of this eco-friendly line was carefully selected to minimize environmental impact, starting with the use of the fabric used both externally and for the lining of each piece—a environmentally friendly nylon yarn called ECONYL®. Through a radical regeneration process waste including fishing nets, carpets, and fabric scraps, is recycled into a nylon that not only finds its original purity once again, but it can be recycled infinitely, without losing its quality.
WW: How is the brand thinking about sustainability moving forward?
NB: At Montblanc, we are currently undergoing a lot of internal changes and have been addressing the topic of sustainability for years. We have been working through how to best optimize our processes and reduce our carbon footprint in the most effective way possible. In the upcoming year, look to see the following pillars incorporated throughout all the verticals within the maison.
There are two pillars we will be focusing on: People and Planet. Firstly, is People which is about maximizing our brand footprint and giving our employees, customers, and communities more meaningful ways to leave their mark in a way that matters. Secondly, is the Planet where we will focus on minimizing our brand footprint by finding innovative solutions, doubling down on our efforts to make Montblanc’s environmental mark invisible, and allowing customers to minimize their own environmental impact
While we move towards a more environmentally conscious future at Montblanc, we wanted to create something that could hint, resonate, and again, show that even though these are small steps, we are working to address this growing concern.
The topic of sustainability plays into a larger part of why we teamed up with PSNY to create a collection that’s made from regenerated fabric, and environmentally conscious materials. By doing so, we’re able to show our clients that we’ve found a way to avoid compromising the care and craftsmanship that goes into creating our Montblanc products.
WW: Montblanc has recently collaborated with younger, contemporary brands—before PSNY, it teamed up with Maison Kitsune, among others. What importance is collaboration for you and the brand today?
NB: We’ve always believed in the importance pushing boundaries in design and innovation. It’s very much part of Montblanc’s DNA. When we partner with other like-minded brands, those who share similar values, whether craftsmanship, design excellence, innovation or quality, it allows us to push in new directions. There is so much creative energy that happens when to brands come together, allowing us to be more disruptive for our customers but giving us an opportunity to introduce Montblanc to a new generation of luxury lifestyle customers. We have been around for 115 years but that doesn’t mean that don’t love to show up in unexpected ways and keep surprising people!
WW: The brand is most known for its writing instruments, yet its leather goods category has been around since 1926—almost a century. How do you envision this product line growing or evolving?
NB: Our writing instruments have certainly achieved that iconic status and are recognized across continents and generations, but we are excited to see so much enthusiasm for our other product categories from watches to new technologies that continue to be so well received. In fact, among our categories, leather goods are a major part of our growth strategy for Montblanc. Under the creative leadership or Marco Tomasetta, a proven creative force in the leather category, we are exploring new design themes and concepts, creating different collections that appeal to different audiences. We are still very much focused on elegant design, functionality and quality, but some of our collections are going to look very different. We will also continue to evolve our core collections that have been staples in Luxury Business Lifestyle exploring new materials and functionalities to meet their ever-evolving needs.
WW: What do you feel is Montblanc's ethos?
NB: We’ve always been a company focused on innovating and creating products that would help our customers achieve their goals, but last year rearticulated our ethos, reflecting the fact that our customers’ lives were changing, and the very definition of success was changing as well. Montblanc’s core belief is that “everyone can leave a mark”, not just by leaving a stamp on their way to success but enjoying the journey along the way and pursuing endeavors that inspire and excite them at every turn, accompanied by the Montblanc pieces they love. True success is about living a life with meaning and purpose, and we want to be part of it. That’s why we launched our new brand campaign, What Moves You, Makes You, the idea that if you do what moves you, it will make you who you are. That’s our ethos, it hasn’t necessarily changed, it’s just evolved, yet always inspiring people to achieve their full potential, on their own terms by doing what they love.
WW: How did being isolated amid a global pandemic impact your view of travel?
NB: It’s certainly not easy to be grounded when you are used to being on the road or in the air most of your time. It certainly made me appreciate the gift of travel, and the ability to experience different places, people and cultures so feely. I am really encouraged to see that people are slowly traveling again. At Montblanc, we are closely monitoring and assessing how our customers’ lives are evolving and thinking about the products we create for them. Our smart headphones were originally intended for travel but it’s amazing to see all the different ways they are being used to help our customers feel inspired and productive, whether at home, in the air or in new hybrid work settings.