Whenever I receive confirmation (and Alessandra has always been so kind to never refuse) from Alessandra Elia and her PR team for an interview, I become incredibly excited. There are two reasons for my excitement: Firstly, Montblanc is the driving force of our industry, and having the opportunity to speak directly with the Writing Culture Director of the brand is a rare occurrence. Secondly, talking to Alessandra Elia always fills me with hope for our industry and brings me positive vibes.
Dear Alessandra, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview you once again, following our initial conversation in October 2021. Since then, Montblanc has been making significant strides with numerous exciting developments. Today, I would like to delve into the intricacies of some recent releases and get a glimpse of your creative vision. Furthermore, I am keen to explore the future trajectory of Montblanc’s Writing Division.
How has your creative journey at Montblanc been, Alessandra? What exciting projects have you been working on?
I always feel a mix of excitement and nervousness when asked this question, as we are already working on concepts that will be released three years from now but that I cannot reveal yet (laughs). But to answer your question directly, we have been incredibly busy and dedicated to an immensely important event for Montblanc: the 100th anniversary of our icon, the Meisterstück. It’s truly remarkable because we have been working on this anniversary and everything surrounding it since I joined the company five years ago.
To celebrate this iconic collection, we have decided to build the entire narrative around several chapters that will be released throughout the year. The journey begins with a chapter inspired by the origins of the Meisterstück, featuring exclusive prototypes discovered in our archives that served as our inspiration. So, in celebrating the Meisterstück, we are paying tribute to its roots and looking towards the future. Naturally, this project demands an enormous amount of effort and attention from the entire Montblanc team, touching every single department. When celebrating an icon like the Meisterstück, we must also find the perfect ways and venues to showcase it worldwide. Therefore, we are currently exploring incredible locations around the globe to honor this significant milestone. So, at this stage, I would definitely say that this is our top priority.
Talking about “out of the ordinary”, in addition to this remarkable celebration, which will take place next year, I can name the recently launched Montblanc Ferrari Stilema SP3 project in February, co-created with Flavio Manzoni, Chief Creative Officer of Ferrari. It is an artisan edition with a sleek and modern design, something completely different from our usual projects. This particular release allowed us to push boundaries and explore new creative avenues. Usually, we create highly ornamented pieces, but the Stilema SP3 is pure and monolithic in its design, reflecting the design essence of the Ferrari Daytona SP3 Supercar.
A few weeks ago, Montblanc released the Orient Express as a 149. It is unusual for Montblanc to take such an iconic piece and release it in a different color with specific engravings. What was the motivation behind this decision?
Actually, this release was a teaser for our long-term collaboration with the Orient Express. The Orient Express offers the most stylish and luxurious travel experience one can have in their life. The magical ambiance created by its period aesthetics and art deco style perfectly matches the era when Montblanc flourished, particularly during the 1920s, when the Meisterstück was born.
In 2025, the Orient Express will launch the Nostalgie Istanbul Train, where they are renovating an original train and fitting it with an incredible presidential suite. The craftsmanship and level of service in this room and the entire train will be extraordinary.
Let’s go back to last year when the Naruto Edition pleasantly surprised fans. Could you share the story behind this unique and eclectic idea?
I’m glad you asked about this and that you provided positive feedback. For us, it was a complete experiment. We felt the desire to gradually explore themes that allowed us to express our creative ideas in unexpected ways. We wanted to test concepts like colored PVD coating, which could bring a modern touch to our products.
The idea behind the Naruto Edition originated from our Marketing Department after an in-depth research on topics that connect the world of writing, creativity, and popular culture. Naturally, we didn’t want to lose our connection to our authentic roots. With a fountain pen, you can not only write but also draw, utilizing different nib sizes and shapes. We realized that Manga is a topic with a lot of traction and that has a dedicated community. The beauty of connecting with a community is that there is always a deep emotional connection to that particular subject. People are incredibly passionate about it, and their connection is profound rather than superficial.
The Naruto collection was a great success, allowing us to Inspire Writing across new generations of customers. Meaning we were able to connect also with the younger generations. Having such an energetic and colorful collection provided us with an opportunity in boutiques to create a very impactful visual merchandising.
After an impressive 30-year run, Montblanc recently bid farewell to its iconic Patron of Art collection, making way for the Masters of Art collection. What prompted this change in direction, and how do these two collections relate?
Our priority has always been to listen to our customers. Since I joined Montblanc, collectors and customers at various boutique events have expressed in various instances their desire for art-related editions. They would ask why we weren’t exploring paying tribute to specific artists or creating editions inspired by renowned artworks. We also received feedback from managers across different markets, informing us that major museums were interested in collaborating with us. After allowing these ideas to sink in for a few years, we became increasingly intrigued because, on one hand, there was a significant demand from our clients, and on the other hand, delving into the world of artists would allow us to venture into a more contemporary art sphere.
By focusing on artists throughout history, we can explore a multitude of interesting epochs and artistic styles. Regarding the Patron of Art collection, while there were other editions we could have created, we felt that after thirty years, we had covered some of the most important figures. To ensure the continued success of the collection and to offer something new that would satisfy our customers’ needs, the evolution from Patron of Art to Masters of Art felt like the right move. We are now prepared for the next thirty years, and we are eagerly anticipating the creative process behind each Masters of Art edition. Every artist brings their own language, style, and colors, creating a positive challenge for everyone involved in the creation of these editions.
Montblanc’s range of notebooks has seen significant success in recent years. How crucial has it been for the brand to offer such a diverse selection to its customers? Are there other stationery ranges that Montblanc sees as having untapped potential for future growth? Perhaps hidden gems that could be further developed and discovered?
Our notebooks hold a very high importance for us, especially now more than ever. We invested significant research into the quality of the paper, its color, the leather cover, and the binding system, all aimed at creating a state-of-the-art product. Our notebooks serve as a canvas for daily use, and we have reached a point where this aspect has become increasingly vital. We have a desire to explore the world of paper and the entire desk experience. The desk itself is becoming a key element of our Maison. While we have achieved great results with writing instruments, our focus now lies in building the world around them. The role of the desk is very important as it reflects your personality and says a lot about who you are as a person. We have a very intimate relationship with our desk, as we do with our writing instruments. This is what inspires us at Montblanc to continuously enhance the writing experience by working relentlessly on the world of paper and desk accessories as daily companions. For the 100 years of Meisterstuck next year we are completely relaunching our Desk Accessories range.
What are some key elements, often overlooked by the untrained eye, that contribute to the premium look of a writing instrument?
While design elements can be visually perceived, what makes a significant difference is the tactile aspect—the sensorial experience when you hold the pen in your hand. Factors such as weight distribution, and how the pen sounds when you open and close it play a crucial role. The shine of the resin and the metal fittings also contribute to the overall premium look. It’s the holistic feeling of a writing instrument that makes it stand out, and each element plays a significant role in achieving the final result.
In your opinion, do writing instruments possess the potential to captivate the collective imagination, much like mechanical watches have done over the past three decades?
Absolutely, that is precisely what we are aiming for. We firmly believe that writing instruments possess the power to captivate the collective imagination. We strive to create irresistible objects that not only promote the pleasure of writing with a beautiful fountain pen but also evoke a sense of elegance and style that surrounds this noble act. The experience of writing with a fountain pen is something that once discovered is very enduring. We make it our purpose and mission to Inspire Writing with a fountain pen to make this fantastic act appealing to a wider audience, which I know is also your mission. I firmly believe that we can achieve that, and there are numerous avenues we can explore to make it happen, with our instance projects such as our nib personalization program that allow you to create your fully customized fountain pen nib, as well as all the storytelling and collaborations that we bring to life with all our novelties every year that are the ultimate triggers for collective imagination, transporting you into fascinating universes different from one another every single time. Our leather goods collections, which draw inspiration from the world of fine writing instruments, contribute to positioning writing instruments as lifestyle items that should be carried and enjoyed. Writing instruments are tactile objects that establish a close bond with the user, making them extraordinary in their own right.
Although not as wearable as jewellery or watches, do you think this feature is an obstacle to pens becoming must-haves? Or does it bring about unique qualities and allure?
I don’t think this characteristic is an obstacle; on the contrary, it adds a unique allure to writing instruments. Their tactile nature creates an even stronger bond with the user. A writing instrument holds meaning and serves as a daily source of inspiration. It’s not merely something to show off. Additionally, a writing instrument offers a different value proposition—it provides a means for self-expression rather than primarily serving as a status symbol. This distinction is what makes it one of the most powerful status symbols.
Do you think writing instruments have the potential to be present at important events such as the Met Gala, where we often see personalities adorned with beautiful clothes, jewelry, and watches but rarely with a nice writing instrument?
Absolutely, sky is the limit. We are actively considering avenues that move in that direction. Having someone like our Creative Director, Tomasetta, who comes from the fashion and accessories industry, allows us to approach things from different angles and imagine writing instruments in contexts we hadn’t considered before.
How would you compare pen collecting to art collecting? Are there any similarities between the two?
There is definitely a connection between the two worlds. Generally, what drives someone to collect a piece of art is either investment or an emotional connection. These same motivations apply when our customers purchase a beautiful Montblanc Writing Instrument. The reason why some people have yet to discover the world of writing instrument collecting is that they haven’t been exposed to it. However, once they do enter this world, often through collaborations with other domains, they generally become true enthusiasts
Montblanc’s fine leather goods have gained considerable strength in recent years. As a leader in the pen industry, what strategies will Montblanc employ to maintain its position as a driving force within the market?
To summarize what we discussed throughout this interview, in order to maintain our position as a driving force in the market, we are working hard to excel in our craft. This involves craftsmanship, engineering, and continuous innovation through technically complex manufacturing processes. These efforts enable us to create objects that are not only exceptionally beautiful but also highly functional.
Dear Alessandra, thank you sincerely for your generosity and for sharing valuable information about the world of Montblanc and the creative process behind the creation of these remarkable writing instruments. Your work is of significant importance to collectors of writing instruments around the world, and I am confident that many others will discover and develop a deep passion for this incredible art form.