You’ve probably seen me talking in some of my Instagram Lives with Giuseppe Aquila about the developments and some of the challenges of a brand such as Montegrappa. Montegrappa is well known for its extraordinary know-how in Pen Making and in the creation of stunning Limited Edition Artworks. I did an Interview with Giuseppe Aquila, the CEO of Montegrappa to understand where the Brand is headed and what it is currently going through. Despite the challenges of these times, i’m impressed about the work and the amount of passion and energy Montegrappa is putting into the development of the brand and of their production skills. Let’s discover more.
Dear Giuseppe, thank you for taking your time to answear to some of my questions.
First thing I would like to ask you that it’s of interest to everyone is: how has this terrible Covid time been for a manufacturing company like Montegrappa? What major challenges have you had and what opportunities have arisen despite the situation?
Like most companies, the disruption caused by the pandemic has been both positive and negative. Our factory was forced to halt operations for two months. While we have been able to regroup, the effects of lockdown continue to reverberate throughout our supply chain and force us to be nimble. Retail continues to face tremendous challenges in many parts of the world, and we have worked hard to support our customer network while also adapting to the new realities and opportunities presented.
On the positive side, it gave us time to reconsider our role in the new global scenario and reorganize our business accordingly. More tangibly, the pandemic opened a window to fast-track improvements to our factory and headquarters that would have been impossible under normal circumstances. It has also given us time and opportunity to accelerate our efforts on eCommerce and focus more on our relationships with customers.
Definitely interesting to see that period of great crisis can also be periods of great achievements. Can you give us some more insights into the progress of Montegrappa in 2020?
2020 turned out to be an unusually active and productive year, both with regard to new developments as well as laying foundations for future activities.
There were a number of firsts, including the introduction of Montegrappite artisanal resin across our range, and the launch of the ZERO – a silhouette that has proved to be a game-changer in terms of design, concept and appeal. Both ZERO and the Extra Otto were added to Montegrappa Configurator – our custom-design platform – and have really helped to build on its early successes and turn it into a destination in its own right.
Several new partnerships also came to fruition, most notably with Sea Shepherd and Formula 1 – as well as Harry Potter, of course. These helped us grow our community and, I think, showed that luxury writing is a vibrant category.
Now, after such an intense 2020, where is the brand headed in the next year?
Once again, we will see a mix of new products and new initiatives. We began the year very strongly with our first tribute to Dante Alighieri, and there are several other Limited Editions on the schedule that push the boundaries of artisanal accomplishment in the way that Inferno does.
Later in the year we will be introducing the next installment of our Divina Commedia series, as well as follow-ups to some of our most popular ‘Fandom’ lines – including Formula 1 and Harry Potter. Towards Christmas we have a pen coming out that contains more complications than we have ever made – a true mechanical wonder! We can’t wait to share it!
We also have a new Signature silhouette that builds on the success of ZERO and brings us closer to our goal of completing our offering on Montegrappa Configurator. More than two years after launching Configurator, we have been able to optimize its performance and gear our production to be able to respond very quickly to individual customer’s needs. With this expertise locked in, we will be expanding its scope with a very exclusive line of Italian leather goods, as well as a private version for companies and institutions called Business Bespoke.
We’re definitely looking forward to all these novelties, Giuseppe. If you looked at Montegrappa five years ago, compared to nowadays, what have been the biggest changes in the company?
It’s difficult to know where to start: the last three years have seen more innovations and changes than in the preceding twenty! Configurator has perhaps been the most profound – in terms of technology and philosophy obviously – but also because of the effect it has had on how we interact with our customers.
The agility it demands implies a huge commitment, and many of the significant investments we have made in new machinery, technology and systems have been precipitated by this new focus and confidence.
These expanded in-house capabilities have enabled us to reduce our carbon footprint while also upgrading our offering across the range. If you compare our 2018 catalogue to what we have today, practically everything is new, with only a few standards remaining like the Extra 1930 and our Ernest Hemingway collections.
I know you’re not really gonna answer this question in one word, but if you would personally choose one Montegrappa release of the last year that really touched you, which one would it be, and why?
That’s like asking me to choose between my children! It’s very hard to overlook Dante Alighieri: Inferno because it is both beautiful and daring. It reminds me of the ambition we had when we created Dragon in 1995. But I’m also very proud of the storytelling behind Victory of the Whale and the relationship we have with Sea Shepherd and ocean conservation. Our Monopoly tributes are also superb examples of design and a package of ideas that exceeds every reasonable expectation.
Do you see a growing potential for High End Writing Instruments?
Absolutely! In many ways it feels as if things are only just beginning. Today a brand like ours can stand on its own and tell its own story, rather than fit into a specific hierarchy of products and expectations.
Where do you think is the Pen Industry headed in the next year?
I don’t really dedicate too much energy to wondering about the trajectory of the industry as a whole. It’s very encouraging that younger users have developed a passion for writing on their own terms. For as long as this enthusiasm continues to expand and consolidate, and the world continues to celebrate remarkable creativity and craftsmanship, I feel very confident about Montegrappa’s place in the world.