THERE’S SOMETHING special about New York. Arriving into the city, as I did last week in the lead up to NYFW, you’re hit not just by the oppressive humidity, but by the sheer weight of its iconography. The yellow taxis waiting outside JFK airport aren’t just cars; they’re symbols laden with cultural resonance. You’re acutely aware that in these same taxis have sat the very people who have shifted the gears of history. And I’m not talking about business leaders or politicians. Because when you consider New York, it’s not the stock exchange that comes to mind, nor even the gaudy Trump Tower; it’s the artists and writers who have walked its streets that have come to define it. From James Baldwin and Jean-Michel Basquiat to Patti Smith and Jay Z, New York has impacted the shape and direction of the collective social consciousness more than any other city in the world.
It’s perhaps no wonder then that Montblanc chose NYC as the launchpad for its latest instalment of The Library Spirit campaign. Conceived in 1906, the brand has a rich connection to writing and creativity, known not just for its leather goods, but for transforming pens from a purely functional object into an artform. In the same way a New York taxi is more than just a form of transport, a Montblanc pen is a hell of a lot more than just a writing instrument, becoming instead a vehicle for creativity.
“The ethos of New York and Montblanc have so much in common,” says the maison’s artistic director Marco Tomasetta. “The pioneering mindset that drives Montblanc innovation also drives New Yorkers to set new standards with audacious and fearless thinking, making it the perfect setting for the Extreme 3.0 collection”, which features a backpack, side bag, envelope bag, pen, watch and headphones.
We’re talking from the 12th floor of the hotel in which I’m staying. The chaotic energy of the streets simmers below as Tomasetta reclines on the couch, ready to talk all things Montblanc. He explains the genesis of the collection is the spirit and essence of the very libraries found here in NYC. “Libraries are a place where we save and preserve the enormous infinity of emotions within humanity,” he says. “Every library maintains and keeps the miracles of its books—and these books have so much strength, courage and bravery in their stories. This is the connection they have with the world. And this is one of the codes we have at Montblanc.”
The campaign, he adds, is not about fighting against the tide of digital modernity, but coexisting within it. “The older and tech worlds are not mutually exclusive,” he explains. “We need both. We have classical stories like Leonardo who in the 1400s designed objects that weren’t around until long after his death.”
It’s not unusual for Tomasetta to mention the likes of Da Vinci and today’s crop of artists all within the same breath. Because his Montblanc is at once contemporary and classic. The first thing Tomasetta did when joining the brand was to visit the archives—not to redo history, he says, but to embed it in his vision of the future. This involves reaching a younger demographic as well as those already steeped in the legacy of Montblanc.
“We reach the youth nowadays through images,” he says. “Youth and libraries seem to be searching for something—hopefully the brand can connect them to something inside of themselves that they can communicate externally.”
By way of example, he holds up a photograph from The Library Spirit campaign featuring model Garrett Neff and actress, bibliophile and model Liya Kibede. Seated elegantly in a library setting the image feels both new and timeless, just like Montblanc. Tomasetta hopes images like these will live in the imagination long after the collection hits stores this month.
“I want the youth to understand something—something that has the power to communicate with them. The collections are so vast, so diverse; I was so surprised the young people connected so well—I’ve worked in other brands and not experienced that. The youth are sensitive to things that give them power to express themselves.”
The campaign got its official launch moment at a party in Midtown Manhattan where Peggy Gou took care of the music, the Champagne flowed and guests included Adrien Brody, Penn Badgley and Chloe Sevigny. The studio loft was transformed for the night into an atmospheric library location, with guests invited to immortalise the evening by putting their experience down on paper using the finest of Montblanc machinery. The perfect representation of the Library Spirit, the night felt like a meeting of the old and the new: a Great Gatsby-esque party for the twenty-first century.
After my interview with Tomasetta comes to a close, I wander downstairs to the hotel bar. Ushered past a set of curtained doors, I’m led to a quiet corner of the hotel that seems fitting considering today’s conversation. Lining the walls from floor to ceiling are books; encyclopaedias and first editions sit among biographies of Basquiat and others. Surveying my surroundings, Tomasetta’s words echo in my head. “Libraries are a place where we save and preserve the enormous infinity of emotions within humanity.” Inspired, I pick up my notepad, ready to start a new chapter.
The Extreme 3.0 collection is now available to shop in Montblanc boutiques nationwide, and online here.