Looking to renaissance master painters to craft an inspired leather collection
On a recent Wednesday evening, a fine rain across London’s West End created that misty shroud of half-remembered dreams, and of classical paintings that hark back to the Italian Renaissance. Inside the art gallery space of 3 Olaf Street, artisans and leather craftsmen from Montblanc’s Florentine Pelletteria unveiled the latest Meisterstuck Selection Sfumato to the world. The soft-focus sfumato technique – of which Leonardo da Vinci was its chief exponent – was the evening’s highlight. The technique produces imperceptible transitions between colours and tones by using fine shading and delicate graduation between colours. “Every maison needs its own signature patina. We are doing ours with sfumato," says Montblanc ‘s International CEO Jerome Lambert.
Infusing this centuries-old technique into leather was not easy, concedes Lambert. “You have to layer it with paint, wait for it to dry, and repeat three more times. Then you carefully match the colours to stitch the pieces together. It’s very intensive handiwork." For Lambert, the Sfumato collection provides an opportunity to underline Montblanc’s long heritage in leather, a proficiency that dates back to 1926. “I like it when the handcrafted element makes a product unique – there is then space for interpretation and creativity. It is something that is guided by human expertise." In the case of this Sfumato collection, Montblanc’s tripartite values of high functionality, clean aesthetics and a heightened sense of quality can be discerned from the finest calfskin that is turned into a collection that comprises a document case, full briefcase, large tote, wallet, coin case, card holder and belts.
According to Zaim Kamal, creative director of Montblanc International, the entire process of creation at the Pelletteria begins with the simple idea that it is situated in Florence, among the foremost leather experts of the land. “So many of our craftsmen today represent the current generation of leather families. Their understanding of leather comes from the stories told by their forebears, through formal training at the guilds and by the fact that it’s in their blood." This is why Montblanc, despite the many vagaries of sfumato on leather, had the confidence to realise this new collection. A leather expert first inspects the skins for any defects. Only the blemish-free samples pass this inspection. These pieces undergo the hand-applied sfumato process, attaining a deep, rich tonality through the paint saturating the leather, thereby enhancing its depth.
The result is a tactile, pliable and visually pleasing leather collection that is intended to be the epitome of what Montblanc calls “fine lifetime companions". “At the end of it, it’s not about the challenge," Kamal says. “As a luxury brand, we have to define standards – luxury is about quality, and quality is being able to access passion and expertise. This is what the Meisterstuck Selection Sfumato is about – we don’t talk about industrialisation – we talk about creation."