The Italian luxury writing instruments, accessories and leather goods manufacturer Montegrappa’s flagship store in The Dubai Mall is the only store in the region to offer atelier services by which customers can create bespoke pens with a wide choice of materials and styles. The brand, whose pens have brought to life the words of such luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali, Khalil Gibran and even Nelson Mandela, is in the middle of an expansion strategy in the region.
Signé met with Giuseppe Aquila, the CEO of Montegrappa, who shared with us some of his insights on the Montegrappa brand.
Introduce us to the history of the Montegrappa brand and your involvement in it.
Montegrappa was established in 1912 as a partnership between some Italians and Austrians. My grandfather was not one of the founders. He was a chemist who started by making inks and wanted to manufacture his own pens. So, he approached Montegrappa to develop a line of pens for him. Later on, my father was in a position to acquire the Montegrappa business. It is a family business, and I represent the third generation of the family. My daughter is already involved in the business and is the 4th generation.
I joined the business in 1992 after I finished my studies. It was always my intention to join the company. I grew up in this factory, and I have always been fascinated by writing, pens, and by beauty in general. I wanted to bring a fresh approach to the business by taking the brand upmarket at a time when the concept of luxury was gaining traction.
Your Workshop: give us a sense of what it’s like and the major challenges you face.
In our factory, we have about 60 craftsmen, a majority of whom are between the ages of 30 and 40. We also have older craftsmen who are more involved in ensuring continuity by training new recruits, particularly for some of the more specialized skills such as painting, engraving, and setting of precious stones by hand. Craftsmanship is very important in a company like ours, and it is very difficult to find skilled artisans. Recruits have to undergo a lot of training which can take many years. So, we have to find young people who already have specific skills, but more importantly, they must have the talent, patience, and dedication to train with the older generation.
One of our advantages is that we are located in Venice, an area famous for producing jewellery. We have access to people who come from that background since what we do is a mix of jewellery and watchmaking. In the last few years, we have been adding features to our pens that is similar to what the watchmaking business calls complication as it requires both craftsmanship and engineering.
Give us an example of one such pen that involves this combination of craftsmanship and engineering.
A good example is our Revolver Pen. It resembles a gun with a lot of moving parts and unique mechanisms. It also comes with imitation bullets to give it a fun and playful character.
How are you dealing with the challenges of the digital age?
A few years ago, I was concerned about this issue. But now I see a growing trend where millennials are becoming more interested in writing, and even calligraphy, and social media is promoting it. People are looking for ways to reconnect with themselves and writing in this regard definitely helps. Writing is a ritualistic process.
“In fact, our Brain Pen was developed in collaboration with a neurologist whom we also asked to write a book on the benefits of writing for the brain, and specifically with the fountain pen. He stated that it improves motor skills and memory because whatever you write, it gets reproduced as an image in your mind. So, writing is a way of recording memory.” – Giuseppe Aquila, CEO, Montegrappa
We also try, with our limited abilities, to promote the beauty and art of writing. We have been part of the Emirates Literature Festival too. We have the Montegrappa Prize for young writers to discover young writing talent around the world. We promote writing in whatever ways we can.