mont blanc pelleteria florence

  
The Mont Blanc leather facility is in an industrial park just outside Florence. All the big names of fashion are here. Gucci is across the road, Prada a few blocks down. Only Hermes from among the top brands is missing.

Mont Blanc used to made its leather goods in Germany, but moved three years ago. “It’s just far more efficient,” said Giacomo Cortesi, the head of the facility (pictured below), when we visited in the summer. “There are about 150 tanneries in the area, and they all supply everyone already. Plus all the other suppliers, for hardware and so on, come here too.”

Efficiency was a theme we would return to frequently. Because while Mont Blanc retains the same level of craftsmanship as all the other brands in the area, it mixes in some rather special touches of German management and quality control. 
  

simon crompton and giacomo cortesi mont blanc

mont blanc leather pieces bag

  
“All the talent is here, the workers we hired to create this facility,” continued Giacomo. “That was an interesting process – hiring from everyone else. And of course having everything on site means we can develop and adjust new pieces quickly. You can’t do that with a pen or a watch.”

As Giacomo talked to us, in the stark white reception room, there was a rather distracting mechanical arm moving up and down behind him. On the other side of the corridor, a big yellow machine was lifting and turning bags repeatedly, twisting them and replacing them on the floor, only to wrench them up again. 

That machine – a mechanical arm stolen from the auto industry – is pictured below. You can see a video we took of its operation here as well.
  

Mont Blanc leather bag tester

  
Eventually, we had to explain why we were constantly looking over Giacomo’s shoulder. And that led to a discussion of the quality control at the pelleteria.

There were several great machines. One tests hardware for resistance to heat and humidity (think someone dragging their suitcase on wheels through the streets of Singapore). Another tests for salinity (perhaps a wash bag carried to the beach). A third looks at how colour fast leathers are under light (sitting in the front seat of your open-topped car. A lot). 

Not all pieces are tested – merely a sample. But they are tested regularly and consistently. That colour-fast machine tests leather for three, six and twelve-hour stints. And a product line will go through the process every 1-4 months, depending on the piece. 
  

Belt buckle machine tester

mont blanc belt buckle tester florence

  
“It’s not necessarily a problem if the colour does fade over time,” said Giacomo. “It happens with veg-tan leathers But the key is to know that, so we can communicate it to the customer or, if we don’t like it, reduce the effect. If you don’t know, you’re always at risk.”

Often, these machines have been brought in to look at a particular problem. The mechanism inside a lock, for instance, is particularly susceptible to heat and salinity. All it takes is a little rust or distortion to the metal inside, and the lock will stop working. “I’ve seen that happen on other products in places like Malaysia,” said Giacomo. “There’s often 70% humidity there and you’re right by the sea.”

How does gold, rose gold and silver tarnish? (It always starts at the corners – where it’s hardest to get a consistent level of coating.) How will the gusset of a wallet react when it has been bent 100,000 times? How abrasive are different leathers when rubbed against a pair of jeans again and again? The list of scenarios seemed to be almost endless.
  

Giacomo Cortesi Mont Blanc florence

  
All leather producers do quality control. But Mont Blanc does more of it (according to those workers from other factories) and creates its own, bespoke machines.

The machine below for testing leather belts, for example, is a one-off. It opens and closes a buckle on a strip of leather, seeing when it (and the inking at the edges) cracks.

My all-time favourite, however, was the simplest. “We spent a long time trying to work out how to test a buckle when it has been dropped repeatedly – when you undo your trousers, or chuck the belt in a draw,” said Giacomo. They finally came up with a set of steps, about 20 of them going down about 6 feet. And they just drop the buckle down it. Again and again. “It’s very simple, but it works. It breaks things,” concluded Giacomo.

As I’ve said before, not everything in the Mont Blanc leather range is to my taste. I tend to prefer brown, natural leathers with brass, rather than blacks and blues, with silver hardware. But after many years (and many factory visits) it was wonderful to learn so much about something so innovative. 
  

mont blanc sfumato case

Mont Blanc leather

  
My outfit in the picture (as a reader requested recently):

  • Tan summer jacket by Elia Caliendo
  • Blue chambray shirt by Luca Avitabile
  • Green linen trousers by Paul Stuart
  • Honey-framed glasses by Francois Pinton
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
25 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bradley

Simon
Sorry but i just do not like this make. The leather looks like some kind of stiffened plastic. It has none of the look and feel of quality leather. I appreciate they are trying to make a new market for themselves and get in on the higher end market but they should stick to pens! I cannot comment on their watches since i do not wear one. Furthermore i have been told that the biggest profit percent of all luxury goods is in high end leather – i suppose they are just tapping in to that.
Bradley

Aysha

Hi Simon,
Do you know about leather being halaal. Will collect somr information zbt it. It will be helpful to muslim customers sho want to use leather bags

Anonymous

I have a Mont Blanc pen holder and belt. Neither appear to be made of quality leather. However, both were quite pricey. This said, they make cracking pens.

David

Hi Simon,

I didn’t know you were a Paul Stuart man, one of my favorite brands and near to my heart as my father introduced me to them. I would love to see a feature on them in future, a New York institution!

best

David

Matt S

Can you write something on Paul Stuart here? I love their clothes, but perhaps you could offer another look at the company that I’m not familiar with.

lsp

Worth noting that Montblanc bought a company named Seeger to get into the leather goods business. When the production was moved to Italy, the German factory was bought and is still making leather goods: http://www.seeger.com/wordpress/?page_id=281

David Craggs

The desire for luxury brands to extend beyond their core competence is a never ending source of marketing accidents and this is one of them.
Why a company who makes great writing instruments thinks they can turn their hand to luxury leather beggars belief.
They bought Seeger, a perfectly good leather goods company, and ruined that and now they are making soulless expensive items for those that have had a taste bypass.
What ever happened to sticking to your core competence?
After years of happy writing with a Mont Blanc pen, I bought a new fountain pen recently and guess what? It’s an Omas!
The reason why? I don’t know. Omas are great but so is my Mont Blanc – I guess there is just something about these endless brand extensions that repels me.

Nick Inkster

David, I am broadly with you on this, although a number of global luxury brands have successfully broadened their businesses into different sectors ( Hermes started as a saddler, Cartier as a jeweller etc), but yes, as at now, Montblanc is about pens for me, and Jaguar is about cars, which is why I simply cannot understand why they lend their name to aftershave………..

David Craggs

It’s true that some iconic names have expanded over time and the examples you
sighted – Hermes & Cartier – are two brands that have succeeded albeit, I still think of Hermes predominantly as a leather company and Cartier mainly as a jeweller.
That said, it’s the relentless predatory activities of LVMH and The Richemont group that leave me cold. Nobody can iron the soul and character out of a brand quicker than these two and their propensity to install poor customer service and generic brand expansion techniques knows no boundaries. Berluti is a classic testimony to brand expansion gone berserk and I recently had call to address a customer service issue with Bottega Veneta that quickly developed into a thoroughly awful experience.
Long live Anderson & Sheppard – Anda Rowland deserves a medal and if they sell out I’ll just have to open my own shop – rant over!

N

Yeah and look what happened, Omas went bankrupt because they didn’t expand their business. But maybe that makes it more “desirable” to your snobbishness, meanwhile a great company and it’s products went under and people lost their jobs (instead of creating new ones like Montblanc did)

Ben

Hi Simon,

Really enjoy your stuff on bags, being an aficionado myself. Two questions not directly related to Mont Blanc:

1. Do all the luxury houses set up their own manufacturing for bags? I know the more storied brands (LV, Hermes, Dunhil) do, but most designers have a base stock of the same few items (soft zip-close brief, single and double buckle brief) that seem manufactured in the same factory and I really doubt many of them (RL, Burberry, Ferragamo) would invest in bags. Do you know of one or two manufacturers that supply a lot of these brands?

2. Any interest in some of the more minimalist, contemporary stuff coming out of Scandinavia and E. Asian (namely Japan and S. Korea)? I’m a big fan of MISMO’s design but am iffy about their construction.

Justin

I purchased a Mont Blanc night flight document case from the Brisbane Mont Blanc store for $1010 AUD in September 2016.

A strap supporting one of the handles has come loose and the zipper on one of the pockets has worn a whole in the lining.

I returned the item to the store on the weekend and they tell me it could take up to 12 weeks to assess the problem. The product was clearly not fit for the purpose it was made and I would have thought that the store would have been more understanding and either replaced or offered a refund.

David Craggs

Unfortunately this doesn’t surprise me. The Richemont Group have a strange attitude to what constitutes luxury.
Unfortunately I have an IWC watch and a JLC (both bought when the brands were independent) and the service I get is characterised by long delays, large bills and inadequate workmanship. My Rolex, on the other hand, is immaculately maintained.
Luxury in the hands of a public company is difficult.

Vincent stephenson

Simon,
I am somewhat similar in my taste of leather goods, preferring browns/tan’s over the Mont Blanc blacks/blues. Whilst I admire the products they just didn’t seem to suit my business casual “I don’t work in the city” everyday look. Until I saw their 1926 collection. I immediately bought the Portfolio as I have been inspired by your vintage folio and on the look for something in that vein for a while.
Have you noticed that collection I wonder?
Vincent

Barry Kearney-Luc

I bought a MontBlanc leather case for my iPhone SE. The case has a flip cover. and a hole in the bottom for the earphone. I added one for the charger (an oversight imo on the designers part). Unfortunately the workmanship on the front where the material is glued together did not hold. I contacted MontBlanc in Hamburg and was advised that they would exchange if it was still within the 12 warranty term, otherwise it was not their problem. It is not the response or quality that I expect from a company famed for the Meisterstuck and quality workmanship.

Barry Kearney-Luc

i bought a Mont Blanc leather case for my iphone. The front right side is rather thin and started splitting and losing its adhesion. It looked terrible (imo) so I contacted Mont Blanc. I was advised that the 12 warranty term had expired and that they would not undertake any corrective action.
This is definitely not what I expect from a product manufactured by craftsmen or a company proclaiming premium brand status.
I took the liberty of advising them that there designers had unfortunately not foreseen a hole for the charger connection.

TK

I enjoy what the brand is trying to accomplish and especially because they use Veg tanning. The darker color of their leather should not fool anyone in regards to the quality of the material itself. Please, I urge you to inform your customers about the type of leather you use, the finishing, tanning, and sources and expected durability of the material. The style is impeccable and very well made in my opinion.

Lami

Where are Montblanc’s bags made?