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Montblanc Creative Director Zaim Kamal on the Meisterstück Le Petit Prince Collection

Translating Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's magical tale into writing implements and more

by David Graver
on 05 April 2018

It's the 75th anniversary of "Le Petit Prince" and one can expect many brands to honor the magical novella and its acclaimed author (and aviator) Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. None will come as close to the majesty as Montblanc, who've actually already been crafting Saint-Exupéry pieces for some time. With their just-released Meisterstück Le Petit Prince Collection, however, they've crafted an inspired series of writing instruments and luxury accessories. There's a noticeable majesty to each item, the pens in particular. And nobody can explain the motivation better than Creative Director Zaim Kamal whose passion for the work led to revelation and meticulous, meaningful execution.

As expected, the project "started when we were working on the Saint-Exupéry writing instruments," Kamal explains to CH. This, however, presented a challenge. "When you work on Saint-Ex, 'Le Petit Prince' always looms over your work. And you have to say, 'No that's too easy to fall into.' So we've focused on the man—the aviator—because that was so much of his personality." Kamal and his team truly enjoyed the ideation and design processes on the Saint-Exupéry, and yet thoughts lingered about his seminal work and an angle that they could successfully pursue. "As I reread the book and my favorite passages, we started to discuss what the connection could be." It dawned on Kamal that they needed to begin with the brand's acclaimed Meisterstück pen. "Why?" Kamal preempts. "It has to be a symbol that you give to mark special occasions. With a pen like the Meisterstück you are creating bonds—and renewing friendships. There is this idea of transmission. 'Le Petit Prince' is about transmission, imagination and friendship. So we realized, 'Yes, there is something here.'"

Knowing they needed to make a statement, Kamal made unexpected changes. "We said, 'Let's do it in blue to present the universe.' It has never ever been done in a color. It's the first time it exists in a color," he explains. They then sought out a motif or figure. "We were thinking about the snake and the elephant and the rose and the astronomers. For me, I said, 'The fox is the biggest symbol of this book.' In my personal opinion, the fox carries the central message. It's about creating a bond. This was the key as to how we got into it. It came down to representing how we get the fox to move closer every single day." They began iterating and iterating, day after day, until they felt they created a bond through pattern, working through 20 different prototypes along the way. Hidden surprises manifested, as well as obvious but powerful touches. For example, "The star is a marker to remind you of where you are coming from, where you are, and what you've created," Kamal says. "It's the original yellow star that Saint-Ex used in his drawing. We even got the color."

In the internet age, one may wonder about the role of heirloom pens, yet here is nothing quite as special as a hand-written note. "I don't think it means anything different today," Kamal says. "Writing is writing. When you look at cave drawings, someone communicated with a mark. Writing today is nothing more than making a mark. What has changed is the way we balanced it out. We have another mode of communication of course, but writing remains a way of expressing yourself. The idea of writing is a basic human desire." The idea of writing with a "Le Petit Prince" collaborative pen does sound quite magical.

Explore the entire Le Petit Prince collection online.

Images courtesy of Montblanc

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