PARIS — The carpet was red, and this was Paris, so Billy Porter, naturally, dressed the part. Topping off his fringed suit with a sequin-embellished beret — and a scarf around his neck for extra flourish — the “Pose” star marched into the Montblanc store on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in white, square-toed boots.
“I’m grateful that my brand aligns with this,” he said, checking out the boutique, which was outfitted for the AIDS-awareness event with nonprofit RED. Stripped of its usual merchandise, the store was covered in red with white graffiti, and a few displays of stainless-steel writing instruments with touches of red lacquer, sketchbooks, cuff links and bracelets from the label’s RED collections.
New items included a carry-on suitcase with a 750 euro price tag and pens running upward of 1,000 euros. With each purchase, the Compagnie Financière Richemont-owned brand would donate 5 euros to the charity, executives said.
“For myself as an artist, it’s a wonderful example of how you use your powers for good, how you use your platform and sort of elevate the platform, elevate society and make the world a better place,” said Porter, singing the praises of the charity’s work fighting AIDS and HIV.
And how does the screen star consider the power of the pen?
“The power of the written word is the only. Thing. That. Matters,” he said, narrowing his eyes and pausing between each word for extra emphasis, before being swallowed by a group of well-wishers, eager to get in a word with him.
Adrien Brody worked the crowd, pausing for selfies before heading inside, where DJ Sunny Jansen spun tunes. After the store party, revelers, who included Charlotte Casiraghi, Georgia May Jagger, Lottie Moss and Amber Le Bon, headed for dinner at the Monsieur Bleu restaurant overlooking the Eiffel Tower.
Best known for high-end writing tools, Montblanc has been working to modernize its offer, gain relevance with a younger crowd and redistribute the weight of its various products.
“The world has changed so much, we are a purveyor of luxury business lifestyle, but business and luxury have changed in the last four years, dramatically,” noted the label’s creative director, Zaim Kamal.
Kamal joined the house six years ago with a mandate to bulk up the watches and leather products of the writing-centric brand and to help turn it into a business with three equal pillars.
“We had to see how we can take this connotation out of writing instruments and how to give leather and watches their own voice,” he added.
He described looking beyond the numbers and observing signs of change around him.
“Suddenly people were saying, ‘how many home office days do I get?’ We understood that business as we knew it — the businessman with the three-piece suit, is not going to be,” he said.
“One of the first changes we did is we changed the size of our cuff links. We looked at the tailoring and I said, ‘look at the tailored jackets, the sleeves are much more slimmer, so the big French cuffs are not going to fit underneath it anymore. That means our big cuff links are not going to be used,’” he noted.
He also sought a more sensual touch to the products, he noted, grabbing a stainless-steel pen to show the weight and texture of the item.
Montblanc had fit into a serious world of achievement in the past but nowadays, notions of performance have changed, noted Kamal.
“Achievement was not any more about showing what you have but sharing what you know.”