Consolidation in the luxury field may worry purists, but it has benefited American pen enthusiasts. Since Richemont, owner of Cartier and Montblanc, acquired Montegrappa in January, availability in the United States has greatly improved.
The company has manufactured gold nibs and writing instruments since 1912, originally under the name Elmo (the name changed to Montegrappa S.r.l. in 1947). Its pens first found favor with soldiers stationed in Italy during World War I; among them were ambulance drivers named Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos.
Montegrappa has long been admired for its innovations, including the early adoption of celluloid for the barrels and the use of jewelers’ techniques.
To mark its 80th anniversary in 1992, Montegrappa launched its first limited edition pen. Its success spurred the company to issue annual and collectible special editions inspired by historical events. The mainstays are ongoing models such as the Privilege and the Classica, which fit into your hand as if Mother Nature had designed them. —Ken Kessler
Montegrappa, 866.854.1674, www.montegrappa1912.com
When Kiton severed its ties with Italian shirtmaker Barba two years ago to launch its own in-house shirt collection, industry observers had their doubts. No one questions Kiton’s abilities now.
First, Kiton commissioned Italian fabric maker Riva to produce an exclusive collection of two-ply, 200-thread-count cotton fabrics woven on the same machinery used to make silk suit linings. This year, Kiton developed a new shirt silhouette. “We found that other shirts didn’t fit well under our [Neapolitan-style] jackets,” says U.S. sales agent Massimo Bizzocchi. “So we created a new shirt pattern—with a tighter, higher armhole and tighter chest—that mirrors the trim fit of our jackets.”
A Kiton shirt is entirely hand-stitched and requires six hours to produce. But what really sets it apart are details such as an oxford cotton panel that runs inside the collar to prevent shrinkage. Careful attention has also been paid to the shoulders, where another extra panel of cloth protects the skin from contact with the seams. Finally, handmade buttonholes are fitted with undyed mother-of-pearl shell buttons that are crow’s-foot-stitched in place with a bit of extra thread left behind to accommodate shrinkage during dry cleaning. “The best part of the shirt is the buttons, which are not preselected to match,” says Bizzocchi. “These are natural buttons and we wanted them to look that way.” —William Kissel
Kiton, +81.573.3175, 212.265.1995
For years, Kiton has made traditional seven-fold neckwear as a way to differentiate itself from other luxury tie makers. A seven-fold tie is constructed of two pieces of silk sewn together (traditional ties use four pieces of cloth) and folded inward seven times, creating a tie devoid of any interior lining but durable enough to withstand repeated knotting. Kiton has adapted the seven-fold tie into the first true eight-fold by laying the cloth flat and folding four times on each side toward the center so that the finished tie is evenly balanced. A single pick-stitch on the bell of the tie keeps the cloth in place. If the cloth is folded properly, it should need only the tiniest bit of needlework to hold it together. Proper folding ensures evenness and stability, and a strand of thread running down the center of the back of the tie allows the wearer to adjust the tension. —William Kissel
Kiton, +81.573.3175, 212.265.1995
Altai cashmere takes its name from the Altai Shan mountains in Mongolia, which is home to the goats that produce this superlative fiber. At such high altitudes and cold temperatures, the goats’ hair must be extremely fine for insulation. And because food is scarce at these elevations, the animals’ fat content is reduced, further enhancing the delicacy of the fiber.
Moxon Huddersfield, which was established in England by the Moxon family in 1556, is one of the few textile mills in the world capable of spinning Altai cashmere into cloth. Last year, the company developed a method for spinning the cashmere into knitted yarn, which has been used to produce a handful of handmade, limited edition socks. Each pair sells for $400 and is packaged in its own padded, key-locked carrying case. “These socks are the rarest of the rare because they contain worsted spun yarn, not wool spun yarn,” says the mill’s managing director, Firas Chamsi-Pasha. The difference can be seen after just a few washings. Naturally they retain their softness, and Chamsi-Pasha maintains that they do not shrink nor develop holes the way spun wool does. —William Kissel
Moxon Huddersfield, +44.1484.602622
There is nothing subtle about Florentine designer Stefano Ricci. Through the course of his 30-year design career, Ricci has put his stamp on everything from the world’s most expensive pleated silk neckties to a custom fragrance packaged in a gigantic crystal decanter to a Lamborghini outfitted with green croc-odile upholstery. Ricci applied no less exuberance when creating his premier collection of cuff links, which were launched in 2000 as part of his Lux-ury Millennium collection and recently expanded to 18 designs priced from $4,000 to $8,000 per pair.
Ricci drew inspiration from tra-ditional Florentine goldsmithing of the 19th and 20th centuries, when artisans rendered crests, fleurs-de-lis, and other fanciful patterns in precious metals. Naturally, Ricci imparts his signature flair as he re-creates these classical motifs in white gold encrusted with diamonds and sapphires. —William Kissel
Stefano Ricci, 212.332.3199, www.stefanoricci.com