World Literacy Day
By Sarah Khan
Education and literacy have the power to change the world. Perhaps no brand understands that reality better than Montblanc—the maker of writing instruments and accessories for more than a century—which has teamed up with Unicef for the Signature for Good initiative, raising funds to save children and fight illiteracy on a global scale. Montblanc has raised more than $1 million for Unicef over the past five years and the new campaign promises to raise the cause’s profile even more, with 10 percent of the proceeds of all limited-edition products in the Signature for Good collection going to Unicef. But the highlight of the Signature for Good project is a series of portraits by celebrated photographer Roger Moenks, in which actresses such as Eva Longoria Parker, Sienna Miller and Susan Sarandon channel their favorite heroines in literature.
To celebrate World Literacy Day (September 8), Signature for Good will be holding an event in conjunction with Sotheby’s in LA September 17, where the 12 celebrity portraits will be auctioned. We spoke to Montblanc CEO Lutz Bethge (pronounced BETH-gah) prior to the auction to find out why this cause is important to him and the Montblanc brand.
LOS ANGELES CONFIDENTIAL: Why did Montblanc choose to partner with Unicef to fight illiteracy?
LUTZ BETHGE: We believe in the right of every child to have a quality education. It seems straightforward to us in the US and Europe, but it’s not always the case. Many kids have to go to work instead of school. In the end, the ability to read and write is the biggest gift we can give children. They can decide what needs to be done to preserve and change the world. We are just investing in our future.
LAC: Why is this cause so important to Montblanc as a company?
LB: We have this heritage—our roots are in the writing culture. We have become successful by selling products used by people who write. We felt a need to help those who can’t, because writing is what has made us a success. When you have been successful as a person or a company, you have to give back.
LAC: Given the current economic climate, why are strategic partnerships so important?
LB: With the current financial turmoil, 2009 is a year when we really should make a big effort— we need to think about the future, and children are our future. In these turbulent times, we cannot afford to stop. We have to think about those people in society who are weak and give them something for their future.
LAC: You travel from Germany to LA a lot for work and will be back for the Signature for Good event. What do you look forward to doing when you come here?
LB: LA is a wonderful city with a wonderful lifestyle. When I come, I visit all the Montblanc stores of course [laughs], but when I come with my children, we want to see the museums, tourist sights and beaches.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ROGER MOENKS (PARKER, MILLER)