Lamy sparks controversy with relaunch of deep lilac ink


German pen maker Lamy made a splash recently when it quietly relaunched its cult-favorite Deep Lilac ink color. Dark Lilac is a lush purple with a golden sheen, and despite its popularity, has only been produced once before – in a limited edition in 2016.

Its reappearance a few weeks ago was so unexpected that the fountain pen community, a small but passionate corner of the office supply market, was extremely excited.

There’s just one problem: the colors are different.

“There’s drama in the pen world,” 23-year-old pen enthusiast Aidan Bernal said at the beginning of a recent TikTok show, in which he went to great lengths to explain the saga — which involves mutual Conflicting company statements, amateur sleuths and an elusive shade of purple.

“An absolutely beautiful ink,” Bernal said in a phone interview.

Long overshadowed by competitors such as ball pens, gel pens and felt-tip pens, luxury fountain pens with refillable ink internal reservoirs have enjoyed a slight resurgence in recent years. Its resurgence coincides with a return to analog goods like vinyl records, mechanical watches and single-blade safety razors, said Brian Goulet of Goulet Pens, an online retailer in Richmond, Virginia.

“The pen actually goes in there,” he said.

As a teenager, Mr. Bernal was so fascinated by his grandfather’s pens that he went online to find out more about them. There, he said, he found a large community of enthusiasts. He now has over 550,000 online viewers on YouTube.

“I’ve been interested in stationery my whole life,” said Mr. Bernal, who works as an engineer in Seattle. “I always had to be the kid in the class with the coolest pencil and eraser.”

Given the enthusiasm of the community, Mr. Bernal and Mr. Goulet were not surprised that Lamy’s reintroduction of Deep Lilac caused such a fuss. Mr. Goulet recalled that the color was released in 2016 as a limited edition.

“It crashed our website because so many people wanted it,” he said.

Recently, small bottles of the 2016 version have been selling for $300 or more on the secondary market, Mr. Goulet said, a significant increase from the original retail price of about $12.

But no one expected Lamy to relaunch Dark Lilac — until last month, when some European retailers began selling an ink called “Wait, Dark Lilac.”

“Everyone was freaking out,” Mr. Bernal said.

Adding to the confusion: Lamy has launched a new ink for 2024 called Violet Blackberry, which many believe is a nod to Deep Lilac.

However, something is wrong. The lucky few who got their hands on the new “Dark Lilac” were dismayed that once they put pen to paper, the ink wasn’t quite the same as the original. According to early YouTube reviews, the base color is neither that blue nor that rich. The gloss is green instead of gold. And it’s definitely not violet blackberry.

“Is it a translation error? Some old and new inventory that someone found in a secret room? A copy? A mistake?” Mike Matteson, a philosophy lecturer from Greensboro, North Carolina, said in an interview. The nickname on the social media channels is “Inkdependence”. “There was no press release or any teasing about the product, so no one really knew what was going on.”

Enthusiasts launched an investigation. One of the men runs an Instagram account called “Fountain Pen Memes.” The man, who declined to be named citing his work for the Brazilian government, posted an interaction he claimed he had with a Lamy executive last week, in which the executive said the new Deep Lilac was the same ink as the old one. In a subsequent post, the account shared an interaction with another Lamy official in which the company retracted the statement, admitting the ink was different.

The man behind Fountain Pen Memes said he believes the company was unaware of the ink’s huge popularity.

Lamy confirmed to The New York Times on Wednesday that the ink was slightly different. When companies formulate new versions, some of the ingredients in the original versions are no longer available.

“So you could say that the 2024 Dark Lilac is the old special edition, but with today’s technological possibilities,” Lamy said, adding that it regretted the confusion. “We should give the revised version of Lilac a different name.”

Mr Goulet has several bottles of the original Black Lilac stashed away so when he receives samples of the new wine this week he will be able to do a side-by-side comparison.

“Hardcore pen fans will probably point out the difference like night and day,” he said. “But Rami made a very determined effort to bring back his beloved ink.”

The ink was still wet on the fiasco when, on Wednesday, more news broke: Lamy, a family business since 1930, had been acquired by Japan’s Mitsubishi Pencil Company.

“That’s not something I saw coming,” Mr Mattson said.





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