Last week while I was in London, I had the opportunity to meet with Brigitte, the manager of the flagship Filofax shop on Conduit Street in London. She was very kind to spend more than an hour talking to me about Filofax! Thank you very much Brigitte!
As you might imagine she and I had tons to talk about, and I’ll try to remember it all for you here.
We talked a lot about the new Filofax binder styles and colors. Brigitte confirmed that there is a core selection of standard binder products that are made year after year, but most of the colorful styles are for one year only. Colors change frequently then are gone, to try to keep up with trends and customers’ wants. So if there is a particular color or style you want, you should buy it soon! They are limited edition.
The new Songbird style binders are beautiful. They are meant to replace the Eden binders. Brigitte said Edens were very popular, but they wanted to move on to a different style. The Songbird pattern is similar to the Eden, but updated. I didn’t notice before on the website photo, the closure button on the Songbird binder has a musical note pattern on it, which is a very nice touch. Side note: if you are looking for an Eden binder, she said they have a few left in stock in the shop! Give them a call if you are interested (0207 499 0457).
There is a beautiful new saturated-aqua color Finsbury this year. Finsbury binders are intended to be a user’s introduction to the leather binders. It’s the least-expensive leather binder, and to keep the price down they have made the interior fabric, which does not wear as long as leather. Brigitte said some Finsbury users have found after using their binder for a long time that the cloth where the rings rub starts to wear out.
The Chameleon range of binders is intended as a step-up from Finsbury, with a full-leather interior for longer wear. The leather is buffalo, sourced from India. It’s incredibly soft! I was expecting a stiff leather like Finsbury but it’s very supple. These binders are incredibly beautiful, and I have to admit I was extremely tempted! The Chameleon style is not yet available on the website.
Malden binders are already there in the Filofax shop, they are wonderfully soft and supple. They are also buffalo leather sourced from India. These are very good-looking binders.
She showed me the Kendal binders, which I had never seen in person before. The leather is waxed, so that if it gets scratched you can just buff it out. Great option for people who want a leather binder but are tough on their Filofax.
Guildford binders come in the widest range of sizes and styles: slimline, personal, and several sizes of extra slim. The extra slim binders have 11mm rings like the Slimline, but the cover is even narrower so it can fit into a man’s pocket. This means that any tabs would protrude out the side of the book. She also showed me a new Guildford called “Compact” that is between the Slimline and Personal sizes. It has larger rings than the Slimline, but is narrower than the Personal with no strap closure. This was available in the shop but is not online yet.
She showed me the Adelphi “slimline” A5. It’s slimline in the sense that the rings are smaller and there is no strap closure. But there are gusseted pockets inside the front and back covers. These pockets are nice, but they add bulk to the book so I wouldn’t call this truly slimline. Brigitte said her male customers find the diamond pattern on the Adelphi too feminine-looking, even in the black color. I hope Filofax will come out with a truly slimline A5, for men and women, soon.
She showed me some binders that they carry in the Conduit Street shop but are otherwise available only in other countries, such as Classic with contrast stitching only for the Japanese market. Also she showed me some items not seen in the catalog, like the blue Domino binders. She said these items were added to the collection after the catalog was published.
Brigitte told me about some of their customer base at the Conduit Street shop and how it differs from the customer base at their shop in Covent Garden. The Conduit Street shop is in a very upscale area, and as you would expect most of their customers buy Filofaxes in the upper price ranges. She said the shop's selection of bags reflects the higher price ranges as well. She said they also get a fair number of university and medical students who tend to get more expensive products if they come in with their parents who want to treat them.
Their Covent Garden shop is in a more tourist-centered location and because of this they tend to get more impulse purchasers of the lower price range products.
Brigitte said in their Conduit Street shop they also get tourists from Europe who are in the area to shop at the higher-end shops. She said she was surprised recently when tourists from Sweden came in and the women wanted the Mode binders (in pink and aqua). These were women who obviously could have afforded a much more expensive binder but went for the lower-end ones. I said I completely understand: first of all, the binders are colorful, feminine and fun. And as a mother, especially when your children are small, you need a binder that doesn’t get ruined when it gets messy. It needs to be able to handle the occasional spill, drip, or blob of jelly and wipe off easily with a baby wipe. So I can understand why the colorful, less-expensive binders are popular with women from every demographic.
The Conduit Street shop gives customers the option of buying the Filofax binders empty (without any of the inserts that normally come with it) for a lower price. Brigitte said there are several people who prefer to buy just the empty binder. She said she has customers who work for the fashion magazines who already use a Filofax and want to change the binder with the seasons.
We talked about other uses for the binders beyond the diary-and-addresses uses. One idea was for people who collect a lot of business cards to buy an empty binder, especially an A5 size, and use the Business Card Holder inserts to have a very classy-looking book full of business cards. You could even use the A-Z tabs to alphabetize your cards.
We talked about a Filofax binder with a pocket for a smart phone. She said actually they had one awhile back but it didn’t work out very well. The pocket was inside the binder cover, so when the binder was closed the phone was smooshed against the pages, which pushed the On button so the battery got drained quickly. It didn’t sell well and was discontinued. I asked about possibly making one with the phone pocket on the outside, and she said at this time there are no plans for it. Part of the issue is that Filofax designs begin about 18 months before they are available to sell, and as we all know 18 months is an eternity in technology-time. So by the time the design actually became available to buy, the phones could be a completely different size and not fit into the pockets.
The Filofax folios caught my eye. I noticed in particular that the Domino folios come in colors like purple and pink that are not available in the A5 size binder. Brigitte showed me inside the back of the folios where the notepads are: they have notepad slots top and bottom so you can turn the folio over and use your notepad on left or right side, which is convenient for left-handers.
She also showed me the Bond and Sketch zipped portfolios which have slide-out removable rings. That way you can have pages on rings, or remove the rings to use just a notepad in the folio. It’s also great if you have a standard presentation on papers tucked into clear plastic sleeves that you keep on the rings: when you need the presentation, you just slide the rings into your folio and off you go.
She asked if I have used any of the Lifestyle Packs and I said that I have tried the Family Organizer in the A5 and Personal sizes and I like them. I told her about some other brands of family organizers I’ve used, and things I liked and disliked about them, and compared them to the Filofax family pack. I suggested they add forms for Medical information for each member of the family to keep track of things like when they are due for vaccines, dental exams, lists of prescriptions and allergies, and other medical information.
She said several users of the Lifestyle Packs have asked for additional forms to be sold separately, so that if they run out of a particular form they don’t have to buy an entire new pack. She said something they are working on is to have these forms available on the Filofax website as a download, which you can then print out on your Filofax computer paper.
We talked about how I travel often, and she asked if I’ve ever used the Travel Journal lifestyle pack. I said no and she very generously gave me one as a sample, which I will review soon here on Philofaxy. I also looked at the Receipts Envelopes that fit on the binder rings with a chart on the outside of the envelope to fill in date, expense, amount etc. I said they would be perfect for business travelers who have to do an expense report when they get back to the office. She gave me a pack of those too, which I will also review.
We talked a bit about the diary and paper inserts. There is a weekly diary insert in the personal size that has the days as vertical columns, but it’s available in French only, not English. She said they get a fair number of French customers in the shop, so they carry some of the French-only diary inserts. She also said so many people want the personal size diary insert with the days as vertical columns, that even English-only speakers are buying it even though it is in French. I hope they will come out with this format in English. I told her a little bit about the Franklin Covey format where you can put the tabbed months between the weeks. She showed me the Filofax tabbed monthly inserts, but like all Filofax calendars they are printed back to back, so it wouldn’t work to put them between the weeks because then the months would be split.
We talked a little about the Filofax maps. Something I didn’t realize before is that each individual country requests their own maps. So Germany can request which maps they want in German, same for France etc. I told her how I’ve been asking Filofax for an updated Europe map for years! She suggested I check the Filofax websites of some of the other countries to see if maybe they have a new Europe map.
Brigitte gave me her card and when I pulled out my over-stuffed Deco to put the card into, her eyes got wide and she said, “Oh my! That is abuse.” And unfortunately she is right, it was stuffed way too full. She pointed out that filling it so full that the pages go all the way around the rings will eventually cause the ring mechanism to break. So as soon as I got home I took out about half the pages and I’m happy to report that my Deco breathed a sigh of relief!
While I was there I bought my new A5 Domino in red, which you can read all about in my post below, and some accessories to go along with it including the portable hole punch and calculator. I am very happy with my new Filofax, and I’ll be sure to give you updates as my usage evolves!
It was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn about Filofax behind-the-scenes, to see the beautiful new products out this year, and to make comments and suggestions in person on behalf of Philofaxy readers.
Many thanks again to Brigitte!