02 September 2013

Reader Review - The Purse - Jane McCourt

It was literally with stomach churning excitement that I read here on Philofaxy, the press release from Filofax about their newest product: The Purse and I feel highly honoured to have been asked by Steve Morton of Philofaxy fame, in conjunction with Filofax and The Ideas Network, to write a product review.

So, the hugest thanks to all for this golden opportunity to handle and examine first hand, one of Filofax’s newest and most innovative designs. Here, I thought, and I’ve not been proved wrong, was the perfect purchase for us females, looking to combine Filofax functions; a Filofax as a money, coin and credit/business card purse, a Filofax personal compact binder and a Filofax which could double up as a clutch bag. In short, a design flexible enough to be used in any or all three of these combinations. I felt a surge of mounting anticipation as I awaited the arrival of the package, coupled with heartfelt gratitude that I would be able to undertake its first review and I could barely wait to start.

I reached the decision early on, that my local park, with its white stone pillars, trees in full leaf, and a sunny day, was the ideal setting. Cameras seem to take a truer colour in the sunshine and against a white backdrop I reasoned.

Then of course, what happened? You guessed it…. on the very day chosen, and not mentioned in the weather forecast, it rained! The next sunny day took a few days to materialise, and I almost skipped to the park, feeling the joy and lightness of being similar to that of an excited child, one named Pollyanna I expect, but unfortunately for me, my camera decided to have a camera fail and break down,  on that very day, and at that very hour.

I mumbled and muttered under my breath about technological malfunctions, and blooming machines, in the finest traditions of a Tony Hancock sketch or a Dastardly and Mutley cartoon and beat a hasty retreat; and so it was that I had to wait once more, this time for camera repairs. Luckily it was resolved within an afternoon and so, the very next day, at long last, a sumptuous picnic packed, camera bag and Filofaxes to the ready, the grand unpacking, unwrapping and review was wagons roll. So without further ado…. *insert drum roll,* here follows my post.

Put the kettle on, grab a biccy and enjoy reading.  Just to clarify though, and to avoid confusion, I shall be using the UK meaning for the word purse, (ie money and card wallet, as opposed to handbag,) throughout and placing in italics all Filofax related product names.

An overview
The Purse by Filofax, is currently  available in three colours: scarlet red, black, and white, each with their own unique design features and patterning. It retails for £75, and is marketed as a multi- functional product, to be used both as a Filofax, a purse and as a small clutch bag, in any or all three combinations.

The interior binder comes in a personal compact size, with 15mm rings, and is easily removable, thus changing The Purse from a Filofax/purse combination into a small clutch bag. It is feminine in appeal and design, and as yet, there are no man bag or trouser pocket multi-functional wallets specifically designed for the male user.

There have been plenty of posts on the plus points and drawbacks of using a whole range and plethora of Filofaxes for a dual function of Filofax and money/card holder, but The Purse is the first specifically targeted design by the Filofax team to genuinely address the combination.

As a first foray into new territory, it is very exciting stuff. It seems to me here, as if Filofax as a company are looking at the wider perspective and questioning just how is a Filofax used? So, let’s look at the product in more detail, in this case, the scarlet red version, from packaging to design, to function.

The packaging
The Purse arrived well sealed in a standard white padded envelope, clearly addressed and securely packaged. Inside, was a tissue wrapped box, with a grey sticker to hold the wrapping in place, and a handwritten note from Jess, from The Ideas Network, (the personal touch always means a lot, so thank you Jess!)

This is a personal opinion, but tissue paper always adds an air of decadence and luxury, so I appreciated this touch, but also mused that tissue printed with the Filofax logo, maybe in a luxurious cream and gold colour and a sticker with the Filofax logo imprinted would have really SCREAMED luxurious delectable product at me, before unpacking anything further. Underneath the blue tissue wrapping was a plain white cardboard box, inside which The Purse lay.

I found this to be a tad disappointing, a feeling of ‘Is that it?’ nothing special or unique in a white box, especially given the retail price and when thinking back to the embossed black Filofax boxes of yesteryear.  The final layer to be unpacked was a covering of thin white wadding wrapped around The Purse itself.

I was very happy with the thickness of the packaging as a whole, as this kept it all safe in transit. Yet, I am of the old school, you know, the sort of Filofax user who watches the film Titanic and becomes absorbed totally by the luxury and stylishness of it all, and longs to be part of that long lost era of sophistication. We all aspire to a little bit of luxury in our lives and it would not cost much to produce classically stylish packaging, that embossed box and slightly more luxurious tissue paper and a protective purse drawstring storage bag, again embossed to go with all Filofax products, not just The Purse. That extra all important attention to detail and final touches matter and were I felt sadly lacking. That however is a personal perspective, and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on that point.

The Exterior

The Purse is certainly one of those tactile products, which is difficult to put down, lovely to the touch and which sits comfortably in the hand. The leather is buttery soft and gloriously lovely, in a rich scarlet shade, and certainly oozed the smell of good quality leather. It is only a little larger than my existing standard large money purse, (see photo for comparison,) and comes with a sturdy silver large toothed zipper to hold the contents securely within.

At the end of the zipper pull is a beautifully shaped leather tag, in matching leather, rather like a little leaf, to hold onto whilst zipping and unzipping, exactly in proportion.  I appreciated the delicate touch here and evident attention to detailing, both on the zipper pull and on the spine which incorporated an embossed Filofax logo. The sharp eyed amongst you may have noticed a paper card tag hanging from the left hand side. This is printed with the name of the product, The Purse on one side and a map of the interior layout on the other.  As I live near the sea, of course there just has to be the token seagull in the picture background.

The stitching on The Purse is small gauge and exactly matches the leather, being beautifully finished, unobtrusive and I must say, faultless. On the front, in the scarlet version is a red origami leather flower, rather like a water lily, which I found to be terribly attractive, lending an air of femininity and stylishness to the whole. I giggled out loud, when I discovered that this actually unfolded to reveal an open and larger water lily shape, and so could be used rather like a little secret compartment. It reminded me so much of the origami fortune cookies which I loved making so very much as a child. Happy days!

The outside back of the purse has a full length leather pocket which is roomy enough to hold a mobile phone, in fact any one of the phones in my local phone retailer, including the newest ones on the market, Blackberries, iPhones etc, and yes I tested every phone in the shop as well as my old dinosaur of a clam ‘phone.  All fitted comfortably.  This is a useful section within the design, making a ringing ‘phone easy and quick to access whilst on the move and for me, a huge plus and a positive selling point.

The leather as a whole had a slight whitish undertone to it, difficult to describe, but this seemed to me to be a natural part of the leather type. This disappeared when polished with neutral dubbin polish. The leather is so buttery soft, similar to that of the Malden Filofaxes, and it will lay as flat as a zipped binder can when opened, but with such an easily removable binder insert, flatness is hardly an issue. The leather is quite floppy and mobile, slightly rougher grained to the touch than my Maldens on direct comparison, but not in the slightest unpleasantly so.

The Purse will probably need careful care to avoid scratches on day to day use if stored in a larger handbag, as the leather is so soft and supple and thinner than any Filofax binder leather. Mine scratched within the first few hours of use, removed again with neutral dubbin polish, but still I would have expected slightly more durability. I personally would store and shall be storing my Purse  in a section of its own, or in a small drawstring bag for added protection. I am sure that as with the Maldens, leather treatment cream to keep it in tip top order would be an essential purchase, especially as a money purse is an item used every single day, day in, day out. But hey, well worth that!

The Interior

The Purse is rather deceptive. It looks fairly small on the outside and yet can hold much more than first impressions would suggest. Filofax have really managed to maximise the space here, and I am quietly in awe of their design team . The interior focuses upon function and practicality and is made from a durable hard wearing fabric, with an additional leather trim at the bottom of the front facing credit card slots. There are additional credit card slots directly behind.

In all there are twelve card slots, six facing, on the outer edge of the coin purse section and another six on the back edge of those, i.e. internally. There are two full width long slots underneath the elasticated pen loop, for holding paper money. Handily, there are two, so it is possible to separate out larger and smaller denominations of notes. There is plenty of room either side of the coin purse to hold additional money notes, and I found a flatish credit card wallet, (actually in my case two,) would easily fit in there too, with plenty of room for The Purse’s outer zipper to close easily.

I particularly liked the additional roominess, as I use a small plastic card holder for coffee shop and restaurant loyalty cards and another for shopping loyalty cards, of which I have plenty. The plastic card holders shown are not a part of the product, or sold by Filofax, but are used here to show exactly how much more can actually fit into The Purse if required. The all essential eye shadow, lippy and mascara wands and feminine hygiene products also fit easily here, both into the inner sections and inner zip of The Purse when used as a clutch bag.

My first thoughts were, why on earth is the interior of The Purse not completely leather too? But on reflection, the fabric choice (with the added detailing of a leather strip across the facing credit card slots,) means that the product should not only last, and be hard wearing, but the interior will be easy to clean and wipe down. The left hand side of the purse has a full width zipped purse for coinage, deep, yawningly wide and easy to reach into, so no issue of fumbling for coins at the checkout here. Excellent! There is also an elasticated pen loop on the left hand side. It easily held a Frixion or a mechanical pencil and standard biros, including the Bic multi biros and 4 barrelled Coletto pens.

Anything larger ie a 5 barrelled pen, would not fit the elasticated loop and would have to fit with the pen clip attached to the loop, rather than the pen through the loop, but given the interior space, I would say that this too is possible, depending of course on the pen type. The right hand side of The Purse holds the ring mechanism, which is riveted securely to a hard plastic backing. It slots into a left sided long slot and therefore can be removed, enabling The Purse to have more room and to be used as a small clutch bag. There is also a long slot on the right hand edge, which lends the appearance of The Purse being like The Apex, with multi functional slots. Unfortunately, the ring mechanism will fit into this slot, but will not allow The Purse to zip shut. So evidently the rings only fit within the one allocated space as shown.

Therefore, the additional long slot to the very right hand edge of The Purse may be used again for money notes, passport, tickets, travellers cheques and so on, but not for the ring mechanism . The rings by the way, were perfectly aligned, with no gaps and the sprung openers at the top and bottom also in perfect working order. The binder came filled with narrow ruled cream notepaper and so any other insert additions in Personal compatible size, such as today page markers, to do lists, diaries etc, would have to be purchased separately. I used one of my own Today page markers from another binder to double check, and the ring size is indeed that of the compact size, being 15mm across, (for those not in the know, ring sizes are always measured internally.)

Suggested design modifications
Although many people drive everywhere, some of us, myself included, still use public transport, bus passes, etc. A clear ID window on the back long slot of The Purse, securely framed in leather, and large enough for bus and travel cards of any size would be an ideal addition. The Filofax pages could then be flipped to the left and the ID scanned against a machine as required. The note pages, when flipped back would cover and hide any ID for additional security.  I was really longing for The purse to have an attachment for holding car keys flat and a couple of house keys, if it is genuinely to be used as a clutch bag. Most items from a woman’s handbag can be left out, and the minimum of basics carried, but not the keys. An elasticated removable key lanyard or a large popper attachment with a key ring on the facing left hand credit card slots may be a solution. Some ladies like the added security of a wrist strap when carrying a money purse, and a removable wrist strap could easily be added to the design.

Some final thoughts

It has been an utter thrill and joy to review The Purse by Filofax. I must say a huge thank you to Steve Morton, Filofax and The Ideas Network for asking me to write this review and without sounding too like Charlotte Bronte, thank you ‘dear reader’ for bearing with me. I have tried to keep the review factual and to state where I have used personal opinions and impressions, but of course we all differ in what appeals to our tastes and requirements.

My final opinion is that this is primarily a Filofax item which for us females, totally, utterly and completely solves the Filofax dilemma of choosing a dual purpose Filofax and money wallet combination, and I almost want to shout three hearty “Hurrahs” to the Filofax design team for coming up with such an innovative product and for considering the manifold ways in which we use our Filofaxes.  Just brilliant! The leather is soft and thus feels luxurious, but will certainly need caring for to avoid scratches. As a clutch bag, it is a little on the small side, elegant enough to use for a wedding, special occasion or an evening out say, with a bare minimum  of contents, but  evidently limited in the colour choices, to scarlet red, black and white. In my opinion The Purse is elegantly utilitarian in style than overtly dressy, and at £75, it is a little on the expensive side for a money purse or a clutch bag; but remember this, that you are purchasing a Filofax and a purse, and a clutch bag here, so in effect three items rolled into one. So, taken within that context,  not an expensive item. Would I buy it for myself or as a gift for a Filofax user? Absolutely.

Now for those of you who are fans of the colour red, and to give you some idea of colour comparisons, here is The Purse alongside some other well known Filofax binders.

Clockwise from L to R: Slimline Red Personal Amazona,
Slimline Personal Scarlet The Purse,
Pocket Sized Red Adelphi, Pocket Sized Crimson Malden.
Thank you Jane for a detailed review of this new model. The Purse is currently available in red and black, with white being available very soon. 


  1. Jane, what a fantastic review! It made me want to o get one too! Of coarse, I immediately clicked the link to buy one but thought I'd better check the USA website and of coarse it's not yet available but I will wait patiently until its available. Thanks for the review. How lucky are you to have experienced this opportunity!

  2. Excellent review! It's so helpful to have a detailed review of a product-especially when in most cities here in the US, we will not have a change to touch and see this for ourselves!
    My only comment is actually a question, Jane. Could you tell me what a biccy is?

  3. What a great review! Thank you Jane!
    I've been using a similar binder for several months now (not a Filofax, obviously) and I love it! The ease of having all your credit cards, all your Filofax essential info and room for the phone and a few little bits and pieces in one place - to be carried in one hand! It's life changing. Most days I still take a handbag to work, with my folder under my arm, but the handbag stays locked in a desk drawer most of the day. It's so liberating!
    This looks like it would be fabulous quality, and have a much classier aesthetic (mine is pretty utilitarian, even in red)! It would be great to have an update when you've been able to use it for a while!!!

    Oh, and Linda - a biccy is a biscuit - or a cookie, if you prefer! As in, I'm just about to sit down with a cup of tea and a biccy!

  4. What a great article! Kudos to filofax for designing what a appears to be a great binder/wallet combo. I am with you Jane to be perfect it needs a wristband.

  5. fab review....so enjoyed your voice!

    1. um, excuse my ignorance but if you brits call a 'wallet' a 'purse' what do you call a 'purse'?

    2. Tammy, we call it a bag, eg handbag, shoulder bag or often just plain "bag".

    3. lol, so really no different that what we yanks say in that regard. thanks for the vernacular primer!

  6. Awww, thank you folks!! I must say, I am very much enjoying using my purse, although I am being very precious over the leather, as it is all brand new and so soft. The leather smell is just fabulous!! The only issue I am having is over my planner layout, but that is nothing to do with the product, that's me. I do feel blessed to have been given this opportunity, as it is a great item to resolve the Filo as a wallet issue. I tend not to use a clutch bag, so this will be a handbag item for me personally. I could slap myself though, because.... OH HORROR.... I've spotted a split infinitive in the review..... and yes, I did check it carefully before sending to Steve.It's back to school for me then!!! Now where did I put that biccy and mug of tea? Yep, a biccy is indeed a cookie to you folks over the pond......actually I'm into Oreos somewhat naughtily... but I've just cracked open some ginger crinkle bics today....yummy!!!xx

  7. The planets must have aligned like never before! Actually matching stitching and I´m so happy! Yay Filofax! Finally! Yay again!
    But then, ohpleasealready!
    Dust bag?!? In ANY item of that caliber a dustbag is necessary! What a rookie- mistake to leave that out. If the focus group for this item would be a lad who enjoys a well- organized clutch... a dustbag comes like B after A. Also, water is still wet. Infuriating sloppiness *coughcheapcough* indeed. A string. A clutch goes with clutches. No exceptions. No excuses. Also, higher end clutches come with detachable wrist strings. Come to think of it... even budget clutches often come with detachable wrist string. *coughseeabovecough*
    The tell me what is this foolery of non-leather innards of this fabulous idea. Did it neeeeed to be destroyed with something that looks like cheap nylon!
    Summa summarum- excellent idea, fabulous exterior. Cheap manufacturing diluted the enthusiasm entirely. I get a "let´s see in just how many ways can we underperform here and surely those suckers will eat it, just like before they have!" If you start your path with such great ideas, is it REALLY so hard to even once follow through!
    If we also think about marketing such a leather product... the flower detail is beautiful idea, however it can very easily weed out customers. It would be more marketable if the flower was detachable as well. On many corporate positions any extra decoration can be seen as unprofessional, especially as the colour is already this beautiful, yet prominent red.

    1. ummm... I really meant to type a lady for the focus group, instead of a lad.

  8. Great review, thanks. I have a Malden compact zipped Filofax and wonder how this compares...?

  9. Thank you Alan! Thank you folks for your comments. I feel so positive about seeing new products from Filofax.