31 March 2014

Gillio A5 Mia Cara - Review

I feel quite honoured to be able to write a detailed review of the Gillio Firenze A5 Mia Cara organiser. Not only did I get to meet the man that makes them and visit his workshop last weekend, but I was also one of the first people to see the new colours, which was quite an experience.

To do it justice I was asked if I would like one to review. So thank you to Gillio for supplying me with an A5 Mia Cara in green and cream to review.

So where to start... When I was a radio engineer, I often worked with a bench full of expensive test equipment. Some of the measurement receivers I used were the equivalent price of a typical 3 bedroom house(mid 1980's prices), yet they sat on the bench without looking that special. But take the outer covers off the receiver and inside they were beautifully made, lots of gold plated connectors and silver plated parts and precision metal work.

These things where built to last, you bought not just the instrument, but the back up package from the factory to go with it. Yet, we didn't treat them with 'kid gloves' we used to take our expensive receivers out in a Land Rover, suitably strapped down of course and truck it around the countryside carrying out measurements, knowing that the results would always be accurate and they wouldn't go wrong on us half way through the week.

These Rhode & Schartz receivers where at the time considered to be the 'Rolls Royce' of measurement receivers.

From seeing the way the Gillio Mia Cara is made and looking at it under an eye glass, although Gillio only labels the Mia Cara as 'The most luxurious organiser on the market' I think it could also be considered to be the Rolls Royce of organisers too. When you first see one it might not look that different to any other organiser. But pick it up in your hands and feel the quality of the leather and look at the stitching and the craftsmanship and the overall design and you start to realise why these organisers are very special.

Ok let's look at the Mia Cara in detail. What are you getting when you buy one of these organisers. Firstly they don't cost the equivalent of a three bedroom house!


The Mia Cara is a two part organiser, the organiser part is removable and can be used on it's own.

The outer 'jacket' also has a full back pocket which can take a full size A4 page with plenty of space.

The outer jacket as I'm calling it, has eight card slots in the rear inside cover. There are also two vertical slot pockets, one behind the card slots which is 9.5cm deep, and the other inwards of this one that is 12.5cm deep.

The inside front cover has a large gusseted pocket which has two press studs, this pocket will take a smart phone or a large pen collection if required!

There is also a full height zip pocket. The zipper has a leather stitched tab on it which is a pleasant attention to detail. There is also a full height 15.5cm deep slot pocket behind both of these pockets.

The pen slot is in the middle in the fold of the spine this slot is quite generous in size, it is about 1.5 cm wide at the opening tapering inwards. One advantage of this pen slot is that if you aren't using it, then the leather isn't bulky, it is as flat as the surrounding area.

The outside of the organiser section is perfectly smooth with just the outer edge contrasting stitching.

The organiser section is fitted with a 26 mm diameter ring mechanism. This particular ring mechanism was made by Bensons, it is the removable type, so it is replaceable if there is any problems with it in the future.

As you can see in the photograph below the inside cover has 4 card slots and an additional wide slot at the base of the inside front cover.

There is no separate closure on the organiser section, so if you are using it separate to the outer jacket you will have to hold it closed in your hand, although that is not an unpleasant experience!

The inside back cover of the organiser section is made of a thicker leather. This part is tucked inside another slot pocket in the outer jacket so it is not normally seen. This additional thickness does improve the stiffness of the organiser to allow you to write on pages with the organiser just in your hand.

The outer section clasp is of generous proportions. Not stiff though, so it can be bent flat out of the way.

Weight and Size

I've seen quite a few comments on-line about the Mia Cara being big and bulky. Well given that it is made in two parts it will naturally be heavier than most A5 organisers. I got the scales out myself to do some comparisons.  I used my usual A5 contents which weighs about 610 grams. And here are my results.
  • A5 Mia Cara - Empty 725 grams - Full 1335 grams. 
  • A5 Mia Cara organiser section - Empty 300 grams. 
  • A5 Malden - Empty 345 grams
  • A5 Holborn Zip - Empty 425 grams
  • A5 Holborn clasp - Empty 350 grams
The following photos will help you compare the relative sizes against the A5 Mia Cara.

A5 Holborn and A5 Mia Cara

A5 Holborn and A5 Mia Cara

A5 Holborn Zip and A5 Mia Cara

A5 Holborn Zip and A5 Mia Cara

A5 Malden and A5 Mia Cara

A5 Malden and A5 Mia Cara
As you can see the A5 Mia Cara is very similar in size when closed to the A5 Holborn Zip.

There is however one problem with the sizing of the A5 Mia Cara organiser section. It wasn't designed for A5 inserts. The inserts supplied are in fact Half-Letter size (8 mm narrower), therefore when you put true A5 pages in the A5 Mia Cara organiser section the pages are virtually at the edge of the organiser and any tabs stick out beyond the organiser edge. This failing has been reported to Gillio, but they haven't done anything about it yet.


The leather is vegetable tanned Tuscan Epoca leather, not chemical solvents are used in the tanning process. This brings out the natural characteristics of each hide used in the Mia Cara and other Gillio organisers. When comparing several organisers of the same colour you will see slight variations in colour where the tanning has been absorbed differently and slight differences in the texture of the surface of the leather, after all all cows are different.

The leather on the Mia Cara is very supple and forgiving any small finger nail scratches in the leather simply disappear by rubbing your damp finger over the surface as this video by Tom shows.

I've done some basic research on the stitching of leather, a high number of stitches per inch generally indicates high quality leather and high quality craftsmanship. If you try to increase the number of stitches per inch in low quality or thin leather there is then a risk that the needle holes act like perforations in paper and the leather can tear.

Armed with a ruler and my magnifier I started looking at the Mia Cara in detail for this measurement.

The maker has used two rates of stitching in the manufacturing of the organiser and the outer jacket. The highest number of stitching I found was equal to 12 stitches per inch, for instance on the outer edges of the organiser and the outer jacket and there are some sections of stitching at 9 stitches per inch. As a comparison I quickly looked at a Filofax Malden and that was 7-8 stitches per inch.

You can see the difference in this photograph.

I made a very quick estimate, there are approximately 2800 visible stitches on a full A5 Mia Cara. On the organiser section alone there are over 900 visible stitches. I stopped short of calculating the length of the thread used!!! 

In use
Some people like their organisers to be super floppy, others prefer them to be stiffer and with some structure.

When you first pick up the A5 Mia Cara you will notice first of all the addition weight of the complete organiser with it's two parts. Unsnapping the closure you will notice how supple the outer cover is. There is no additional stiffening used in the cover at all. It's just leather and liner and stitching. The materials used in the organiser section are a little stiffer, so when you combine the two sections that starts to give the overall package some structure and compliance which will improve the writing experience.

As you start to fill the pockets in the outer jacket section stiffens up the outer section a little, but without losing the suppleness around the spine and hinging point so there's never any question about both sections laying flat.

For the busy business person who wants everything contained in the one organiser, the Mia Cara has a lot to offer in terms of storage space, remembering which pocket you have put things in might be a greater issue... there are so many pockets!

The Mia Cara comes in three sizes, Pocket, Medium and A5. Page sizes and holes spacing is the same as Filofax Pocket, Personal and A5. Quite a few people on the Gillio Facebook Group use Pockets and Medium size Mia Cara's as their wallet/organiser. The big pocket on the inside front cover is very good for holding coins. The abundance of card slots make it very useful as a wallet.

The Mia Cara is available to purchase in Pocket, Medium and A5 sizes and now in 12 different colours, but hurry they are selling out quickly.

To finish off I will share with you Mella's latest video of her A5 Mia Cara in purple and cream.

Of course if you have any questions please leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them.

Once again thank you to Gillio for the review sample. 


  1. Thanks for the excellent review. 1335g full would be a bit much for me! The last Filofax I weighed was a Personal Eton, which clocked in at 568g filled - and I do mean *filled*. I may still need to look into the smaller Gillios based on the review ;-) Thanks once again.

  2. Excellent and interesting review, Steve. Now how to decide?

  3. I will not complain about my A5's weight again!!

  4. Is A5 ring size the same as Malden? I didn't see that note - my apologies if you provided that.
    Great review!

    1. The ring size on the Mia Cara is 26mm, the Malden A5 is 30mm, Holborn A5 is 25mm, Holborn A5 Zip is 30mm

      The Medium size Mia Cara has 26 mm rings, most Filofax organisers have 23 mm rings in personal size.

  5. Always like a Bensons ring mechanism. These look lovely but the floppy outer cover just breaks the deal for me. I wish Gillio made binders with more structure.

    1. They do Josh, the Amica range has stiffening in the covers only, yet it still opens perfectly and lays flat, even in personal size (medium)