07 December 2015

Philofaxy at 10 - Van der Spek

Today we are continuing our posts to celebrate 10 years of Philofaxy.

We haven't known about Van der Spek that long (2 years I guess), although the company has been around a long time, over 80 years.

However, I think the Philofaxy community has been very quick to catch on to the sort of products and the quality and the excellent customer service offered by this small but well established family company based in the Netherlands.

Never a week goes by without Petra sharing a photograph or two in the Facebook group... 'We have just made this..' which nearly always leaves everyone gasping or reaching for their credit cards.

You quickly learn that the words 'No we can't make one of those' isn't in their vocabulary! If it is made in leather and it is within certain size considerations they can make it... in any colour... or colour combination, well almost I suppose!!

So this last week, I managed to get some time on Skype chatting with Petra and I asked her some questions and I made some notes for this post.

Petra Van der Spek

What products does Van der Spek make in their own workshop as well as organisers and TN covers? 
  • Writing cases in A5 and A4 sizes.
  • Pen cases for 1,2,3, and 4 pens. And for some customers we have made custom pen cases for 6 or 8 pens.
  • The very old classic desk sets (some people still use them) iPad covers, iPhone covers. 
  • Some bags in the past, maybe we should start these again? 
I'm sure our readers will be delving back through your website and catalogues looking for these attractive sounding items.

A very small selection of the products made in house at Puttershoek 

How many people work at Van der Spek? 

Eight people including my parents and myself.

Andrea, Petra, Rene Van der Spek

Not all the employees work in the factory, because they are a staying at home mom as well.

We vary in age and experience, but we all work great together and everybody has their own specialty.

The youngest is 31 years old (Petra) and the oldest is our well known cutter JP, who is a very happy guy, with great dress sense!

JP, Photo care of Janet Carr
We have a new worker who started only 3 months ago.

Petra's father has been working in the family company since 1962 and he became the owner in 1972!! He coordinates most of the work in the factory and the overall leather specialist.  He knows all the product forms from A to Z and makes all the prototypes.

Petra's mother is the best organiser of them all and she is therefore responsible for picking all the orders and despatching them all over the world.

As most of you in the  community will know, Petra spends a lot of my time in answering questions from the community and helping all the customers in ordering their binder. (Besides that she is also busy with all kinds of other orders, like writing cases in larger numbers, menu's for restaurants, etc)

What have the highlights been of the last couple of years since you discovered Philofaxy?

Where to start ☺

The amount of emails, haha joking, no the interest in organizers for sure!

In the Netherlands we don’t sell the same amount of organisers anymore like we did in the past. These days with a lot of people using their phone as a calendar, but because of Philofaxy, people outside of the Netherlands have discovered or have got to know about Van der Spek!

We never knew there was still so much interest in using organisers. We had a website with a little bit of information about the company and now we have a webshop were you can actually buy the organisers and accessories and leather samples.

But what Petra likes the most is the contact with the end users. In all the years before they were only focusing in business to business. With stepping into the business to consumer world, Petra has got so many positive reactions.

Petra went on to say 'I don't know if our roots from Indonesia are one of the causes of this, but it is in our nature to help out customers in every way that we can. And since we're talking to the end users, this is becoming a real unique selling point for the company.'  I think we will all agree with that.

What also amazes and fascinates Petra is how the community works. People just want to share experiences and common interests. Petra was surprised about the time all these VdS fans spend together and all the movies and review material they create is amazing. The fact that there are even users that are so active and willing to spend even more time and energy as a group admin makes Petra so happy and gives her an extra reason to go to work.

What has your experience been of the Philofaxy community?

Well, that it is really nice to talk to everyone that contacts me ☺

They’re so enthusiastic about everything, very interested and I even got the chance to meet some of them at Puttershoek and in the USA this year.

I get so many positive reactions about the communication and effort I put into VDS and I can just be myself with all these amazing people.

What has surprised you most since being discovered by Philofaxy? 

The interest in our organizers. I thought that market was done, but there are still so many people who love to use organisers!

The size of the community, the Facebook group has over 2000 keen members in it now! (Thank you Janet, Susan and Steve)

The knowledge about all the different organisers aspects: mechanism, leather, refills, etc

For some it is not just a hobby, but almost a way of life. So much fun and energy from working with Philofaxy

Tell us if you can about any changes to your product line. 

We changed the design of our organisers. Things we didn’t know before.
  • Changing the stiffener in our binder. We always used carton and now we have added two different types of stiffener as well, so the binder can be supple!
  • The bigger the rings, the better.
  • Junior size rings 16mm we also added 20mm rings
  • Senior 20mm rings, we also added 25mm rings
  • Standard 25mm rings, we also added 30mm rings
  • Extra pen loops
  • Secretarial pockets
  • Accessories like the flyleaves and a zipper case
  • Full width back pocket
  • A complete new product: The NOMAD. A cover for your Midori notebooks. Also customisable from only the cover to completely with pockets and pen loop
  • Two additional colours added to our 'Touch Me' range of organisers, and also making the senior size compatible with true A6 size inserts with 25mm rings
Where can we find you on the Web (Website, Instagram, Facebook)
Web Shop: www.vdsshop.com
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/VanderSpekLederwaren/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vdsshop/

Thank you Petra for a delightful hour or so talking about the company and your experiences of the last couple of years.

The interview didn't finished there though... Petra has kindly offered some of their products as quiz prizes.

Prizes: Writing case, Nomad TN, Address book, Organiser, Pen case


1. How many different colour leathers do Van der Spek have in their range?

2. What is the biggest pen case have they ever made, for how many pens?

3. How many pieces of leather do you need for a Standard size 25mm without any additional options? Difficult one I know, but go back to the post about how they are made here on Philofaxy...

4. How many additional options can you take on your basic NOMAD?

5. How many different rings sizes are available in the webshop across all sizes of organisers?

Prizes: Writing case, Nomad TN, Address book, Organiser, Pen case

How to enter:
  1. Please email your answers to steve@philofaxy.com  please put Van der Spek in the title/subject of your email.
  2. Please enter before 23:00 CET on Monday 14th December 2015. Emails received after that will not be counted.
  3. Winning entries will be picked randomly from all the correct answers, and five winners will be assigned one of the prizes (Writing case, Nomad TN, Address book, Organiser, Pen case).
  4. No cash alternatives are available
  5. Steve will need your permission to pass the winners email address and/or mailing address to Van der Spek, you will be contacted by email if you are a winner on Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest.
  6. We can't guarantee that you will receive your prizes by Christmas, but I'm sure Van der Spek will do their best to get them despatched as quickly as possible.
  7. This competition is open to everyone, world wide.  
  8. One prize per household. 
  9. The judges decision will be final.
  10. Please do not post the answers in the comments. 
Thank you to Petra and everyone at Van der Spek. 


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  2. It's 4:00 AM where I am--but I wanted to thank Steve and Petra for the informative post this morning.
    VDS is one of the few remaining older family-run businesses; those that produce the actual goods sold, and are concerned about craftsmanship, and giving the customer a voice in the process!
    Happy holidays to our friends at VDS! 🎄

  3. Great post Steve! I will reply at the questions this evening.

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