06 September 2021

Paul Smith and Filofax

You might not have heard about Paul Smith. To give him his correct title Sir Paul Smith is a British fashion designer who founded his company in 1970. 

His clothes are known for being vibrant and very colourful. He has shops in many large cities around the world. 

In 1979/1980, a friend of his by the name Michael Hodgson, who at the time was the art director for Harpers and Queen, showed him a leather notebook (Filofax), something Paul had never seen before. He liked it and was quite taken by the design with the inserts for a dairy, year planner, addresses etc. Paul asked Michael where he had bought it from. 

Michael recalled that he had bought it from Chisholm's a stationery store on Kingsway near the junction of Great Queen Street  in the Covent Garden district of London [Check out one of their old catalogues here

Paul's wife Pauline bought him a Filofax, because she had noticed how he had admired the design. He later went along to Chisholms himself to find out more about the range of inserts available. At the time there were a lot of inserts available for the clergy and the military as well as a wide variety of other subjects. 

Paul wondered if he could get some organisers and inserts to sell in his own shop in Floral Street in Covent Garden, London. He was given a phone number for Norman and Hill. He was eventually able to contact them and asked if he could go to see them with view to selling their products in his shop. 

At the time Norman and Hill were based in a small dimly office under a railway bridge in Bethnal Green in east London. He recalls that there was a lot of pigeon hole storage shelves on the wall with dozens and dozens of different inserts in them. 

He got them to put together a selection of inserts, but the organisers at the time were only available in black and brown. However, they still sold very well to Paul Smith customers in a variety of professions. 

Paul Smith made a request to Norman and Hill to make the organisers available in a number of other colours (green, red and blue leather) they agreed to do this and they sold very quickly. 

Over a six to seven year period he sold approximately 17,000 organisers. Customers would come from the USA and buy 40 or 50 at a time and then sell them in their own shops. The Filofax was starting to get well known. 

Paul Smith even had some exclusive models made for his own brand as well at about this time. These are very colourful models too. Janet has a Paul Smith 'Swirl' agenda


  1. Thanks for posting this, Steve - a really interesting read.

  2. TIL! What an interesting story (and what gorgeous photos). Thank you!

  3. It was very interesting to read!!