The Write Stuff: Britain's stationery fetish

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

From a £400 Alice Temperley Filofax to a gold-nibbed Montblanc pen, Britain's stationery fetish is refusing to be erased by technology

At a party tonight at a townhouse in Mayfair, Alice Temperley, a fashion designer whose customers include Hollywood and British royalty (the Middletons are fans) will break from the event after her show at London Fashion Week to launch a new product.

It looks like an evening clutch, rimmed with gold and lined with pony skin with a print pattern inspired by guinea fowl feathers. But it isn't a clutch. It's a Filofax, and it costs £400.

The Guinea, whose gold zip reveals cream pages with leather alphabetical tabs, is a furry symbol of the poshest aspect of a fetish for stationery sweeping Britain's desks and handbags. Booming demand for paper, pens, notepads and diaries is revealing the stationery geek in us all, and defying the touch-screen age of instant communication.

Smythson, stationer to the Queen and employer, as creative director, of Samantha Cameron, reported profits of £2.4m last summer, up 400 per cent in a year, and the highest in its 125-year history. At the department store John Lewis, sales of premium stationery are up 177 per cent (pick up a Campo Marzio leather document holder for £60) while artisan stationer's, for those with more modest budgets, are struggling to meet demand for novelty erasers that are too good to rub and notepads with leaves that would be the envy of an ancient Egyptian papyrus merchant.

James Ward has a stapler habit. "I keep buying them on eBay," he says from his home in Surrey. "I've got one for each decade of the 20th century. My favourite is a Rapid e6, which has a really nice simple 80s look to it."

Ward, 30, who founded the annual Boring Conference, was inspired by his fondness for stationery to start a stationery club, which met regularly to discuss the merits and demerits of selected pens. He later disbanded the club when the debates became too heated and is now folding his passions into a book, to be published next year. Its working title is "Adventures in Stationery" and in it Ward will profile each of the objects on his desk, detailing their history and meaning to him.

"My favourite pen is the Bic M10 Clic," he says. "I used it when I was about 12 before experimenting with other pens but I've come back to it now. There's something about the M10. It has a cool, 60s, almost Mad Men feel to it."

Ward has a healthy social life. He just really likes stationery, and he's not alone. He talks about its nostalgic appeal, that back-to-school, new pencil case feeling. "But I think there's something else," he says. "You go into a branch of Ryman's and there's possibility in everything. The blank notebook you could turn into a novel, the Post-its you'll use to organise your life. You imagine yourself being a better person and these things coalesce around paper clips and drawing pins."

Ward also talks about stationery love as a reaction to the sometimes ungratifying advance of technology. "When lightbulbs arrived candles became romantic," he explains. "We put up with the scratchiness of vinyl but when CDs came along those imperfections became the art and charm of the object. People are becoming more removed from their objects so they are reaching for something more tangible. That's why you'll see people in cafes using an iPad as well as a Moleskine notepad."

Charlotte Rivers is a design writer whose new book, I Love [illustrated with a heart symbol] Stationery was published yesterday. It's a celebration of the cutesy, nostalgic end of the new market, the antithesis of the pony-skin Filofax (think hand-stitched journals and greetings cards adorned with painted cupcakes). "There's a love of all things handmade and for craft in general," Rivers says. "It's a return to something older, slower and more tactile."

Or are we just playing catch-up? Chris Manson co-founded a TV company that sold in 2004 to Virgin Media for £194m. Last year, he opened a stationery shop in Tunbridge Wells in Kent. He now has a second blott store in Guildford, Surrey, and a website, "I think previously the offering here has not been very sophisticated," he says. "Japan has lead the market for decades and now we're catching up." Blott's imported Japanese pencil erasers, which come in 230 varieties, create scrums of children every weekend, says Manson, who plans to open four stores this year.

DJ Taylor, the author and critic, claims not to care much about stationery before detailing the tools he cannot live without. "I can write on the top of a bus or in a crowded room, but I have to have right pen and paper," he says. Taylor, who writes longhand, uses a Uni-ball Eye rollerball fine pen on A4 WH Smith wide rule refill pads (70gsm, with margin). "I suppose we're all fetishists, aren't we," he says.

Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?