By appointment

The fashionable diary war clashes on. John Windsor thumbs the latest designs

I took my battered, bulging Filofax to Frankfurt, to view the Filofax designs of the future. Frankfurt? It has become the Filofax cult capital of the world. In Britain, the ring-bound personal organisers are still trying to live down their association with Eighties yuppies and nanny Thatcher. But the Germans, who discovered them only five years ago, think they are cool.

You would not recognise Frankfurts' newest, coolest design as a Filofax. It looks more like a miniature UFO. A soft rubber shell conceals springy sheet steel. Pull it open and it lies taut and flat like a steel tape rule. Prod it, and it curls up again.

But the invention that seems likeliest to win Filofax's sales war against the Psion electronic diary and umpteen Filofax-lookalike brands is not a Filofax at all. It stood beside the springy UFO at a reception for the new designs at the city's Museum of Modern Art - a humble Apple PC disgorging dummy Filofax pages of listings: restaurants, theatre, sport, the arts. The dream is to connect it with the Internet. Press a key or two, clip the latest listings into your Filofax and take it with you on business or on holiday. All that Filofax's London-based chief executive Robin Field now needs is a global information provider on the Internet.

Blank A4-size computer print-out sheets with perforated and punched Filofax pages are already on sale. So computer-literate Filofaxophiles, who prefer flicking through pages to laboriously keying an electronic organiser, can maintain a master-file of information on computer, periodically downloading edited and updated versions into their Filofax. German retailers sell regularly updated Filofax restaurant listings - but, so far, nothing on the Net.

The end of the over-fed Filofax? When I lifted out mine, which looks like a replica of the one in Psion's knocking advertisements, stuffed with extra pages and scraps of paper, I expected Mr Field's staff to cry out in horror. Not at all. "Wow! That's a real Filofax!" they exclaimed. They mulled over my stache of dog-eared visiting cards, art gallery invitations and dry-cleaning chits as if they were historic printed ephemera.

But that's the British for you - in love with the quaintly scruffy rather than shiny chic. Over dinner, Mr Field, the 46 year old corporate turn- round specialist who rescued Filofax in 1990, put his own Filofax on the table - a six year old pocket-diary sized Slimline Executive model, without fastener, in soft black kid leather that had acquired a patina with daily use. He is clearly fond of it. It stays slim because he uses it strictly as a personal organiser - containing mainly appointments - not as the ever-expanding contacts book that mine is. Most of his contacts are kept in his secretary's desk Filofax: only the often-used ones are in his pocket. You could say he's well organised.

I had apologised for bringing out my bulky reporter's notebook at table. "You'd be more confident taking notes in a Filofax like this," he said, stroking the kid leather. Indeed, I would have been.

German Filofax culture is quite different. They are a brand conscious nation. It is the brand-name, the prestine, not the charmingly distressed, that confers status. Fashionable Brits may have tired of designer labels, but Germans still hanker after clothes by Joop! and Escada, leather goods by Seeger, Bree and Mont Blanc. Mr Field said: "The Germans always want to know who designed it. The British just want to know how much it costs".

A Mont Blanc leather organiser fitted with Filofax pages was priced 765DM (pounds 264) at Theissinger, Frankfurt's biggest personal accessories retailer. Its leather was as smooth as plastic. Leather blemished with warble-fly punctures or barbed-wire grazes conferring added character in the eyes of us Brits - will not sell in Germany.

If Germany is becoming the natural home of the Filofax it is largely because of the young "marketing muscle" that Mr Field has newly appointed in Frankfurt, home of one of the company's six overseas subsidiaries. Last year, while turnover for the company worldwide grew by only 2 per cent (from pounds 42.7m to pounds 43.6m) it rose in Germany by 22 per cent. Germans now account for 14 per cent of Filofax's turnover.

The initiative to commission revolutionary new designs came not from London but from Frankfurt. At the reception there, the director of the Museum of Modern Art, Jean-Christophe Ammann, delivered a paeon of praise for the Filofax as art object - how many British museum directors would do that? - and the huge Parmezan cheese and Australian and Californian Chardonnay were consumed by industrialists, bankers, and young trend-setters in designer spectacles. "I'm surprised," Mr Field confessed, "when we have held similar exhibitions in the UK we have had a much smaller turnout." (You get a hint of the future that might be being planned for this small consumer product when you learn that its German managing director, Volker Jungeblut, used to work for Mont Blanc - whose collectable annual limited edition of fountain pens has risen in value at auction by 350 per cent in five years. And that the German company's young PR wizard, Moritz Hunzinger, helped to launch Swatch for the brilliant and eccentric Nicolas Hayek, notorious among collectors for playfully manipulating special-edition Swatch prices by glutting some countries and starving others.

Mr Field is reluctant to play the limited-edition game (although last year the company did issue, at pounds 500 each, a 75th anniversary limited edition of 1,921 replicas of the Filofax used by Grace Scurr, in which she saved the company's vital trade contacts from the blitz). "I want all everyday Filofaxes to have first-class design," he says, "I'm not aiming to turn them into collectables". But you might just find that, whichever of the seven new designs go into production, the first few hundred will be signed and specially packaged.

As for tho UFO, it was commissioned not from a German but from the studio of the London-based designer, Ron Arad, best known for his shoot-steel furniture. Rene Chavanne, the 31-year-old Austrian who dreamed it up, was a pupil of Arad's at the School for Applied Art in Vienna. Explaining his design, be told me he wanted to get away from leather.

The Australian Marc Newson designed a plastic Filofax with a zip, a cross between a lunch box and a petrol can. It is shiny and smart. The only tribute to the British-style overstuffed Filofax is Achim Heine's design, with 12 rubber washers on each cover and a supply of string to wind round them, making tangled nests for pens, dry cleaning chits and personal rubbish.

The Filofax-Internet brainwave? It was hatched by the professor of product design, Volker Albus, and his students at the University of Design, Karlsruhe.

There are signs that the Germans might be coming round to the British Filofax aesthetic. Herr Ammann, the Museum director, said in his address: "Confronted by the empty pages of a new Filofax, you recoil from sullying its virginity. But every Filofax should be full to bursting, with paperclips holding together diary notes, everyday routines, love letters. Leafing through a Filofax gives a feeling of sensuality - at least, mine does."

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Key Account Manager, Medical

    £35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

    Senior Technical Project Assistant - Hampshire - up to 45K

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + 23 days holiday, pension scheme: Deerfoot IT Resou...

    Senior Multimedia Developer - Southampton - up to £34.5K

    £30000 - £34500 per annum + 36 days holiday, Pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Li...

    Health & Social CareTeacher

    £100 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Health & Social Care T...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice