Pen Envy

Zoah Hedges-Stocks explains her lust over stationery and how a new diary might just change your life…

fashion Filofax Paperchase Smythson Stationery

I have a bit of a confession to make. I really, really like stationery. Not in a sexual sense – that would be disturbing and paper-cuts can be really nasty. But I do get quite excited in September when the ‘back to school’ ranges get in the shops, with lovely, brightly-coloured lever arch files and notebooks tempting me to spend my loan before it even arrives. I think part of my admittedly sad fascination with folders, pads and pens is the hope that if I look organised, I might actually be more efficient. It is true that after a relative, exasperated at my inability to remember the most basic of engagements or even the day of the week, bought me a Filofax, I did actually start showing up to lectures. However, my unshakeable conviction that I could be seriously productive if I bought the more luxurious purple leather version from Paperchase for a mere £47, is clearly quite irrational. Perhaps I think it will make my pathetic attempts at organising my life look a bit sexier.


There’s nothing quite like being the last girl to the lecture, throwing your scruffy, dog-eared pad on the desk, and frantically hunting for a working biro, only to look over at the girl next to you, calm, composed, and wielding a Parker that matches her carefully labelled file, Smythson diary, and perfect manicure. I admit that my envy in such a situation is vaguely reminiscent of the business card scene in American Psycho, and that I probably ought to get a life, but as a fashion journalist, I do have a focus on appearances. In a lecture theatre, what you put in front of you on the desk can be as much an expression of your personality as the clothes you wear behind it. Cambridge is incredibly focussed on whether or not you are able to be a polymath, successful and confident in all facets of your life, and nothing says cool, calm and in control better than a perfect set of notes whilst looking fabulous and as if you don’t really care. But what emporiums will best help you achieve this?
Smythson of Bond Street, represented in the press by Samantha Cameron, is the Chanel of the stationery world. They sell alligator, python and ostrich-leather notebooks, in every colour imaginable, and furnish the Queen’s writing-desk. They are, however, obscenely expensive. If you long to dash off witty missives on elegant paper, but can’t afford hundreds of pounds for their bespoke paper, Paperchase do a nice line in parchment and inscription pads.


 If you’re looking to become more organised but don’t see the appeal of blowing your student loan on a brand-name Filofox, Paperchase also sell their own brand with much prettier designs at a pocket-friendlier price. WH Smiths sadly seem to offer neither a student discount nor anything without a Hannah Montana or Playboy logo – Ryman’s have a wider range and a much better understanding of the student financial situation.
And to those who think that such attention to detail is a waste of time, if jazzing up your desk with funky notepads and a multipack of highlighters makes exam term that tiny bit more pleasant, where is the harm in that?