IN 1959, David Collischon was browsing in a London stationery shop when he came upon Filofax, a six-ring leather binder holding appointment books, address pages, maps and reference lists.
Invented in 1910 by an American, J. C. Parker, it was a hit among power-plant engineers whose technical handbooks had grown too big to carry. Collischon, then a 21-year-old marketing manager, eventually bought out the somnolent company for $16,000. Today Filofax sells more than $20 million yearly of its functional, fashionable alternative to the busy professional's mishmash of diaries, notebooks, index cards and dogeared scraps of paper.
Woody Allen reportedly uses 20 Filofaxes to order his hectic life. For that matter, Hollywood boasts disproportionate representation among the planner's many available inserts. Los Angeles businessman Ron Kaiser, former owner of Filofax's North American rights, responded to Diane Keaton's request for a detachable cash and credit card insert with the DK Coin and Currency Holder; he immortalized Donald Sutherland with DS Thank-You Notes.
Typically, a leather-bound binder sells for about $180 (filled with basic diary, address forms and note paper inserts), with alternatives ranging from vinyl ($30) to alligator ($1,900) and even reindeer hides salvaged from a 200-year-old shipwreck. Nine diaries are available, starting at a fortnightly view and ratcheting down to entries every 15 minutes. Totaling about 600 items, the Filofax lineup encourage buyers to mix and match until their binders are tuned to perfection.
Filofax fans are surprisingly diverse. Clergymen, for instance, buy them more frequently than their salaries would suggest: Pastors on house calls appreciate the family record insert, which offers a handy compilation of family members' birth, baptism, confirmation and marriage dates. Clearly, despite the snob appeal, Filofax ranks as more than a yuppie handbook.
Filofax systems are available at Fred Segal in Los Angeles and Santa Monica; Francis Orr in Beverly Hills and selected Bullock's stores in the Southern California area.