The red diary our heroine is gifted by Mark Darcy at the end of the beloved rom-com Bridget Jones’s Diary looks remarkably similar to the plush crossgrain leather Panama diary produced by Smythson since 1908. What’s more, the now-famous snowy kiss scene was filmed just outside The Royal Exchange.
When it was first created by Frank Smythson at the turn of the 20th century, the Panama was designed as the world’s first portable diary and remains an icon of the brand, and of British luxury, more than 100 years on.
Like Bridget committing her life and calorie count to paper, a new diary symbolises the start of a new chapter, both metaphorically and quite literally. And after the events of 2020, starting afresh is a feeling that we all can relate to.
In the digital age, where practically every task and correspondence is now done via our smartphones and laptops, the notion of luxury stationery could seem somewhat redundant. But no matter how much modern technology infiltrates our lives, nothing can replace the sheer tactile joy of printed paper. Research shows that physically writing something down triggers the brain’s long-term memory response, which means you will remember it better. And we all know the pleasure of receiving a handwritten card over a forgettable email.
Smython’s iconic Panama Diary, as well as its perennially popular notebooks, cards and leather accessories, are products that are both functional and aspirational. Each one is made in Britain by skilled craftsmen and women, with many of the signature embossing and engraving techniques performed by hand on machinery well over 100 years old. As well as their plush leather covers, which can be personalised with embossed initials or motifs, the diaries feature Smythson’s trademark blue Featherweight paper and gilded edges. It is an item which exemplifies good taste, receiving knowing nods of approval when it is retrieved from one’s bag and placed on the desk in a meeting room.
Twenty-one years before he created an icon of British design, young silversmith Frank Smythson founded his eponymous company to produce ‘stationery and fancy articles of a high-class character’. Just a few years later, HRH Queen Victoria commissioned Smythson to make such ‘fancy articles’ for all of her Royal residences and since its inception in 1887, Smythson has clocked up an impressive three Royal Warrants. The word quickly got out to other dignitaries and influential people, with the likes of Grace Kelly, Katharine Hepburn, Sigmund Freud and Sir Winston Churchill favouring Smythson stationery.
Like all good heritage brands, Smythson has retained its prestige while keeping its finger on the pulse. Over the years the company has vastly grown its product range while introducing jazzy new contemporary colours and artist collaborations. If Santa (or your own Mr Darcy) didn’t deliver a shiny new diary this Christmas, take matters into your own hands and start 2021 in style with a true British icon that will make a trusted companion for the year ahead.
Visit Smythson at The Royal Exchange to discover its full range of luxury stationery items, leather goods and personalisation services