Friday, October 2, 2009

Letters and Warrants

The Smythson Logo and Warrants

Part of the fun of travel, for most, is the shopping, even if it's just to see the differently labelled and packaged products. Although the digital age has put just about everything in any corner of the world at one's fingertips it's still great fun to roam around the shops and I don't think anywhere I have been has more small, quality shops than London. That's just one of the reasons why it's my favorite city away from home. And one of my favorite shops is Smythson of Bond Street.

Part of my own, personal Smythson collection.

Let's begin with Royal Warrants of which Smythson holds three. It used to be four but when the Queen Mother passed away her warrants expired in 2007. A Royal Warrant is permission to use the seal of the issuer to whom the warrant is granted as an official supplier. There are currently only three people who issue them: Queen Elizabeth II, The Duke of Edinburgh (Philip) and The Prince of Whales (Charles). The member of royalty must use your product (services are not eligible) for at least five years before the warrant is granted. Contrary to popular belief, the issuer does not receive free products once the warrant is issued, although it is considered an honor and for many the ultimate quality stamp of approval. I have always thought that British goods are of great quality craftsmanship and Smythson has been the stationers of choice to royalty for years now.

Dominick Dunne, the famous Vanity Fair society columnist who covered all the grisly celebrity murder trials was such a class act that he only used Smythson books for his reporter's notes. He was seen every day sitting in the front row at the O. J. Simpson trial (the only reporter allowed full access) clutching his green leather bound book. I first heard about Smythson in an interview he gave and made it a point to visit the store on my first trip to London.

There is no doubt that the products are the utmost in quality. I never travel anywhere without my Smythson "Travel Notes" notebook. It's expensive, yes, but the distinctive look always gets attention for its old world charm. The pages are made of thin "featherweight" paper in their signature blue color with gold or silver gilded edges, a classic look. It's funny how in this age of gizmos and gadgets with more apps than one has time to use that a really well-crafted notebook never fails to get a compliment. Stationery, too, seems to be making a comeback. (Note to the guys: a handwritten letter from a far off land will be considered the height of romance). Anyone can send an email.

The ladies leather goods are also considered an impeccable fashion accessory. Outrageously expensive, these are the things a woman aspires to but really make a statement, the statement being: I HAVE ARRIVED. The quality is in the design, the details, the classically elegant and distinctive look, a fashion tradition rather than a flashy trend. It follows suit that the shop is also one of subdued, understated distinction, a place where one almost whispers, which is precisely what makes it so attractive.

Smythson of Bond Street
40 New Bond Street
London W1S 2DE
Tel: +44 (01) 20 7629 8558


  1. So let's get this clear then - you've finally arrived as a woman?