Today I'll take a more in-depth look at a product that I've previously mentioned: the Work Folio A5 from Australian leather goods company Bellroy. There's been a lot of discussion about this product recently, and I wanted to add a bit of a different perspective, coming from someone who has used the Work Folio "in the wild" for a period of time in perhaps a different context than what's already been discussed.
Build and Practicality
I love portfolios. They fit the way I work, which is a combination of being chained to a desk for 4-5 hours a day, with the other 4-5 hours spent moving between out-of-the-office meetings, conferences calls, and court hearings. While I've made a lot of progress in terms of reducing the amount of "junk" paper that I cart around with me, I still need a good notebook to take meeting notes, brainstorm, and record appointments. When I'm traveling, a zippered portfolio provides an easy way to hang onto cards, tickets, receipts and other bits of paper that you tend to accumulate on the road. So when Bellroy reached out and asked whether I'd like to review one of their new Work Folios, I seemed like a natural fit.
I first heard about Bellroy through curated online retailer Huckberry, who I've been buying from for years. Four years ago, my wife bought me the Bellroy Hide & Seek wallet for Christmas. Other than softening a bit, the leather still looks pristine, and it's more or less the only wallet I carry on a daily basis and look forward to doing so for years to come. I've since added a Bellroy leather pocket notebook cover as well.
Bellroy uses high-quality leather that stands up well to heavy daily use. I'm very hard on bags, portfolios, pens, you name it, so ruggedness is important and I'm not afraid to pay money for a product if I think it's going to last me a long time. The Work Folio doesn't disappoint in this regard. Bellroy sent me the tan leather option, which feels thick and substantial, and the zipper seems heavy duty enough to last a very long time. Bellroy goods are backed by a three-year warranty.
Inside, the Work Folio has a slot for a softcover A5 notebook on the right, which seems like the main feature of this piece. While there has been some discussion about hardcover A5 notebooks not fitting properly, the Work Folio A5 strikes me as something you would use instead of a hardback notebook like a Leuchtturm 1917, hardcover Moleskine, or a Baron Fig Confidant. While I was able to squeeze in a Confidant, it did leave the folio pretty bulky and the notebook didn't lay completely flat. If you're looking for a leather cover for your hardback notebook, you have other options.
Bellroy ships the Work Folio with a slim A5 notebook, and if that's what you use the one I received was serviceable. You can also find plenty of other softcover A5 options. Personally, I prefer a notebook with more paper than what these slim notebooks offer, so I opted for a Midori MD A5 notebook, which works perfectly. The Nanami Paper Seven Seas softcover A5 notebooks also fit well, and I think that when the Midori runs out I will move over to one of the Crossfields that I have in my stash.
In addition to holding the notebook, the Work Folio has a leather pen loop and several pockets to hold cards, your phone, and even an "e-reader or small tablet." This would have to be limited to something like the Kindle Paperwhite or Kindle Fire (or maybe an iPad Mini), but I personally would never think to cart these around in my work portfolio because, well, I don't think they're very practical for professional use, as opposed to a full-size iPad, which requires it's own case anyway. While I may test it out as a tablet case at some point in the future, possibly when I'm traveling and would want to read a Kindle on the plane, my initial thought is that having a tablet in the Work Folio with a notebook would make it too bulky.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
The Work Folio A5 is an excellent product from a reputable and established leather goods company that serves my particular needs well. That said, I can't emphasize enough the need to do your research and consider your own personal preferences and requirements before making a purchase, especially at the price point high-quality leather portfolios tend to command. For most people, this would be a substantial investment in a key part of your workflow, not an impulse buy. If you're committed to hardback notebooks, this particular portfolio is probably not the best option for you, but if you enjoy softcover notebooks like the Midori MD, Life A5, or the Nanami Seven Seas series, I would definitely consider what Bellroy has to offer. Cared for properly, this piece should provide you with years of service.
I believe the Work Folio A5 is currently in production, and that what Bellroy sent me is a substantially final prototype. The Folio is available for purchase/pre-order on the Bellroy website for $199 USD, with the site estimating delivery in three weeks. If you are interested in an even larger porfolio that holds an A4 pad, and has even more internal pockets, consider the Work Folio A4, priced at $299 USD.
UPDATE: The A5 Folio is now available for purchase via site sponsor Huckberry (affiliate link). Any purchases go to help support the site.
Disclaimer: Bellroy send me this product free of charge, for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links. Many thanks to Bellroy for making this review possible.