Today I spent a wonderful morning in a great exhibition space organized by Working Unit (the Moleskine Asia people). This is by far the best Moleskine trade exhibition I've ever visited, I couldn't believe I spent 3.5 hours there. The following video was shot and edited on iPhone so that you can have a quick look at what are to be offered in 2011. Better photos will be uploaded soon.
The most waited for and probably going to be sold most is Writing series IMHO. Refillable ABS matte black finished, the roller pen has a special rubberized metal clip for attaching to the cover of your M. It works great for both classic and reporter notebooks. Basically you don't remove the cap from the notebook, just pull the pen out and start writing, no need to worry losing the cap coz it hang on to the cover pretty strongly.
Fine tip at 0.5mm, medium tip at 0.7mm, the refills come in 6 different colors: black, blue, green, red, violet and brown. Its a pity for 0.5mm tip, you only have black and blue color to choose from. I personally love the dark brown color, wish they would make it to 0.5mm as well. If you plan to get a few roller pens with different color refills, there is a way to distinguish between them since each pen comes with 24 adhesive labels with different patterns. There is a spring at the end of the pen barrel so your refill is "springy" when in use, it is supposed to give you a smooth writing experience, but the feature sounds a bit trivial when comparing to typical Japanese writing instruments.
Sold separately is this "3 slip-on grips + pen holder" accessories set. To me it looks bulky to carry 3 already thick pens on a notebook, but it works, not exactly sleek but its functional. I can't help thinking about UNI's StyleFit or Pilot's Colleto which can accommodate 4-5 refills plus mechanical pencil in one single barrel about the same size as this pen. But I guess a Moleskine pen is not interested in competing in that direction, besides it is somewhat cool to accept being simple. Well, back to the pen holder, you simply snap the pens on the grooves that's it. Great to carry 1 pencil and two rollers. I hate the rubber sleeve though, how it destroys the contour of a perfectly matched rectangular round cornered aesthetic. But guess what, you may really need the rubber. Because of the clean barrel design, I have a tendency to constantly re-adjust my pen holding position, up and down, up and down, almost like I couldn't find the correct way to hold the pen, that is until I slipped the rubber on. Try and you'll see what I mean.
The metal roller pen in silver feels solid, a handsome matte grey lacquered brass and aluminum surface looks sharp on black notebooks. As with the ABS roller pens, I wish the cap and clip is a single piece of cast or at least looks like one, that would make an even cleaner signature IMHO.
The "2 pencils + cap + sharpener" set is surprise. The 2B graphite at 3mm diameter is actually very good for sketching, the broad cedar wood body gives you a firm grip even without a rubber sleeve, especially when you hold the pencil sketching horizontally using the lead's widest surface. The sharpener of 12.5mm opening operates smoothly. I assume I can use this pencil until its last inch without much need of a pencil extender.
I've covered the Writing series above. For Reading and Traveling series, which consists of reading glasses, booklight, reading stand, backpacks, tote bags, etc., it takes time to actually use the products in order to give an honest review, besides I don't have them with me, so I'll just give you a surface remark :) They all look handsome and smart. Usability and quality, I can't tell.
Now that Moleskine is venturing away from a pure notebook brand, the concepts encompassing these new categories becomes so much more important, in order not to loose focus. I think the Reading, Writing, Traveling concepts works pretty well together, in addition to Organizing, the brand has a sound approach to expansion. This direction also gives retailers much more opportunities to explore new grounds. The past two years we tried to create box sets for Christmas but the response was, as expected, not encouraging, after all, these box sets were just boxes of notebooks. But now it gets more interesting when new product ranges compliment the notebook category, finally some meaningful box sets came out.
- Writing Set: 1 pocket black ruled notebook, 1 ABS roller pen with cap
- Drawing Set: 1 pocket black sketchbook, 2 pencils, 1 sharpener, 1 cap
- Gourmet Box: 1 recipe journal, 1 wine journal, 20 gourmet notes for food tasting, 20 coaster notes for wine tasting
- Gardening Box: 1 gardening journal, 1 gardening pocket, 12 seeds envelopes
- Travel Box: 1 travel journal, 2 luggage tags
I'm sure there will be more interesting sets to come in the future.
As for the Organizing series, Peanuts limited edition found its way to the 2012 diaries! Here in Hong Kong, The Little Prince limited edition sold much much more than Peanuts, but I heard that customers in Japan love Peanuts far more than the rest of Asia, which probably explains such addition. 4 SKU will be released, weekly and daily, both in pocket and large size. Cahier also made into the Organizing series, I love these thin diaries, you can be really flexible adding them to your pocket size notebook or simply use it individually.
Finally, Star Wars limited edition! Gee, soon after I posted this photo on twitter, I got quite a number of retweets, proves to be popular :)
We had a great time today in the show, thanks to Arnault and Carlos, the two heads of Working Unit. Always a pleasure for city'super/LOG-ON to work with these guys and their teams. And somehow in this show, I was being interviewed as a die hard Moleskine fan by Phoenix TV :)