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A Delicate Balance: Filson is Evolving the Classics

August 01, 2013
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Filson was a heritage brand before the term was even used. Their products served a purpose that inspired a fierce devotion among the woodsman and hunters of the Pacific Northwest. And their bags, jackets, and fabrics, like Tin Cloth, were so impressive that they eventually migrated onto the streets of outer boroughs where there are fewer worries about the rigors of logging and more concern about getting into a party during Fashion Week. Yes, it's incongruous to see a boy-blogger dressed like he's about to yell, “Timber!” but the appeal of Filson remains enduring from Tribeca to Tokyo. As those who read Esquire know, though, clothes have been fitting slimmer, for, well, about as long as we can remember. Filson's clothes, on the other hand, were designed decades ago for intense layering and daylong outdoor pursuits. Essentially, they are cut in the boxiest way imaginable. I remember buying a Filson shirt to wear fly fishing; a medium seemed right for casting. It was so big there was room for few trophy trout in the sleeves.Now, it's time for change. Enter the Seattle Fit, a streamlined cut that makes sense for those of us not confronting subzero temperatures for work or carrying a hacksaw on a daily basis. Filson is looking forward in other ways as well. In some cases it's as simple as a newly trim favorite like the Mackinaw Cruiser, which looks perfectly suited for the moment. In other cases, it's new fabrics, like the brand's thin but durable soy-waxed cloth, which is sure to gain a cult following like an indie band (just without the backlash). In short, these are clothes that embrace design without flaunting it — very much in the Filson tradition. And don't worry: There's still the Alaska cut if you insist on the time-honored Filson of your great-grandfather. So, while the cuts are updated and the company grows, more and more bags are being made in Filson's smart new Seattle factory, located on First Avenue in the SoDo neighborhood. The windows open right onto the street, and not far away, the brand's Fourth Avenue manufacturing center has been upgraded to produce more clothes than ever in both the Alaska and Seattle fits. What all this says about Filson as a brand — one with more retail stores set to open — is simply that companies evolve as we do. Just like you have more options for fishing than the bamboo rods of days past, the world turns. And smart design turns with it.

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