March 4, 2014
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While many outdoorsmen still swear by the brand, some 110 years later, Filson found itself thrust into in a new, fashionable light. Around 2007, menswear blogs like A Continuous Lean pushed a style agenda that favored easy-wearing, American-manufactured gear that channeled the pioneering spirit of men who worked with their hands and probably killed their dinner. Filson gained a following for its ruggedly professional luggage and storied outerwear that was warm as hell. Although "Filson" and "fashion" aren't spelled that differently, the two couldn't be further apart. Even though the brand has previously flirted with the fashion industry—including a successful collaboration with Levi's and enlisting designer Richard Chai as creative director for a time—at its heart, Filson merely wants to make the best products it can, without worrying about its street cred. Now, at 117 years old, the Seattle outfitter has found a way to satisfy two distinct types of customer: the avid outdoorsman who puts his gear to the test, and the menswear aficionado who simply likes the look and wants to align himself with the brand. Last year Filson moved into a new headquarters, a 57,400-square-foot space that multi-tasks as a showroom, corporate office, and factory. Right when you enter inside the converted warehouse, wrought-iron beams and wooden floors speak to Filson's rugged, utilitarian wares, while the factory where the majority of the luggage is made can clearly be seen, even from the street. It's not uncommon for people to stop in and observe the process, a testament to Filson's transparency as a company and dedication to American manufacturing. Much of Filson's recent (but controlled) growth came right after the brand was sold to Bedrock Manufacturing Co. last year. Among the first changes was the arrival of CEO Alan Kirk, who cut his teeth at Land's End and Eddie Bauer. Kirk was also instrumental in Eddie Bauer's collaboration with lauded menswear designer Nigel Cabourn. Which is why when Filson told us that Cabourn had designed an upcoming collection for them, it made sense in more ways than one. Filson also introduced its "Seattle" fit last year, a decidedly slimmer cut that fits closer to the body. The classic, roomier fit became known as the "Alaska" fit, a nod to its original customers. They've also made great strides in making products that are bolder in color and pattern, but still make sense with their heritage. Take, for example, the GQ-endorsed Guide Work Jacket that melds the best of menswear and workwear, or the 72 Hour Briefcase, which is not only available in the classic Filson colors of tan and otter green, but it's also made in a sleek black and camouflage Cordura nylon with Italian RiRi zippers. Filson's also introduced navy blue iterations of its classic luggage, a color that's since become a top seller. While the new headquarters offers bigger offices and a new factory, its old location down the street (which houses the Seattle flagship store) remains in operation as another factory specializing in the brand's apparel and leather goods. Although some of their products (like woven shirts) are imported, Filson has just acquired another factory for their apparel as they make the push to have every product manufactured domestically. For all the talk of the heritage menswear movement losing steam, Filson is proof of how it's merely evolving. Instead of striving to solely recreate the past, it's using heritage as a reference point for the future. The best kind of style is the kind you don't really have to think about: clothes you just throw on each morning because they make you feel good and you can trust in their quality, the bag you don't have to treat so preciously during the daily grind. From bona fide loggers to armchair bloggers, Filson considers the needs of both parties equally.