Filson x Rugged Seas

Filson x Rugged Seas tote bag

When Maine lobsterman Taylor Strout was offered a job on a 150-foot midwater trawler out of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, nearly 10 years ago, he jumped at the opportunity. “It’s a dream to test your skills as a fisherman in the Bering Sea,” Taylor says about his first foray north. With the blessing of his business partner and wife, Nikki, he packed his bibs for the last frontier, beginning a journey that would culminate in the creation of Rugged Seas, and support working waterfronts in the process.

Taylor and Nikki Strout

Taylor and Nikki Strout, co-founders of Rugged Seas.LEARN MORE

In Alaska, Taylor was intrigued by fishermen sporting clothing that represented the fisheries where they plied their trade. It’s a badge of honor that says: “This is what I do, this is where I do it—and I’m damned proud of it.” He decided the fishermen of the Gulf of Maine needed something similar, so he got to work creating designs for local lobstermen, scallopers, and others in the industry.

Back home in Maine, the husband-and-wife team began printing and selling the shirts and hoodies they’d designed out of their home. What began as an effort to help Maine’s fishing communities show their pride eventually grew into a company with a mission to support and give back to those same communities, as well as to bring more visibility to the work of Maine’s fishermen and to create a sustainable business model.

The idea was simple: collect used bibs, give them a good cleaning, then cut and repurpose the materials to give the bibs a second life. In practice, of course, it’s never that easy, but by building on the expertise of manufacturers and businesses in and around their hometown of Cape Elizabeth, ME, Rugged Seas has been able to grow from a home-based operation to one that involves not just their local community but also working waterfronts up and down the coast.

Now, when a lobsterman in Thomaston, for example, decides they need to change their bibs, rather than sending their old ones to landfill they can deposit them in one of the collection barrels provided by Rugged Seas, or they can ship them to Cape Elizabeth, as fishermen from Canada, New Zealand, and other locales around the world do, and the bibs are professionally cleaned at a local facility. This brings them back to smelling as good as new—quite the feat given what some of these garments have been through—but they might still exhibit some proud reminders of the work they’ve done, scratches and scuffs that are a testament to their durability. Interestingly, though the fronts of many of the bibs may be beyond repair, the backsides of the bibs are often pristine after cleaning. The reason, Taylor explains, is simple:


“Fishermen don’t ever

really sit down!”

After cleaning, the bibs travel down the road to nearby Lewiston, ME, where they are cut—with as little waste as possible—then stitched and sewn into a variety of durable, usable goods, such as roll-top backpacks, tote bags, clutches, and even key fobs. But repurposing old gear is only part of the story. Rugged Seas also regularly donates to fisheries-focused non-profits and holds raffles to help outfit crews with new gear to ensure they can keep doing their work safely and comfortably. It’s all part of their commitment to the fishing communities in Maine and their dedication to making sure this way of life—which Taylor learned as a kid on his dad’s boat—goes on and is celebrated and understood in the process.

Nikki and Taylor Strout are proud to have grown up in Maine, and it’s where they are now raising their own family and a place to which they’ve dedicated themselves wholeheartedly. As advocates for Maine fishermen, and as a fishing family themselves, they know the struggles inherent in fishing—but they also know what it means to take pride in that work. They also know that without the support of Maine’s fishing communities, Rugged Seas would not be what it is today. Speaking on the growth and impact of Rugged Seas over the past couple of years, Nikki is humble. “I’m really proud of the respect we’ve been able to gain from the fishing community. Fishermen are creatures of habit, they’re hard to break—they’re tough,” Nikki says, gesturing toward Taylor and laughing. “Through Rugged Seas,” she says, “I feel like we’ve brought a new level of respect to the fishermen and what it’s like living this lifestyle, and that’s what it’s all about for me.”


WRITTEN BY:Jason Rolfe


Filson x Rugged Seas tote bag CLICK HERE