I got my first Filson bag back in 2009. It was a Zip Tote, given to me by my then-girlfriend-now-fiance’s mother. It may sound silly, but receiving that bag was a real game changer for me. Up until that point, I had never owned anything so well-made – something I didn’t realize until the bag came into my possession. I literally spent hours poring over it, scrutinizing every detail, inside and out. The bag singlehandedly reshaped my understanding of what a quality product was. It became my new gold standard, against which all future purchases would be measured.
Since then, I’ve picked up a couple more bags, and a couple of jackets, and a couple of vests, and I can honestly say that the company is a death-and-taxes-level of reliable; quality as consistent as the sunrise. Which is one of the reasons I’m so excited about the slew of new items they’ve just released. Another reason, is that the majority of those new pieces were designed for guys like me – city types who didn’t discover the brand until the aughts, despite their having been around for almost 120 years. This means slimmer cuts, lighter fabrics, sleeker designs, but the same solid construction.
Filson’s CEO, Alan Kirk, recently took some time out to discuss the new range and all that went into making it. Here’s what he had to say.
Well Spent: Filson has finally released it’s first truly slim fit collection. What took so long?
It’s only been 116 years. And, I wouldn’t call it slim. The Seattle Fit that you’re referring to is built to provide mobility and ease over the body without excessive fabric. We’ve received feedback from customers and retailers over the years and knew there was demand for an updated fit. Our product developers wanted to provide customers with some options and consistent sizing. It’s important to keep in mind that we haven’t abandoned our original fit. It’s still offered – called The Alaska Fit – in our iconic products.
Aside from the Seattle Fit pieces, what other new items have been introduced this season?
There are dozens of new products. We’re particularly excited about the new fabrications we’ve introduced for fall. We’re using soy-waxed cotton and Vachetta cotton to make outerwear that is lightweight, but also extremely durable and weather resistant. We’ve also introduced boiled bonded wool, which we’re using on new and classic sillouettes. The bonded wool cruiser is a stunner – it’s functional and warm, and can literally stand up on its own like our classic Tin Cloth Cruiser. We are also introducing new leather accessories to our line this holiday season in US tanned Horween leather. Each of our leather goods feature heavy-gauge olive thread stitching, Tin Cloth details, and pocket silhouette cut to match the classic Cruiser pocket flap shape for a look that is distinctly Filson.
We aren’t a heritage brand. We’ve made some of the same products for 100 years because they’re still performing for our customers. But we’re always looking for new ways to serve outdoorsmen and women. The Bonded Cruiser is a good example of how we’re bringing modern fabrications together with our classic Filson functionality and uncompromising construction.
Given Filson’s commitment to producing “the highest quality product available,” what kind of research and development goes into making a new Filson product?
All of our products are built to serve a purpose, and thoroughly tested in the field. When we develop new garments and luggage, we’re always thinking about how we can help solve problems faced by our customers. We’re also looking for new ways to apply our values to new products.
There’s long been a demand for lighter-weight products. That’s why we’ve brought in Vachetta and Soy Wax. You’re going to be seeing more lightweight products in the spring, too.
Going forward, our product developers are going to be spending more time with fishermen and hunters who rely on our products every day, and working together to come up with new ways for us to serve them.
According to the Filson site, the brand currently has “more Made in USA products than ever.” At what point did you stop producing here? What made you decide to bring production back?
Filson never stopped manufacturing in the USA. There was a time in the company’s history when it was introducing a lot of new products that were made abroad. But that’s not the case anymore. The new products we’re developing are, overhwhelmingly, being made in our Seattle manufacturing facilities – where most of our products are made.
With all of the changes currently happening at the company, is there any worry about alienating Filson’s longtime fanbase?
Our new products are being developed for our core customers. Filson has seen an increase in popularity among urban customers in the last few years. They’re drawn to us because of our values – quality over quantity, built to last – and the products we’ve developed for our base. The better we serve our loyal customers, the more appealing we are to everyone else.
I heard a rumor that Filson is planning to open a handful of brick and mortar stores in the near future. Has the list of lucky cities been decided yet?
No, that’s not a rumor at all. We’re going to be opening quite a few stores around the world over the next five years. We’re close to deciding on new store locations in Seattle and New York. But, you’re the first to know that we just signed a lease for a shop in Aspen.
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