When heritage brand Filson invited me to visit their headquarters and factory in Seattle, I jumped eagerly at the opportunity for a tour. Filson tops the list of iconic outdoor brands, ruling the industry with their impeccable quality and fine attention to detail. Travis Gillett, their Social Marketing Specialist, greeted us at the door and walked us through Filson's impressive company history.
"Born in 1850, C. C. Filson inherited his father's pioneer spirit and
love of the outdoors. After homesteading in Nebraska and roaming the
country as a railroad conductor, he moved to the small city of Seattle,
Washington in the 1890's. In 1897, Filson opened C.C. Filson's Pioneer Alaska Clothing and
Blanket Manufacturers, specializing in goods to outfit the stampeders to
the Klondike Gold Rush.
Stories of harrowing experiences in the Yukon were widely reported.
The diary of Hume Nisbet, 1897 painted this picture: "Try to recall your
sensations on the coldest night you have ever known: try to intensify
the most bitter ice blast that has ever pierced your marrow by a
thousandfold; even then you will not be able to realize spring in the
Chilkoot Canyon, far less midwinter on the Klondike."
It was for
these terrible conditions that Filson designed his goods. He owned his
own mill and manufactured Mackinaw clothing, Mackinaw blankets and knit
goods, as well as selling boots, shoes, moccasins and sleeping bags
specially designed for the frigid North. Filson kept in close contact
with his customers, improving his goods to meet their specific needs.
The stampeders depended on Filson. In that era, clothing wasn't a matter
of choice, but of survival.
Filson continued to make his goods from the best materials
obtainable, and guaranteed every piece of merchandise. If he didn't
stock an item a customer needed, he custom-made it for him. Filson's
name became synonymous with reliability, satisfaction and honest values.
By the 1960s, Filson' reputation as the premier outfitter for
outdoorsmen had spread around the globe. In addition to being stocked by
retailers of quality outdoor wear, Filson garments were being ordered
by mail from places as far away as Greenland.
"The goods we quote must not be confounded with the cheap and
vastly inferior grade with which the market is over-run. Such goods are
not only useless for the purpose for which they are intended, but the
person wearing them would be better off without them."
-- Clinton C. Filson 1914 catalog
In a small room set in the building's windowed corridor, we found the soul of Filson life. Garments and bags worn and mended,
each one accompanying a story. The stories repeated something like, "My
father gave me this jacket the first time he took me hunting," its
pocket haphazardly repaired by a now grown man's rough hands. In true timeless
fashion, these garments from centuries past, were just as handsome as the
newly cut line. What Filson offers goes beyond a simple object, it
extends into our lives, our work, and our stories we share. They are there for the adventure, whatever that may entail, and they are in it for the long haul.
"Over the years, Filson's philosophy has never changed: make sure it's
the absolute best. Clinton Filson spent a lot of time talking to his
customers and refining his designs to their specifications. So it's not
surprising that the items that worked then still work today, over 100
years later. Comfort, protection and durability never go out of style."