Made to last and last.
In an era of bargain basement clothing churned out by factories overseas, it’s refreshing to discover that someone prefers to do things the old-fashioned way. Filson, a century-old Washington State business legend, still makes its clothing in the United States, by hand.
The company’s rich history dates all the way back to 1897. Like many men with gold fever, Nebraskan homesteader Clinton C. Filson traveled to Seattle, hoping to strike it rich in the Klondike. He never made it to the gold fields of Alaska, though, deciding to strike it rich in Washington State instead.
Mainland miners heading to the Klondike gold fields were ill prepared for the harsh conditions they would face day in and day out and Filson saw this as an opportunity. He opened Filson’s Pioneer Alaska Clothing and Blanket Manufacturers, which sold everything a miner could want, from clothing and blankets to sleeping bags and boots. And if Filson didn’t have what his customer needed, he’d make it for them. His motto: No more, no less. Your satisfaction is the sole purpose of our transaction.
Not exactly the catchiest slogan by today’s standards, but it really said it all. When the Gold Rush came to an end in 1899, Filson turned to new markets, serving the needs of loggers, outdoorsmen and others who wanted durable, warm clothing in the most rugged and demanding environments.
His lasting claim to fame came in the form of the Filson Cruiser, a jacket originally designed for those in the timber industry. His concept was visionary, to say the least. The Cruiser is still made today, with very few changes from the original that was patented in 1914.
One of the hallmarks of Filson is the fact that it still makes its products in a factory in Seattle’s industrial area, not far from its original location. While moving production overseas could have made the company more money, it was never an option. Today, the factory and flagship Filson store in Seattle serve as the company’s headquarters.
Perhaps that’s one reason why Filson has stood the test of time. Change has never been made merely for the sake of change or to follow a passing fashion trend.
This isn’t to say that the company doesn’t continually innovate. Filson continues to add new products to its line, but it never strays too far from the formula that made it an institution over the last 100 years. Designs are classic and timeless, as evidenced by the popularity of the Filson Cruiser, which still draws top dollar, even used, on eBay.com.
In an age of automation, Filson’s products are still sewn by experienced sewers, supported by cutters, leather workers and pattern makers. Even though Filson has expanded beyond the single factory to three nationwide, leather workers still shape leather goods using cold water rather than chemicals. Yes, it takes longer, says company officials, but it’s actually cheaper and obviously less noxious to the workers.
Meticulous, methodical change seems to be a winning strategy indeed. Their products are selling as well as ever, catching on with a new generation of consumers who covet the authentic Filson hanging in their closet. It seems that comfort, protection and durability are qualities that never go out of style.
“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.”
C.C. Filson, 1914 catalog entry
Learn more at Filson’s website.