The oldest person in the world is 115 years old. Filson is 116.
For a brand to outlive anyone that has ever, or will ever wear their clothes is an impressive feat in and of itself, but what’s more remarkable with Filson is that they seem to be aging in reverse. Sometime in the mid-aughts, as the heritage movement re-discovered Filson’s unflappable wares, the Seattle-based company was (almost unwittingly) thrust into the spotlight once again. And yet, Filson has never strayed from their original ideals, remaining steadfast in their dedication to quality goods that will last for years to come.
With these values in mind, Filson (who is a Paul + Williams client) has evolved their collections and fits ever so slightly as a way to reach a younger market, without ever sacrificing their spirit. Today Filson’s goods are carried in venerable outdoor stores and fashion-forward boutiques alike, as a testament to the brand’s far-reaching audience. We had a chance to speak with Filson’s CEO Alan Kirk about the brand’s storied reputation, its recent resurgence, and why Filson isn’t a “fashion” brand.
ACL: Before we get into the future of Filson, let’s take a look back. In the 116 years since Filson’s inception what has not changed for the brand?
Alan Kirk: We have always been committed to developing built to last products that customers trust and can hand down from generation to generation. And we’ve never stopped innovating. C.C. Filson was an innovator. The Cruiser was such a revolutionary product that 100 years later, the jacket is still one of our top sellers. You all have done a great job of adapting to the times, without losing the spirit of your brand. How have you been able to toe this line while not swinging too far in either direction?
We’ve never stopped focusing on our core customers. Everything we do is directed toward people who refuse to stay indoors. We’ve remained relevant by adapting to the demands of outdoor enthusiasts who can rely on use for product that is developed with purpose.
ACL: Filson’s products are stocked in stores that range from your standard sporting goods store, to independent menswear boutiques throughout the world. What do you believe is the key to the brand’s seemingly universal appeal?
AK: Everything we do is directed at outdoor enthusiasts. What we’ve found is the more Filson we are – the better we serve our core audience – the more appealing we are to everyone else. That means working in close collaboration with experts who rely on our goods in the field. Talking to them during every step of development ensures that nothing is superfluous and everything we put into our products is addressing our customers’ needs.
ACL: What has been most exciting thing about Filson’s rise in popularity over the past decade or so?
AK: It’s been exciting to see the values on which this company was built become more important to a growing number of consumers over the last decade. People are more interested in products that are made in the USA, can be fixed rather than thrown away and that are made with the finest materials available.
ACL: Could you talk a little bit about the recent unveiling of the Seattle fit, and what lead you all to create this trimmer fit?
AK: The Seattle Fit was born out of customer feedback. Our original fit was developed for workers who needed room for heavy layering. For years, customers have been telling us they wanted another option, a more streamlined fit that can accommodate regular layering.
ACL: In the recent past you all have worked with some pretty prominent fashion designers, is this something that you would consider doing again?
AK: We’re always open to working with people in the industry who share our values. We also have a network of professionals that act as Filson Ambassadors– hunters, fishermen, photographers etc. – whom we are constantly working with to develop new products and improve our existing line.
ACL: And where do you see Filson fitting in in the sphere of contemporary men’s style?
AK: Filson isn’t a fashion brand. Each of our pieces is developed to serve a specific purpose. What we’ve found is that when you develop for function, the results can be visually appealing, too.
ACL: For this latest collection where did you draw inspiration from?
AK: Our spring products were developed to be used in every season, every day, in any field. They’re lightweight and versatile, so they can be worn on their own in the spring and as a layer in colder weather. Of course, they’re made to our century-old standard of excellence, so they must be able to be worn hard, every day, and get better every year.
ACL: Going forward what can we expect from Filson?
AK: We’re constantly looking for new places to apply our core values: Built to last, better with age, Made at Filson. We’re very excited about our upcoming partnerships, which I’ll tell you about just as soon as I can.