Hiding in plain sight, embedded in the expansive spread of Century Link Field and Safeco Park in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood (I had to look it up too. It used to mean south of the Kingdome, now it means south of downtown) the plain and industrial Filson building stands proudly with simple green lettering. Up until recently, the 4th Ave South location has been the company’s humble outpost in Seattle for decades, housing both its production and company store.
It’s good to be Filson as of late. With the continued surge in consumer interest in American Made and the public’s ever-rising appetite for high quality bags and goods, the storied outfitter of Americana has doubled down on its promise to make as much product in the United States as possible. And it’s been happening with an expanded product line (Shinola-produced watches, waterproof bags, rain gear, down jackets and vests) as well as with a more flattering, slimmer (Seattle) fit for many of its lifestyle pieces. With this growth in product, Filson (who’s also a Paul + Williams client) has expanded its footprint in SoDo as well. Recently it purchased another building a few blocks away from the 4th Street location at 1741 First Avenue South to house its in-house creative and design teams and to further expand the brand’s Made In The U.S.A. manufacturing capabilities. First Avenue is also where, this week, Filson is opening a new flagship store – a 6,400 square foot retail space that is the physical embodiment of what the brand has been getting at for almost 120 years – handmade quality.
Last month we got a behind-the-scenes tour of the new space from Filson’s Creative Director Alex Carleton. He went through the new space explaining, in detail, the sourcing and provenance of every fixture, piece of hardware and building material. Like everything the brand has a hand in, no stone has been left unturned. (Look no further than the historically accurate woodburning fireplace). More than a facade or approximation of the real thing, Filson (under Carleton’s direction) has sought out to make history. Their inspiration didn’t come from Filson’s contemporaries or competitors, but instead it looked back at WPA building projects like Mt. Hood’s iconic Timberline Lodge. The walls are covered with original black and white photographic prints from brothers Edward and Asahel Curtis, the rafters are littered with yukon antiques and industrial curiosities and the store boasts more Filson products than any other store in the country. Additionally, you can see bags and goods being made in the adjacent factory, Filson’s Restoration Department (FRD) will also be doing custom repair work on-site. There’s even a hand carved totem from Orcas Island artist Aleph Geddis towering above the front entrance.
Too much off a good thing? Not in my opinion. While I can take or leave some of the new product offerings, (not so sure about the motorbike related offerings I caught in a recent catalog ) the core line of Made in Seattle bags, jackets and shirts rooted in hunting, ranching, fieldwork and the outdoors remains worthy of admiration and appreciation. It’s even more impressive to see them all housed in a store built with as much (or more) foresight and attention to detail as their products. At 118 years old, they’ve more than earned the right to set-up shop in such a beautiful and lasting space.