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Take a Tour of Filson’s Factories | Pop-In@Nordstrom New Classics

To commemorate our Pop-In@Nordstrom New Classics collab and Filson’s imminent new flagship unveiling, we got inside one of the coolest and oldest Northwest brands to tour the production spaces and hang out with their highly specialized Filson Restoration Department, or FRD.

Filson factory tour.

First, A Little History: The original flagship and full-scale production studio (known today as third base at Seattle’s Safeco Field) was once the premier stop for prospectors during the Alaska Gold Rush. And though it’s been a few minutes since 1897, that same indomitable spirit definitely lives on within the company’s factories and sustainable manufacturing practices.

Filson factory tour.

Getting ready for a facelift.

Headquarters: Later this month, the current Seattle storefront will scoot a few blocks west, right beneath corporate headquarters (which also houses one of their three stateside factories). When we arrived, the partially gutted yet still fully functional interior smelled of sawdust and change, and we couldn’t help thinking this back-to-bones endeavor made a lot of sense given Filson’s recent fall campaign: a reminder of their frontier roots aptly titled The Original Alaskan Outfitter.

Filson factory tour.

Mood boards. How did we ever get by without them?

Filson factory tour.

Filson factory tour.

As we slipped on our safety glasses and entered the first production area, we were greeted with the sounds of old-school Cantopop and the oddly comforting swirl of chatter and humming machinery.

Filson factory tour.

As Little Waste as Possible: Given how much of the construction process is still done by hand, all 200+ technicians who work in the two Seattle factories (the third arm is in Post Falls, Idaho) are highly skilled veterans in their respective crafts—whether it be sewing, zippering, deftly painting trim or experimenting with excess materials.

Filson factory tour.

Tools of the trade.

Filson factory tour.

From arm warmers to lunch sacks, many a random prototype has been stitched up by intrepid technicians using throwaway bits.

Filson factory tour.

Approximately 600 leather hides are delivered weekly.

The FRD: The Original Alaskan Outfitter campaign is not so much a rebrand as it is a reauthentication—a thoughtful look back at the long heritage that makes this outdoorsman magnet what it truly is: expertly crafted adventure and everyday gear made with heart, skill and sustainability in mind; an ethos the Filson Restoration Department embodies more than any other.

Filson factory tour. Filson factory tour.

Tucked into a small second-floor corner of Seattle factory number two, the FRD collects (okay, hoards) irreparable vintage bags and leftover bits from factory cutting boards, meticulously takes them apart, then reimagines the scraps into new, one-of-a-kind pieces.

Filson factory tour.

Every day, this crazy-talented two-person design team digs through the latest haul of oldies but goodies, carefully singling out potential patients. Some end up on the roof to dry out in the sun, others are operated on immediately and a few might be subject to new let’s-see-what-happens procedures—like encouraging leather to rust, just to find out what that might look like.

Filson factory tour.

Every piece gets a steam bath on stunning antique irons. 

Filson factory tour.

Does Will Magee miss his patch?

Filson factory tour.

We named him Rusty.

Regardless, each creation is a unique, on-the-ground experiment that carries a bit of Filson history forward, like a golden-eyed prospector en route to the great Alaskan wilderness.

Filson factory tour.

We had the best time checking out the digs (and taking a spin in the official company jeep) and can’t wait for Filson’s new store unveiling. But in the meantime, stop into a Pop-In Shop near you to check out our exclusive stockpiles of restored bags and take home your own handwrought piece of the Filson legacy.

 

SHOP: Pop-In@Nordstrom New Classics

—Mona Lee