Craft / October 2016

Founded in a Gold Rush: Filson

Founded by C.C. Filson in 1987, his namesake brand epitomises the beauty that is the great American outdoors, and still to this day, has retained its charming ethos; to produce…

Although geographically the Klondike Gold Rush occurred in Canada, the rush itself began along the West Coast of America; starting in San Francisco, heading north via Seattle then up through the Canadian border. The sudden realisation of mineable gold deposits in the Klondike region of the Yukon valley (north-western Canada) caused sheer pandemonium, with vast numbers of wishful Americans packing up their lives, setting north and venturing blindly into the unknown in hope of financial betterment. It was during this period that Filson’s story — a brand whose sole purpose is to provide functional and purposeful clothing — began.

Founded by C.C. Filson in 1897 (originally called C.C. Filson's Pioneer Alaska Clothing and Blanket Manufacturers), the entrepreneur-come-businessman realised that there was a paradigm shift occurring, and as a result, seized upon it. Thousands of men and women in search of gold needed basic clothing and materials to survive the ensuing endeavour, in an environment that was insanely treacherous and claimed thousands of lives, and C.C. Filson catered to that market. Fast forward almost 120 years and the same ethos that C.C Filson installed then is still apparent; they produce functional and purposeful clothing that transcends the outdoor come workwear line, which is not only made from materials of the highest calibre (a necessity due to the fact that their loyal followers’ lives depend on it), they also come with a 100% guaranteed for life warranty - a rarity, even in luxury menswear today.

"A lot of the fabrics that were introduced into the company 90 to 100 years ago had the same level of integrity then, as they do today."

It would be wrong to celebrate ‘America the Beautiful and not acknowledge its great outdoors this month. The north-west and Filson’s home is a stunning example of its breathtakingly scenic landscape. Alex Carleton, Creative Director of Filson, who moved to Seattle from New England to take control of the brand’s helm, summarises it perfectly: “The amount of exposure I’ve had to the west in the last two years has sort of made me realise that you don't understand what it means to be an American until you really experience the west and the north-west. The sense of scale and space, the indigenous history, the grandeur of the Teton Range and the Olympic Peninsula, the mighty Pacific ocean and all of its waterways, and not to mention Alaska which is just brain exploding in its gravity, beauty and intensity — are all so beautiful. It's really a privilege that Filson is woven into that fabric of Americana and American-culture.”

Carleton has now been at the helm of Filson for just over two years, and despite the brand’s impressive history — with its rich archive that needs protecting — it has barely changed. “A lot of the fabrics that were introduced into the company 90 to 100 years ago had the same level of integrity then, as they do today. So, there's really no need to improve an 18oz or 24oz mackinaw wool. Hunters will still want wool because it’s quiet and doesn't rustle. Or the tin cloth for example, which is an oil treated fabric that we use, is both durable and weatherproof. They’re classic materials that will never go away from Filson.”

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Benedict Browne

Benedict is The Rake's Associate Style Editor.