SODO Stories, Made in SODO Series: Filson
The SODO Stories, Made in SODO series, is a collection of stories about business owners who create, design and sell products that are made in SODO. The businesses featured in the Made in SODO series are all featured in our Made in SODO video. Each story/business is unique, and they help to create a vibrant community here in SODO. To watch the video, it can be found here: Made in SODO Video
Story: Jillian Celich | Photos: Vertizon Photography
MAKING QUALIITY PRODUCTS AND STAYING TRUE TO THEIR PACIFIC NORTHWEST ROOTS IS WHAT FILSON IS ALL ABOUT.
Located on both 1st Avenue South and 4th Avenue South, many know Filson by the Pacific Northwest characteristics the store embodies- outdoorsy, rugged and blue collar. But, what many don’t know is Filson’s main philosophy of creating the best products also embodies that of the neighborhood they are housed in. Making quality goods is both at the heart of Filson and the heart of SODO.
Originally founded in Seattle in 1897, C.C. Filson created Filson to supply clothes for the stampeders during the Klondlike Gold Rush. He started Filson when he noticed that there was not one complete supplier to outfit all the needs of the stampeders, and even when Filson did not carry a specific item that a stampeder needed, he would custom make the item for that stampeder. Eventually the Gold Rush faded, but luckily, the timber industry started to boom in the Pacific Northwest, and Filson’s clothes were used to outfit those working in logging. Now, Filson makes clothes for those who hike, hunt, fish, ski or work in the outdoors. Though Filson’s customers have changed throughout the years, their commitment to making high performance wear has stayed the same.
Currently, Filson is owned by Bedrock group, who purchased the store in 2012. With Bedrock’s leadership Filson has a forward vision and is now investing in the infrastructure of the store. Filson has been able to expand in space, by purchasing their new headquarter and retail space on 1st Avenue South, while keeping the space on 4th Avenue South to manufacture clothes. They have also been able to invest in more marketing and designers which has helped them to create and market new products. Although Bedrock group’s headquarters are in Dallas, Texas, Nathan Gray, Filson’s Product Specialist said they are an amazing company, because they want to keep Filson here in SODO. Gray added that Bedrock group sees how Filson flourishes in the Pacific Northwest and doesn’t want to change something that is already working so well. Additionally, with Bedrock group’s forward vision, they have helped Filson to find the best places to make the best gear for their customers. Filson works with manufacturers in LA, North Carolina and Wisconsin to ensure their gear is at its best performance standard.
Even though Filson outsources some of their items, when you walk into their retail space on 1st Avenue South you’ll see a wall of windows where you can look into their shop and see all the creations of their gear that is made in SODO. Sewing machines are lined up from front to back, seamstresses are at each machine working diligently and product workers are keeping inventory. Gray said that it can be hard to find workers because unfortunately, sewing is a dying skill set and there are not many vocational schools that teach sewing. But Filson has worked to try and combat this, offering training and teaching courses to its employees. They also have conferences and training courses for all their employees, even those who work in their stores across the United States, bringing them to Seattle so they can see their roots and who they are.
Filson’s drive to make the best quality products, the value they put into their employees and their dedication to their Pacific Northwest roots is what makes their company so great. They know that their company has a rich history in Seattle, and as Gray said, being here in SODO is important to their make-up- they are established here, their factory is here, and it makes sense for them to be in the industrial district. They love that they are close to the heart of Seattle and that SODO is filled with a diversity of businesses and entrepreneurs. This is why Filson is Made in SODO.
A special thanks to Seattle’s Office of Economic Development Only in Seattle Program for sponsoring a portion of the Made in SODO project.
With a focus on building up small businesses and strengthening our local economy, Seattle’s Office of Economic Development works to foster an economy where no matter who you are, who you love, or where you’re from, you can achieve your career and business goals right here in Seattle. OED’s Only in Seattle program supports SODO businesses by partnering with the SODO BIA to advocate for the neighborhood, build community capacity and fund neighborhood programs.