Filson, a Seattle-based retailer known as a premier destination for clothing outdoorsmen and women, opened its doors on Seaport Boulevard this past Wednesday.
When Clinton C. Filson began outfitting men seeking their fortune during the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s, he hardly could have imagined that his brand, one that would become known for the durability and ruggedness, would have a storefront in one of the newest and most exclusive neighborhoods in Boston, if not in the U.S. A pioneering brand to the core, Filson retains much of the forward thinking and innovation that drove its founder in the late 19th century.
“I liked the proximity to the water, the ferry,” says Alex Carleton, Filson’s creative director since 2014. “[The Seaport] just had a lot of unsung heart and soul, and it seemed like there was huge potential. It has a sense of permanence. It feels like it always could have been, should have been, what it is today.”
Echoes of the brand’s Pacific-Northwestern roots characterize the look and feel of the retail space. At the opening celebration, James Beard Award-winning chef and Seattle restauranteur Renee Erickson flipped Dungeness crab cakes on hot plates arranged atop the expansive wooden register area. No fewer than three canoes hung from various points of the ceiling, along with stuffed game, dozens of outdoor books, and fishing paraphernalia, set against a background of pine wood paneling. Between displays of waxed cotton tin cloth jackets, paraffin-embedded rucksacks, and thick flannel button downs, waitstaff circulated with trays of salmon chicharrones with crème fraîche and caviar. The products are heavy and substantial, and bring to mind the unpredictable and often unforgiving climates of both the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast.
“When we look at manufacturing, we have to guarantee our products – we have a lifetime guarantee of Filson products – so we want to make sure we’re sourcing the best available materials, and that the design is durable,” says Amy Terai, Filson’s public relations manager of fourteen years.
One can absolutely draw a parallel from New England to the Northwest, a similarity that played no small part in the decision to expand the brand into Boston. New England, much like Washington with its rugged terrain, miles of wild coastline, and recreation-happy residents, makes it a perfect new home for Filson’s newest and second-largest retail store.
“If you took the United States and folded it in half, the Northwest and New England are sort of like, making love,” says Carleton. “It’s a really funny, weird thing. I used to joke with my friends who’d say, ‘What’s it like, living in Washington now?’ and I said ‘Well, it’s sort of like downeast Maine, on steroids.”
L.L. Bean, another famously American outfitter of the active set, has a storefront just steps away from Filson and also caters to the outdoorsy type – but with a decidedly different raison d’être.
“New England outdoor brands, they tend to be a little polished. There’s a sophistication,” says Carleton. “They tend to be a little genteel, but Filson always struck me as being a little tougher, a little more tooth, more hair on the chest.”
Join the team at Filson this weekend, Aug. 18 and 19, for a hands-on leather workshop, food, and drinks. 52 Seaport Blvd.
Emma is a stylist, book nerd, blogger, and sometimes-writer living in Boston. She enjoys non-fiction literature, chai lattes, the ocean, architectural tours, and dinosaurs.
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