Archival Clothing - Made in USA

Posts Tagged ‘factory tour’

Archival Field Trip – Filson Factory Tour

October 9th, 2013

I’ve been a brand fan of CC Filson since I was a teen.  Over the past few years, I’ve republished favorite Filson catalogs on the Archival blog.  My own clothing archives includes a number of Filson twill bags,  wool vests, vintage Cruisers  and key selections from the  women’s line. While the past decade has produced some corporate headscratchers (overseas manufacturing and the  Passage Line), I still consider Filson one of the best American brands.  What I admire most about Filson is its manufacturing ethos: make the best product from the best available materials and back it up with a lifetime warranty.  It’s hard to  identify a better role model for Archival than CC Filson.
On a recent trip to Seattle, I scheduled a tour of the new Seattle building which includes a production facility entirely to dedicated to luggage. I’ve been hearing from Filson reps and friends that Filson is changing as a company. Filson is trying to bring all of their manufacturing back to the US, updating their collection for women (Fall 2014), introducing a line of bike luggage and revising their dated fit system. Here are some of my notes and snaps from the tour.

Filson is now collaborating with Detroit based Shinola on panniers and a front handlebar basket bag. Cyclists should be thrilled to have their own line of twill luggage.

New Filson wax vests and jackets in an updated fit.   I love the integration of more traditional hunting jacket features like the front loading game pocket.  Sadly, Filson has no immediate plans to release these  styles in sizes for women.


Evidence – Filson garment tags on vintage Cruiser jackets



From the archives – vintage Filson wool pants, hunting vest and a Mackinaw Cruiser in scarlet


Patched and refurbished Filson luggage en route to the new flagship store in London.  Everything old is new again

One of my favorite new luggage styles – the Large Twill Carry-On


Roller luggage awaiting repair

Seattle factory worker smock (I want one!)




I was amazed by the complexity of the piece work in the factory.  Bags were assembled over many different work stations.  I love seeing all the stacks of bag bits.

Recipe for a bag – hardware, thread and fabric samples are kept on the Filson factory floor for reference

Filson bag library (reference bags for every model in production at the Filson Seattle factory)

Our stylish, delightful tour guides -Jack and Amy

Archival Field Trip: Horween Leather Co.

November 3rd, 2009

Horween tour photos by Rick Gersbach

Last week, Rick, Sara and I visited the Horween Leather Co. in Chicago, Illinois. Nick Horween directed our tour of the tannery, one of the oldest in the US. Horween produces highest quality leathers that are used for Alden shoes, NFL footballs, Russell and Quoddy moccasins, Altadena Works packs, Makr leather wallets and more.

The Horween factory consists of five floors and we were intent on seeing everything. Nick warned us that our eyes might glaze over. He might also have cautioned us about intense odors, high heat, puddles underfoot, sharp hooks overhead and proximity to machinery, ancient and modern. The many-stepped tanning process takes six months, so we weren’t able to follow one hide from raw to finish state. We watched as cow and horse hides were stripped of hair, shaved of flesh, dyed, cut out, wrung, squeegeed, stacked, left to rest, hung up, impregnated with wax, split, dried, stamped, measured, and polished (not in that order).

Fortunately for readers wishing to better visualize the complexities of the tanning process, friend and photographer Rick Gersbach provided documentary evidence of our tour. A full set of Rick’s Horween photographs can be viewed via his flickr site here.

At the end of the tour, Nick, our charming and well informed host, showed us some belts, shoes and wallets made from Horween leathers. While I’ve always admired shell cordovan leather from afar, I’m now fundraising for a Highland brand belt and a custom pair of Alden Style 500 boots in whiskey or cigar shell cordovan. But for now, I’ll console myself with the chromexcel hide I purchased from Horween for future projects.

Dreaming of Alden Surgical boots in whiskey shell cordovan
For more stories and reports about the Horween Leather Co., read Nick’s own official Horween blog.