Since it’s nearly impossible to source Filson Italy in the US, I’m prepping this catalog of images for wishful shopping. My images come from the official Filson Italy site, Japanese webshops and flickr. While I’ve known about Filson Italy (and the Black Label) for awhile, I recently discovered that they now have a “Donna” collection for women. I’m not wild about most of the line, but I do love the unfortunately named “Golddiggers” coat (essentially an upland game jacket in red plaid wool). When I emailed Filson Italy to inquire about the jacket, I was told that it would only be sold in Italy–and not via web shops. Hoping to have a custom version made in the US, Filson informed me that their wool is too thick to support the design of the coat (and further, that their custom order program is closed through April 2012). So–despite our internet age, not all the glitters can be owned.
We just took delivery of a new batch of multi-weave shawl collar cardigans by Centralia Knitting mills. We’re offering the shawls in two new multi-weaves: navy/black/gray and gray/black/white. We have limited stock of our original, gray/black multi-weave. We also received our order of solid and mulitweave cardigans in smaller sizes for women and slim gents. In a month or so, we’ll have our second restock of solid shawls in navy and gray in larger sizes.
These cardigans are truly stunning. I wear mine daily in lieu of a blazer. It’s now part of my signature uniform.
The Rising Sun vest’s design is inspired by vintage hunting and shooting vests. Traditional fishing vests are cut short so they can be worn into a stream with waders. The addition of an internal game or poacher’s pocket makes them useful for upland game hunting too.
Filson makes its own Original Hunting Vest out of a heavier weight waxed canvas. I’m still waiting for Filson to introduce this garment in their collection for women. As it stands, the vest is cut long and wears more like a shelter tent than a vest. I do love all the strategic internal pocketing (and reinforced wool shoulder panels).
Rising Sun & Co vest available in indigo dyed canvas.
A recent production model in black duck canvas and white herringbone twill.
Since Man Up, I’ve been asking Rising Sun to produce a version of the vest in XS for women. This December, for a larger production run, Mike cut a few higher for a women’s fit. I finally own my own Outdoor Vest. Next to the super short, snug monkey fit, I love the vest’s deep front utility pockets. Most clothing for women skimps on functional pocketing (see recent Barbour Utility jacket for a glaring example). For daily wear, the Rising Sun vest easily carries a large smart phone, pocket camera, notebooks and writing utensils. For revision, I wish Rising Sun would add two rear carrying pockets (per LL Bean vest) and ditch the back cinch. Since the fit on the vest is so snug, the cinch has no real use value. And for me, the cinch shifts the look of the vest from field clothing to western wear.
I’ll be testing the vest for bike commuting later in Spring when the weather permits a formal transfer from wax & wool to canvas duck outerwear.
Since I live in the wet Pacific Northwest, my idea of winter outerwear is a waxed cotton or tin cloth jacket. I’ll add a supplemental wool vest or quilted jacket if temps drop below 40. For readers shopping from ice pack climes, I offer some expedition grade parkas from the past and present.
As I type, our sewing contractors are working on our first run of Archival Clothing Field Bags. Just like last time, we’ll preface the introduction of a new product with a round-up of existing bags.
We’ve always loved Brady Bags, and this small trout bag has served Lesli faithfully for years. We like the heavy laminated duck, the fine quality webbing, and the convenient pocketing. The side-mounted shoulder strap also ensures a comfortable, close carry.
We really are Filson devotees, but we’ve found their Field Bag series to be challenging. This example has been used heavily by the Archival family for 15 years. Though it’s built like a truck from top notch materials, we’ve found a few drawbacks. Abundant use of heavy twill, bridle leather and brass mean that the bag is heavy and bulky, even when unpacked. We prefer webbing shoulder straps to leather, as web is softer and more comfortable (and negates the need for a separate strap pad). Attaching the straps on the back panel means that the bag tends to flop downwards rather than hug the user’s back. And a panel of extra fabric around the bag’s opening keeps rain out, but also makes it harder to load and unload your gear.
One of our favorite bags, this Hunting World Safari Today is comfortable and convenient (there are two pockets on the inside). Of course, it’s no longer available, and it doesn’t fit laptops or much more than a half-day’s worth of gear. Though we love the hand-knotted fishing net on this old Chapman game bag, we had to admit that its utility is limited in daily use, as fingers get caught and small objects vanish instantly. We’ll keep this one around for hunting squirrels, but we left the net off of our own Field Bag.
So surrounded by examples, both material and visual, we set off to design a workhorse shoulder bag that would equally serve an urban professional or a dedicated fisherman. Our requirements:
– Unquestionably durable construction – A strap configuration that provides for a comfortable carry – Useful pocketing while keeping the layout as minimal as possible – Plenty of room for laptops – Protection from the elements – No features or finish that compromise function or unduly raise price (i.e. abundant leather trim) – As with all of our products, domestic materials and manufacture to the best of our ability.
A duckbill cap was the first item I ever purchased from CC Filson. A decade ago, you could buy a Filson duckbill cap in tin cloth, shelter cloth, cotton poplin or wool. Filson even offered a short billed model (my personal favorite). The original duckbill version was fitted and came with a leather sweatband. Filson has dropped the wool and poplin models and switched over to a one size fits all model with a cotton sweatband.
I have a small collection of caps that I rotate through the seasons: poplin for summer, tin cloth for fall, wool for winter and shelter cloth cloth for spring. The duckbill cap makes for an ideal cycling cap. The long bill keeps the sun and rain out of your eyes and the low profile, four panel crowd closely hugs the head (making it possible to tuck the hat under a bike helmet).
I’m unclear on the origin of the duckbill style but there may be a military connection. A gent at the Pacific Aviation Museum in Honolulu once mistook mine for a WWII military reissue.
Unlike a baseball cap with a stiffened brim, the pliable, unstructured duckbill takes on an origami shape that makes it ideal for carrying in coat pocket or bag. Perfect for protection during a sudden squall.
Sara, Bruce and I took a quick trip up to Seattle. Our primary mission was to visit friend Eliz and select buttons for our shawl collar sweater project. Unfortunately, a highway breakdown delayed out trip by a half day as we waited out an alternator repair in Winlock, Washington. (Happily, this permitted us to catch up on Hollywood gossip courtesy of Payneless Auto’s well stocked library of Entertainment Weekly magazines).
Early next week, we’ll announce the release of our very own Archival Clothing Rucksack. Let’s take this opportunity to round up two historical examples to compare and contrast with our own. We designed our Rucksack as a synthesis of a classic canoe pack (in the Poirier/Duluth style) and the box-style Yucca pack used by the Boy Scouts. The general design and materials of these packs are wonderful, but there were a few key issues that we were eager to address in our version.
That’s me, with my Frost River Woodsman pack – a classic Duluth-style pack. Some problems are immediately apparent:
1 – Un-reinforced back panel – just a single layer of canvas. Bag lacks structure and flops when loaded. Cannot stand up on its own. Rigid items in pack dig into wearer’s back.
2 – Shoulder straps attach to back panel. Straps can’t bend around body, so dig into wearer’s back.
3 – Tump line buckles – unnecessary for daily use, dig into back.
4 – No hang loop – hard to carry pack with one hand or hang on a hook.
5 – Lack of useful and accessible pockets.
6 – Two roller buckles mean two actions every time user wants to open pack.
7 – Inside, the bag is unfinished – seams are left raw, so fabric edges unravel with time. Finish quality is functional, but crude.
Duluth packs were designed to be packed with a folded blanket to act as a padded back panel, and to spend most of their life in the bow of a canoe, not on a back. They’re wonderful for those purposes, but are challenging to use in a day-to-day setting.
That’s Lesli with her Filson Rucksack. It’s a beautiful object, but again, there are some limitations.
1 – Overall short and squat shape is awkward to load and is ungainly. Does not ride closely to back.
2 – Narrow shoulder straps dig into shoulders with even moderately heavy loads. Metal hardware on shoulder yoke digs into back. Unnecessary and abrasive.
3 – Redundant closure – a flap, two buckles, and a zipper – make for a lot of work to get in and out. Bag does not stay open for loading.
4 – Bellows pockets are useful, but not covered by the main flap. Even when snapped shut, rain can get in. Main straps interfere with loading smaller pockets.
5 – Unpadded back panel means many of the same problems listed above, though mitigated by use of heavy twill.
6 – Abundant use of heavy twill, bridle leather and brass mean that the bag is very heavy and bulky, even when unpacked.
Don’t get us wrong – the Filson rucksack is gorgeous, like most of their luggage (Passage Line not included). It’s just so overbuilt that we wondered if we could get the same level of durability while reducing bulk and weight and improving the fit.
At the end of the day, we had the goal of producing a pack that, during real-time use, would retain the gloriously boxy profile of the magazine shot.
Chaz in his Filson collar (on shore of McKenzie River)
In my post on the Filson custom order program, I forgot to mention the collar I purchased for my dog, Chaz. Filson offers their vegetable tanned, bridle leather collars in 14, 19, 21 and 23 inch lengths. Unfortunately, this size range really only covers skinny spaniels or thick necked Labrador retrievers. Filson needs a mid-sized collar in the 16-17″ range which would work for field dogs like Weimaraners and German Shorthaired Pointers (breeds frequently featured in Filson catalog copy).
A Filson staffer once told me about a collar he had made for his bird dog from a Filson bridle leather belt blank (before Filson made dog collars). Inspired, I phoned Filson to see if I could customize a collar for Chaz. For the standard upcharge of 35% above retail, Filson agreed to make the collar (confirming that they had recently customized a 17″ collar for another customer).
Here are some use notes and photographs of the custom Filson collar:
While I love how the Filson collar looks, I’d like to see Filson make a few upgrades to the design. For one, the collar comes with a welded rather than cast brass “O” ring. For a company that prides itself on making products from the “best” materials, I’m surprised by their selection of lower grade hardware for the optical center of the collar. I’m constantly rotating the weld so that it doesn’t show.
Also, after a wet winter’s exposure to rain, the leather is beginning to wrinkle and warp a little. While I regularly treat the leather with Pecard dressing, I’m concerned about how the collar is going to look after a few years.
If I were updating the collar, I’d swap out the brass ring, upgrade the leather and reinforce the pop rivets with double-stitching for extra durability (see the Leerburg collar as an example). While I’m critical of these details (I expect the best from Filson), I’d still recommend it for anyone looking for a quality collar. (Note that for swimming, I’d switch over to something a little more non-archival and water repellent.)
For reference, here are a few additional sources for archival quality leather pet leashes and collars. Ray Allen Leerburg
Most folks don’t know that Filson offers a custom order service. If you like a specific Filson garment, you can request a customized version in a different fabric w/limited pocketing or pattern edits. In effect, you can create your own one-off, “Filson x you” collaboration (although the customer care page warns that they cannot create entirely new patterns). In addition to current styles, Filson can also make many discontinued garments. For gents, I’d recommend ordering the classic cruiser jacket in original whipcord fabric (forestry cloth not available). Wait time is about 2 months and surcharge can be up to 50% of the original retail price.
From the Filson site, here is the inventory of possible changes.
Extra long and short sizes (many coats and jackets)
Larger and smaller sizes (most garments)
Longer legs (pants, bibs and chaps)
Longer rise (all pants, bibs and shorts)
One arm or leg longer
All belts longer or shorter
Substitute snaps instead of buttons or vice versa (many coat and vests)
Left hand shooting patch (hunting garments)
Different colors and weights of wool (coats and pants)
Many Tin Cloth and Shelter Cloth garments are available in either fabric in Dry or Oil Finish
Shorter handles on all luggage styles with handles. Different strap lengths too.
Footwear in additional widths, larger and smaller sizes
We can produce many discontinued Filson garments
Here are two custom orders I’ve placed in the last two years.
The Creek jacket is my all-time favorite jacket for women by Filson. The fit is perfect and I love the jacket’s simple, uncomplicated design (unlined, snap front, band collar w/ moleskin trimmed collar, placket and pockets). I wanted a flyweight waxed cotton version for use as a cycling jacket in early Fall/late Spring. For the custom order, I swapped out the heavier dry finish cloth duck for waxed 6 oz cover cloth. I was strongly advised not to use the cover cloth since it is typically used for lined jackets and can be vulnerable to tearing. I also asked Filson to remove the stitching from upper left pencil pocket (a change that was originally rejected). I’ve been wearing the jacket for six months and have had no problems with the cover cloth fabric. I’d love to see Filson offer this style jacket in more of their stock fabrics (wool, waxed tin cloth, etc).
This is my most recent customization. I’ve always been a fan of the grey diagonal fabric used by Filson for their cape coat (a garment they should really offer in a future line for women). I thought the fabric would make for an amazing vest. Again, I wear my Filson clothing indoors and for cycling so I tend to like a slightly lighter weight fabric. The new 21 oz wool vest is already a daily driver.
Here is an example of the limits of the custom order program.
Several years ago, I ordered this men’s shelter cloth jacket in gray wool whipcord (my favorite Filson fabric). I requested that the reinforcing arm patches be sewn in contrasting green whipcord (a customization that is no longer available). The jacket turned out well. But since it was a gent’s cut, and since Filson would not adjust the original sizing of a garment, it never fit well and I re-released to ebay last Fall.