The Day We Met Up with Filson’s Creative Director Alex Carleton
Being closely connected to the brands that we stock has its perks and yesterday provided us with a treat that many within the industry would have loved to have. Freshly equipped with hot Cappuccinos we hit the road on a busy Thursday afternoon and headed off to the Royal Geographical Society to have a catch up with Filson’s Creative Director Alex Carleton before his much anticipated evening talk at the same venue later on that evening. We were really intrigued to discover more about Alex and his rise to the top and his vision for the future, as well as getting to the bottom of the brands recent success here in the UK.
Typically, things didn’t go quite to plan with the venues strict ruling on interviews and photography, however, sticking true to our roots and in true outdoor style we braved the autumn elements for 10 minutes and stood outside in the courtyard. Still, in true Filson way when asked about our British weather, Alex simply replied “I am used to it. It is exactly the same as in Seattle.” We simply glanced each other in the eye with a look of mutual respect, as a set of people who enjoy the great outdoors, and got on with business…
SL: So Alex, it’s great to meet you tell us a little bit about yourself
AC: I actually spent a year at University in Glasgow and I went to college in the states and thought I was going to do something with a degree in political science. I am interested in American literature, American History, Military History.
SL: So Why Fashion & How Did You End Up Making a Career Out of It?
AC: I never planned to be in the fashion industry at all. When I got out of school I worked for a small outfit in Boston restoring furniture and I was building furniture for this small outfit also. One of our clients was someone who was in the industry in New York City and my mentors at the time suggested that if I wanted to pursue a career in designing furniture and pursuing that interest that I should move out to New York. So I started meeting folks in the city and a job came up. Somebody I knew there offered me a job at Ralph Lauren in the early 90’s. I thought it would just be a temporary thing but once I began my schooling at Ralph Lauren in creative services I got, bit by the bug, and it really developed my interests in fashion for branding and product and story-telling. I really have always resonated with American history and I have always had an interest in American culture and anthropology and that was a really good place to learn. After a handful of years in New York I moved and went to work with a handful of different American sportswear brands. I worked with Timberland, Abercrombie & Fitch, LL Bean and I had my own business for a while. Alongside this I also did some consulting projects with companies like Hickey Freeman and Colt, the firearms company, based in Connecticut.
SL: How did you get into Filson?
AC: I met the owner of Filson through a mutual friend in 2014 and I was invited to go out to Seattle and do an assessment and check it out I order to provide some work on the creative side of the business there. Pretty quickly I was familiar with the brand and I really resonated with the history of Filson, the region of Filson, the brands connection to the wild. It really is precious in a sense that we manufacture our own products so it really checked all of the boxes for me. That combination of being outdoors and outdoor orientated brand, manufacturing, and the history really provided a complete package, providing an engaging interest and inspiration. It has nearly been two years now and I am having a great time.
SL:The list of products now offered by Filson is now much wider than the original stock produced in 1897. How do you make sure every piece in every collection coheir to the tough outdoor spirit Filson is known for?
AC: I really stay focused on the history of Filson and what is right for Filson. It is a referential project in the sense that we look at a lot of works in the archives and we are really focused upon the end user, we have a very engaged community in the North West (US) who are fishermen, hunters, outdoor workmen that really are very vocal in providing feedback and we do a lot of testing of our product out in the field. Outdoors in terms of development, it is a multi-faceted process where we look to the past, present and we also look to the future. We think about how to be a problem solver and how do you help enable people to have better experience outside. We have incredible quality standards which go into the development process, based upon our guarantee. People really rely on our stuff so it is put through a very aggressive test before we put it out on the market. All Filson bags come with a lifetime guarantee.
There are a lot of parallels between the North West of the United States and the United Kingdom. Even in terms of weather, it is similar fickleness, which makes it very nice transition from how we think of our product in the NW to how we see it in context here in the UK. It is very much at home here.
SL: In terms of fashion and the future where are there any particular long-term trends we should watch out for and are there any trends you are noticing for the current Fall/Winter 2016 season?
AC: Yeah, It is interesting because if you look at the business through the Filson lens and we are very independent of the trends, we are aware of what is going on and we do focus on it. We do not subscribe to any trend services. I am not looking at Style.com to keep aware of what is happening in the moment in terms of fashion. We do not consider ourselves a fashion brand at all. We are very much focused upon function and end use. The purpose of our product is much more so than we are focusing on trend. I think what is interesting is that the scent of the outdoor industry and one of the things we are thinking about is how to provide valuable experiences outside, evolving our product and we are looking at product evolution using technology. We are always thinking about what is coming next for folks who are outdoorsy.
SL: With Your Experience Within the Industry, Outside of Filson What Other US brands Do you see real potential for in the UK or are there any other brands that you can personally resonate to in the same way as Filson.
AC: It depends where I am
SL: In London for example
AC: In London in particular, it is one of my favorite cities in the world and I love finding the traditional houses, personally I gravitate towards rustic traditional brands here. I love William Evans, Dunhill is great, Private White VC is doing some really interesting stuff. I have been a fan of Nick Ashley for decades. I really like home in upon what is happening here in the UK and that always interests me. The small shops that sell Shetland Wool sweaters, the more traditional places are where I like to look.
Based upon this brief encounter, the message from Filson is very clear. Its success over the years has been built from a passion. A passion for everything the Filson brand stands for, where it comes from and an unrelenting persistence to put product and the end user first. No need for fashion terminology.
Filson is for the outdoors man and it will continue to be so as it is this authenticity that has seen demand for Filson grow. With Alex in charge it looks as if Filson will continue to be a leading player in global outwear for many years to come!
Check Out The Latest Filson Collection Online At Stuarts London Now!
We would like to thank Alex, Simone & Andy from Filson for allowing us to put this piece together
Interview By D.Wiggins
Photographs by S.Sissen