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Filson’s Restoration Department, where old becomes new

Ian Harvey

In today’s world, everyone seems to be obsessed with the latest and greatest items on the market. The days of working to maintain or repair things seem to be something of the past. However, Filson’s Seattle flagship store is a century-old brand that is catering to conscious consumerism and giving it a fresh spin at the Filson Restoration Department (FRD). They operate an in-house program that focuses on making vintage Filson bags good as new again.

This is not the same as the Repair Department Company which does simple conditioning and repair fixes for their business. Filson Restoration takes old bags and stitches them up. If not for FRD, these bags would simply be thrown away. This company has built their business around finding utility and beauty in the repair of something a bit wore down.

The company philosophy is to not disguise damage, but instead, find a way to incorporate it to make something durable, character heavy, and completely unique. Employees have no set of rules or strange 101s for “do it yourselfers” to adhere to; as consumers there is quite a bit to walk away with. Below is information gleaned from a short interview with Clair Beaumont, who is one-half of Filson Restoration Department. The hope was to garner further insight into this unique small business.

 

 

Source: Filson

Source: Filson

On day-to-day slow fashion…

She explained that a typical work day runs to about 10 hours. She arrives in the morning to set up the workshop before the store officially opens. They carry 12 different styles in the store, and Clair conducts a scan of the inventory of vintage bags. She grabs one, turns it inside out, rips the binding and begins deconstructing the seams. Anything she does is documented on repair cards to aid in tracking any changes that are made. It also lets a buyer know about all of the changes. Customers appreciate this bit of transparency. Claire finishes one or two bags each working day.

Source: Filson

Source: Filson

On creative freedom…

After Claire deconstructs the bag, any repairs are based on free creativity. This includes decisions such as choice of fabric, patch color and stitching style. The key is to strike a balance between the integrity of the product’s quality and the aesthetics. Claire explained that she will opt to use matching fabric, but will occasionally reweave a new fabric into the mix. Often times this is just simply based on how she feels on any given day.

 

Source: Filson

Source: Filson

On problem-solving …

Each day is filled with all kinds of subtle decision making and tons of problem-solving. To ensure uniqueness, each bag is stretched in different ways, because they are dealing with a lot of wear and tear. Sometimes it is damage from battery acid or huge holes in the back panels. Furthermore, they are making sure that patterns line up and pockets are stitched into the correct places.

 

Source: Filson

Source: Filson

On preventative maintenance …

A pivotal part of the process includes the re-wax and conditioning of the canvas and leather whenever it feels dry. A higher concentration of wax will protect the fibers from abrasion, and the same thing goes for leather. You also want to increase the amount of oil to get better weather resistance. Do not keep stuff stashed away in the garage; do not forget about it and everything should go smoothly.