A short list of people attending New York Fashion Week while you and I order double espressos in the rain: Anna Wintour, Kanye West, local photographer and Seattle Met contributor Alvin Nguyen, and the dude from Filson.
Seattle-based CEO and president Mark Korros is previewing the fall ‘12 shows and mingling with editors, stylists, and buyers because, as Style.com recently reported, his brand new coworker is a big player in the week’s events. Hot young American designer Richard Chai has been named Filson’s new creative director. This is no contract gig or one-off collaboration. Chai’s on staff.
Sure, our beloved SoDo-based retailer of all things rugged and hipster-approved has been in fashion for the last few years, but this new partnership means they’re really in fashion.
When Chai shows later today, his models will be sporting gear inspired and informed by Filson sport gear. The New York–based designer, a longtime Filson fan, worked with the Seattle company last year to negotiate this; it was during these collaboration conversations that Chai was offered a position with the company.
I exchanged emails with Korros just after he touched down in NYC yesterday; next up (fingers crossed), I’ll be able to chat with Chai when he comes into town. Korros says Chai is "very anxious to experience the brand in its environment." Is it just me? I can’t help compiling a mental list of restaurant recommendations and shopping stops for him.
Check back tomorrow for images from Chai’s show; for now, read my dialog with the Filson boss.
WWW: Filson’s collaborations with fashion brands of late have been really exciting—I’m thinking of the Levis x Filson thing. I imagine these kinds of projects will only get more interesting if Chai is encouraged to bring in other exciting young designers.
Korros: We will continue to work with Iconic American brands on a select basis to bring new and exciting products to market. Richard’s influence will be focused on helping us build out our “Rugged Casual Apparel" offerings as we work to provide our customers great Filson apparel and accessories to fit their everyday needs.
I know it’s always been important for the company to stay loyal to outdoorsmen and those who don’t necessarily have fashion on their compass. At the same time, a new customer is finding Filson every minute … and looking for fashion pieces. Presumably, Chai will offer more for the latter than the former—do you foresee him having a hand with utilitarian duck hunting vests, too?
It is as important that we maintain our commitment to function as our commitment to building high quality everyday apparel with a focus on Filson classic styling and comfort. Our customers can enjoy both from Filson, but they do not need to be the same.
Should we expect radical changes and new product lines from Chai as creative head?
We do not see this as change as much as expanding upon the heritage we have enjoyed for 115 years. Richard shares in our passion of Filson’s classic design. Together, we will continue to build approachable, timeless styles from the best materials and combine craftsmanship that is built to last the test of time.
Some Filson pieces are now being produced in China; are there any plans to move all manufacturing back to the U.S.—back to Seattle? Does Chai have an interest in domestically produced goods?
Over 70 percent of what we sell today comes from our Filson Seattle-based factory. We employ 95 people here with several who have decades of experience crafting our apparel, luggage, and accessories. [Seattle] is very important as it relates to the core of our brand. We would choose to produce everything here in Seattle if possible. Resource limitations we’ve faced have forced us to source elsewhere in the U.S.A. and other countries around the world. Made in the U.S.A. is very important and is part of what the Filson Brand is; we are looking to keep producing [Chai’s] designs in our [Seattle] factory or with our other authorized sewing partners in the U.S.A.