A Day in the Life of Filson’s Restoration Department

The heritage brand turns trash into treasure, and so can you

March 17, 2016 9:00 am

There is a tendency, in this charmed life, to not maintain or repair things, but to replace them.

But at Filson’s Seattle flagship store, the century-old brand is giving conscious consumerism a novel spin with the Filson Restoration Department (FRD), an in-house program dedicated to making vintage Filson bags new again.

Not to be mistaken with the company’s Repair Department, which takes care of simple conditioning and repair fixes, the FRD stitches up old bags that otherwise would’ve seen a landfill, thus finding utility and beauty in repair.

They have no set of rules or arcane 101s for homegrown DIYers to abide by, but their philosophy is one we can all learn from: the idea is not to disguise damage, but rather to incorporate it to make something durable, heavy on character and entirely one-of-a-kind (see also: wabi-sabi).

So, what can we as consumers take away from all this? We sat down with Claire Beaumont, one half of FRD, to find out.

On day-to-day slow fashion …
“It’s usually about a 10-hour work day. I get there in the morning before the store opens to get our workshop set up. We have 12 styles in the store. I look at our stock of vintage bags and just grab one — turn it inside out, rip the binding and start deconstructing the seams. We document everything on repair cards — which help us keep track of the changes, but also lets whoever ends up buying the bag know of all the changes. I get through 1-2 bags a day.”

On creative freedom …
“Once everything is deconstructed, repairs are based on creative freedom. Fabric choice. Patching color. Stitching style. You have to find a balance between the integrity of the product’s quality and the aesthetics. Sometimes I use matching fabric. Sometimes I reweave a new fabric in. It just depends on how I’m feeling that day.”

On problem-solving …
“Our day is filled with all kinds of subtle decision-making and lots of problem-solving. Each bag has been stretched in different ways. We’re dealing with a lot wear and tear. Stuff like battery acid damage, or gigantic holes in the back panels. At the same time, we’re making sure patterns line up and pockets are going in the right place.”

On preventative maintenance …
“Super important. I tell everyone to re-wax and condition the canvas and leather simply whenever it’s feeling dry. The higher concentration of wax, the more you’re protecting the fibers from abrasion. Same thing for leather. More the oil, the better weather-resistant it is. Don’t keep your stuff in the garage. Don’t abandon it. And you’ll be fine.”

All images courtesy Filson

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