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Originally published Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Filson introduces outdoor clothing for women

For the first time in Filson's 111-year history, the Seattle manufacturer and retailer of outdoor clothing is introducing a line of women's apparel for fishing, hunting and other activities.

Seattle Times business reporter

The Filson Story

1897 Clinton Filson, formerly a Nebraska homesteader, opens C.C. Filson's Pioneer Alaska Clothing and Blanket Manufacturers in Seattle, focused on outfitting stampeders to the Klondike gold rush.

1902 A new clothing line for loggers is introduced as the gold rush fades into history.

1914 A U.S. patent is granted for Filson's Mackinaw Cruiser jacket, a perennial top seller.

1945 The U.S. Forest Service commissions Filson to develop special water-repellant garments dyed green.

1996 Fly-fishing vests are introduced after 10 years of research and development.

1998 A new lodgelike store and production floor open near Seattle's Safeco Field, 10 blocks from the original location.

2005 Los Angeles investment firm Brentwood Associates buys Filson and taps former Ralph Lauren executive Doug Williams as CEO.

2006 Filson opens a store in Denver, its first and only retail location outside Seattle, and replaces Williams with Bill Kulczycki, previously at Patagonia Int.

2008 A new line of women's clothing and accessories is introduced.

Source: Filson

The Shelter Cloth Logger jacket for $160 is like most things Filson — durable and tough enough to withstand just about anything Mother Nature throws at it. Same for Filson's new $170 water-repellant Travel vest and $165 Canvas windbreaker.

But they all differ in one way: They're built for a woman's fit.

For the first time in Filson's 111-year history, the Seattle manufacturer and retailer of outdoor clothing is introducing a line of women's apparel for fishing, hunting and other activities.

The 40-piece line, due in stores next month, consists of the same rugged fabrics and colors that Filson is known for, said Chief Executive Bill Kulczycki. "This is something that women have told us they wanted to see," he said.

Women already are Filson customers — they've just altered the clothing to make it fit, he said. "I believe Filson should have been in the women's market 10 years ago. We're just not quick to catch onto trends."

Filson sold women's dresses for a brief period during the late 1940s and early '50s when it tried to branch out as a more general merchandiser.

An online advertisement for Filson's new collection features two women pulling horses in a field and promises "rugged, functional designs." One wears a red-and-black vest over brown pants and tan shirt; the other a camel-colored jacket and blue cap.

Filson, which has annual sales of about $30 million, dates to 1897, when Nebraska homesteader Clinton Filson set up shop in Seattle to outfit prospectors on their way to the Klondike gold rush. Its Seattle flagship store opened in 1998 near Safeco Field, about 10 blocks from the original location.

Filson announced plans for a women's collection nearly three years ago, around the time that new owner Brentwood Associates, a Los Angeles investment firm, tapped former Ralph Lauren executive Doug Williams as CEO.

A new casual sportswear line for men failed to resonate with customers, and in fall 2006, Filson named Kulczycki, formerly a vice president of business development at Patagonia International, to replace Williams.

A production facility visible from the Seattle store makes 70 percent of Filson's clothing. The rest is outsourced to factories.

Products also are sold on the Internet, through a monthly catalog, and hundreds of mom-and-pop stores nationwide.

David Morgan, who owns a Bothell mail-order business of the same name, said he expects the women's line will "go over very well."

"Nobody else has made hard-wearing outdoor clothing for women that fits," Morgan said. "There are women who do outdoor things with men, and they need clothing that's just as good."

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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