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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

GarconJon meets Alex Carleton: Creative Director, Filson

Sponsored post in partnership with American Express®

Filson is one of those iconic brands that is etched into my sub-conscious. For me it is synonymous with high quality products that stand the test of time. Or at least since 1897, when it began making outerwear and bags for wilderness adventures.

Alex Carleton is the Creative Director behind Filson, a small business I've patronised since it's opening in London. Based in Seattle, his presence reflects the soft charm of the Pacific Northwest, a city engulfed by water, mountains and evergreen forests. It's this, alongside Carleton's rugged practical approach, that makes him a great fit for such a trusted brand.

Filson designs are outstanding and it also has a restoration department which restores bags that are decades old and sells them in their London store. Along with being able to pick up something totally unique. I can shop its new range with confidence, as every product I buy can be repaired by Filson, meaning it will last a lifetime.

Alex visited London this month and we met at Filson’s UK store on Newburgh Street, off Carnaby Street, to shoot some photos and find out more about this inspiring small business.

Alex Carleton, Creative Director Filson

How would you describe yourself in 5 words? Energetic. Focused. Distracted. Tough. Decisive.

What’s your star sign? Aries. Fire Sign. Mars. Warrior. I believe it does define me in some aspects.

How long have you lived in Seatle and where are you from? I've lived in Seattle for 2 years and 4 months. I'm from New England - specifically Boston and Cape Cod - but before moving to Seattle, I was in Maine for 16 years and still have a home there. The Northwest is massive and deep and more connected to the wild. New England is more genteel but still salty and rugged. Both places are understated and maintain a strong connection to nature. Seattle is a city born of pioneers, Boston and Portland were born of colonists, Maine is more traditional and formal. It's a conservative place. Seattle is more unharnessed and experimental. The wilderness around Washington is similar to Maine - it's forested and green, salty and coastal... mountainous.

What do you love about your city? Seattle - the trees. I love seeing the Olympic Peninsula and the snow peaked mountains and Puget Sound from my office window. It has all of the intrigue and anticipation of a gateway city. Portland by comparison feels tucked away and provincial. I like the old, 19th century brick buildings in Portland and the crying of seagulls in the fog. It feels older. It is older. It's a more intimate town.

How does the brand reflect the landscape? It's bold and handsome and conveys strength and ruggedness. The landscape informs the brand both practically and inspirationally. It's timeless.

Describe Filson in one sentence. Filson is persistent, tough, smart and prepared.

Why do you do what you do? I do what I do because I'm compelled to do it. As much as I'm drawn to the idea of other paths - this is the one suited for me. At Filson the job connects me to the things I love - building stuff, problem solving, adventure, regional history and sports, animals and the wilderness. I'm driven by ideas. If I'm excited by an idea I feel compelled to work it out. It's like the concept becomes bigger than me and I need to serve it until it comes together, changes or evolves into something else.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time? Connected to the outdoors, dogs, books and my work. Really not much different than where I am today.

What makes you good at what you do? I have a strong ability to visualise stuff. I can see how things might turn out well before I begin working on them. I've never really started a project without having a clear sense of what the end product should look or function like. I believe in my decisions. If I don't truly believe in what I set out to do, then it doesn't work. I also don't work in a vacuum. Context is really important to me and usually helps me make stuff that people can relate to.

How do you stay present in the moment? I have to feel passionate about something to remain present. If I'm not, then I tune out. Fortunately, I can usually find an angle for most subjects to keep my childish brain focused and engaged. Sometimes I get excited about a lot of stuff and that's when I get stupidly distracted.

When you’re feeling uninspired, how do you move forward? If I'm frustrated or in a rut I like to just unplug and go for a hike, play with the dog or lift weights. When I'm physically active or outside in the woods is when I usually get better ideas.

What will be your legacy? I'll probably be remembered for being a decent narrator. For telling a good, American story. For contributing to that narrative.

What advice would you give you 18 year old self? Keep doing what you're doing but: Travel more. Work harder. Take more risks. Appreciate what's happening to you in the present. Don't beat yourself up.

Leave us with words of wisdom? I wouldn't presume to do so but get back to me in 20 years.

The restoration service from Filson is just one example of the unique products and services provided by small shops up and down the country. It’s these signature products and services that keep me, and many others, going back to small businesses time and time again.

We're coming up to Small Business Saturday this week, a day when people across the country are encouraged to get out support their local small business. That's why I'm working with American Express - founder and ongoing supporter of the initiative - to bring you Filson, and a few of my other favourite independent businesses in London.

I hope my list below of the Capital’s signature products and services inspires you to get down to your local high street to discover your own unique signatures.

Ruffians Barbershop: There may be three London locations but it all started up the road in Edinburgh. As a Scot, I get a taste of home every time I get my haircut when, upon arrival, I get given a Tunnocks Teacake and dram of whisky. 

James Smith and Sons: There are few places in London that transport you to another time but James Smith does that perfectly. The product is outstanding and has been the spot to pick up a highly crafted quality umbrella for over 100 years.

Conduit Coffee House: The kind of proper local cafe that's getting more and more rare in London. The Coffee House on Lamb's Conduit Street feels like a friend’s living room and is as welcoming as that.

Linda Farrow Eyewear: The glasses and sunglasses in Linda Farrow are unique designs based on the archive of vintage sunglasses found in the family’s London warehouse. With an inspiring store on Mount Street, I know it's highly unlikely I'll see someone else wearing the same frames as me if I get them from Linda Farrow.

What’s more, if you’re an American Express Cardmember, you could be rewarded for supporting your local high street. When you spend £10 or more in a single transaction, using your American Express Card, at a participating small business during the campaign period (3 to 18 December), you will receive a £5 statement credit. There is no limit to the number of participating businesses you can receive your £5 credit from - however, you can only claim it once at each small business, terms apply.

To find out more about ‘shopping small’, and to get inspiration and ideas for your Christmas shopping, visit

Promoter: American Express Services Europe Limited has its registered office at Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9AX, United Kingdom. It is registered in England and Wales with Company Number 1833139 and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Guy Robinson: Green Park, London

Guy Robinson, model with Wilhelmina, photographed in Green Park, after a long day shooting for Dunhill.

Saturday, 19 November 2016