Factory Visit and Interview with Crescent Down Works
Posted: Jan 12 2017
Tucked away in a brick building in Seattle's oldest business district, Crescent Down Works manufactures outstanding, high quality down clothing and outerwear right in our city, just as they have been for more than forty years. When nearly every other clothing company moved production overseas, they stayed put. Founder Anne Michelson began the company in 1974, making down vests. As the company grew, she built a team of expert stitchers and expanded her line of designs. These days Anne's daughter Annie Michelson, Production Manager, and Nora Strang, Cutting Room Director help run the business. Their business model is rare one the world of mass production in that they mainly work directly with retailers to manufacture custom colorways of Crescent Down Works' own classic designs.
If you've been following Freeman, you might have guessed that Crescent Down Works is one of our favorite companies. They were on our short list of brands when we were in the initial planning stages of opening our brick and mortar and it's our intention to stock their wonderful vests and jackets into eternity. There are quite a few reasons we dig them. For one, they are totally inspirational as fellow makers of outerwear in Seattle, we look up to them and aspire to be like them. They are also a pleasure and a joy to work with.
For a long time, Crescent Down Works was a bit of a mystery to me. I recall seeing their sign and some patterns hanging in the second story window of a Capitol Hill long ago. But now that we work together they have become dear friends, and we wanted to share with you some behind the scenes shots recently taken at their Seattle factory, along with an interview with Production Manager Annie Michelson.
Interview with Annie Michelson, Production Manager of Crescent Down Works:
Freeman: How did Crescent Down Works start?
Annie: My mom, Anne, got her start in the down outerwear business at Eddie Bauer, she set up the down quality control lab there. She combined her technical knowledge of goose down insulation as well as her own sewing skills and started Crescent in 1974 at a small space in Seattle’s university district, mostly selling vests to friends and family. My mom was an avid hiker so from the beginning our styles have been meant for mountaineering and outdoorsmanship, and even though our styles have not really changed, our brand focus is less technical and more fashion. In the 1980’s the Japanese market started picking up our products more and more, and since then most of our business is to Japanese buyers.
Why made in Seattle?
Making our own designs here in Seattle is really important to us, it always has been. Designing and producing at home creates a satisfying connection with our products and allows for a lot of freedom. We make in Seattle because the joy and creative satisfaction of the manufacturing process is valued over the bottom-line. We also have a group of really skilled sewers, which helps a lot!
What sets Crescent Down Works apart from other down companies?
I think what sets us apart is that we are flexible and adventurous when it comes to collaboration. We have had the opportunity to work with super cool designers and artists from around the world. We are really approachable and work with retail and wholesale clients to make something unique that they really love.
What's it like to manufacture clothing in a city like Seattle?
Expensive! All around costs are very high, but it is still really rewarding to work here in Seattle. It is geographically pretty accessible to our Japanese clients, who visit us often. We are also really encouraged by the recent surge in garment manufacturing here in Seattle, there seems to be a lot of effort going towards keeping or bringing manufacturing in Seattle, evidenced by Filson bringing back a lot of sewing jobs from overseas.
Do you have a favorite piece in your current lineup?
I have many favorites! But right now I think my favorite is the Down Shirt, I love the closer fit of this jacket and it’s vintage vibe. And each fabrication is a different jacket; the softer streak free is a great liner, while the 60/40 is a hearty, rain resistant shell. And the wool version is as effective as a heavy winter parka against really cold temperatures.
Crescent Down Works team, 2016