Housed on the fifth floor of the Detroit’s Albert Kahn-designed Argonaut building—the original home of the General Motors Research Laboratory—an ambitious upstart called Shinola handcrafts Swiss-style watches, leather goods, notebooks, and bicycles “made by bike people for bike people.” In partnership with the city’s College for Creative Studies, an art and design school that traces its roots back to a craft society formed in 1906, Shinola aims to help bring industry back to the beleaguered city and, eventually, earn a 100-percent-American-made stamp. (The brand name may ring a bell, since the company borrowed it from Shinola shoeshine company, popular in the early 20th century.)
Employing local workers and, hand in hand with CCS, sponsoring classes, offering internships, and recruiting bright-eyed standouts, the effort is small-scale manufacturing in its newest guise. “There is so much going on in Detroit,” says creative director Daniel Caudill. “A lot of people want to see the destruction, but Detroiters are so optimistic of where the city is going and that is why we are there.”
Shinola’s next step is to introduce other products, like footwear and outerwear, and this summer it will open retail locations in Detroit and New York. It’s an enterprise that counts on teamwork and manpower—a kinder, friendlier iteration of the assembly lines of yore. “If everyone starts out with the same mission, passion, and goal,” says Caudill, “at the end of the day, we are going down the same path.”
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