America’s orphan city, Detroit, would be the last place you would think to look to find a ‘manufactured in the USA’ label given their recent history of industrial abandonment—yet there is an ambitious and already-growing venture challenging that notion. Anchored in high craftsmanship, sober aesthetic with an eclectic touch, Shinola looks to rejuvenate an ancient tradition in the birthplace of American industrialism. Ironically, their mantra gravitates around a series of defeatist statements: “Why not accept that manufacturing is gone from this country? Why not let the rust and weeds finish what they started? Why not just embrace the era of disposability?”
In other words, their model turns the Detroit situation into a story, therein a narrative by which to market and sell high-end collections of watches, bicycles, leathers and journals. In collaboration with Swiss watchmaker Ronda AG and their upstairs neighbour, the College for Creative Studies, Shinola is already producing 500 000 watches per year. Parts are imported from Canada, China, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and the US, and their watches and bikes are 100% assembled in their local factory. This ‘overcoming all odds’ story creates an aura around their products, personalizing their venture to instill emotional resonance. Their online extension profiles every craftsman, technician, artisan and even intern on their background, career ambitions and their particular field of expertise. Moreover, the company documents and exposes in great detail the process of construction, assemblage, manufacturing and design of every nut and bolt that goes into every product. Rightly so, they are prideful of their collaborative enterprise with its long history of family-based ventures integrated into their production line.
485 West Milwaukee Street, Detroit