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Luxe new design brand Shinola operates under the tagline, "Where American is Made." Launched last year, much of its collection is manufactured in Detroit, and they even have a factory livecam to showcase their watch-making floor. Warning: it offers paint-drying levels of excitment. Headshots of workers are proudly displayed on its site and list each person's role in the company ("assembler," "security," "master watchmaker").
The company seems to be very doing well for itself, having just opened its first brick-and-morter location in Detroit's Midtown in early July, followed by a New York City flagship in Tribeca. The New York Times sent critic Jon Caramanica to the NYC shop recently to review its offerings and let's just say he isn't drinking the Shinola Kool-Aid.
Shinola explains why they opened their factory in Detroit, with a "flowery ode" to local manufacturing:
"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? And why didn't we buy a warmer coat before we moved here? Through two Detroit winters, we've asked ourselves these questions. And worked not to find our answer, but to build it. Because we don't think American manufacturing ever failed for being too good. Our worst didn't come when we were at our best. It happened when we thought good was good enough."To that, Caramanica asks, "Would it cramp your ideals to know that the company behind Shinola, Bedrock Brands, was started by a founder of the Fossil brand of watches, Tom Kartsotis?" He then goes on to accuse Kartsotis of essentially greenwashing with a Made-in-USA angle. Or, as he puts it, "Mr. Kartsotis [is] a midprice watch mogul looking to go luxury under the cover of charitable business practices."
Whether or not Shinola preys on the charitable impulses of a young, socially-aware, monied group or not (and it kind of looks like that's exactly what its founder is doing—this report from Crain's is pretty damning), it has brought jobs and business to Detroit. And the products aren't half bad, either.
· Shinola [Official Site]
· The Next Branding of Detroit [NYT]
· Made-in-Detroit Design Brand Shinola Opens In Tribeca [Racked NY]
· Century-Old Factory Now Shinola's Mesmerizing New Space [Curbed Detroit]