All Articles
All Articles


The brand plans a relaunch in Detroit with watches, bikes, cola and notebooks

by Graham Hiemstra
on 30 July 2012

Taking a name that's likely recognizable among the last few generations, Detroit-based consumer goods company Shinola is hoping to make it easy to tell shit from Shinola. First imagined in Dallas a few short years ago, the relaunch of the more-than-100-year-old company recently made the move to a 60,000 square foot space in Detroit's midtown neighborhood. Drawn in by a city with open arms and a rich history of manufacturing, Shinola felt that Motor City was the best place to stage its comeback for Fall 2012.

Shinola-2.jpg Shinola-3.jpg

Interested in exploring Shinola's curiously focused range of "consumer goods"—the brand originally known for shoe polish is now creating watches, leather goods, notebooks and cola—we accepted an invite to check out the brand in Detroit. Shinola ambitiously plans to make each of these products right here in the U.S. whenever possible.


In order to realize the best possible execution with domestic production, Shinola has placed collaboration at the core of its business and design strategy. Housed on the fifth floor of what was formerly home to General Motor's engineering, research and design department—the first designated department of its kind in the auto industry, one responsible for inventing the automatic transmission engine, introducing tail fins, and even designing the first Corvette—Shinola has taken over the space with the intention of building on that legacy of creative innovation. Built in 1928 across the street from the original GM headquarters, the massive building is now the run by Detroit's College of Creative Studies.


While the building occupies a certain sense of historic importance, CCS' students and their forward-thinking design talent are also of interest to Shinola, which has enlisted their help in everything from designing their office to assisting in product development as part of their curriculum. "At a very fundamental level CCS and Shinola honor the same philosophies," says Shinola creative director Daniel Caudill. "They honor the idea of the artisan and craftsman, and our relationship with the CCS students illustrates our core brand pillar of collaboration."

Shinola-5.jpg Shinola-6.jpg

The brand kicks off its collaborative product line with watches. The substantial inaugural line comprises models assembled entirely on-site in a surprisingly large "clean room" of sorts. The pressurized room—to keep dust out—will eventually be the workspace for dozens of assembly line workers, pumping out hundreds of watches each day. At the moment, with the company still very much in the development stages, the output stands at just a fraction of that goal. Nevertheless the workers currently assembling prototypes and early production editions are intricately skilled and closely supervised to ensure precision assembly. Certified by the US government to claim the distinction of being American-made, Shinola watches are being made with the help of the 65-year-old Swiss manufacturing company Ronda AG with Swiss-made movements, locally sourced components and some pieces imported from China.

Shinola-9.jpg Shinola-8.jpg

Much like their watches, the small range of bicycles are produced elsewhere and assembled in Detroit. Once the Wisconsin-made frames are outfitted with additional top-of-the-line components (like Shimano's Alfine group) sourced from Portland, OR and abroad, each bike is topped off with custom Horween leather saddles, matching leather grips and a shiny Shinola headbadge.

Operating as a "community of consumer products" as Caudill puts it, Shinola sidesteps the typical platform of scheduled seasonal launches and design deadlines. "Instead we're opting to develop and release product when it's ready, fine-tuning and tweaking the product until we feel it is perfect," he says. This unconventional but logical approach stems from a dedication to producing good design with the customer in mind, running with the spirit of making products intended to last a lifetime.

Shinola-11.jpg Shinola-10.jpg

The commitment to sourcing components domestically whenever possible inevitably comes with a higher price point on Shinola goods. Their handmade bicycles will sell for roughly $2,500 while the larger range of watches will go for between $400-$800. As Caudill points out, the definite launch date has not been confirmed, though e-commerce is tentatively slated for Fall 2012. Also in the works is a showroom to open sometime close to December in NYC's Tribeca neighborhood, which will then transition into a stand-alone retail space in early 2013.

For more information on the history and mission behind Shinola see their site and for more from their expansive Detroit HQ click the slideshow.

Images by Graham Hiemstra

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools
Loading More...