Shinola is the America brand that has been taking the design world by storm, opening three stores in Detroit, Tribeca and Minneapolis since its inception in 2011. Their sales are set to double as they introduce new watch models, and products, which include a collaboration with Bruce Weber for pet accessories.
Haute Living went to their headquarters in Detroit, where they are creating high-quality watches, durable leather goods, and high-end bicycles that are made or assembled stateside. There, we got to speak with Creative Director Daniel Caudill, the man responsible for every aspect of the brand’s slightly retro, new American luxury look and feel. From their airy downtown Detroit offices with leather-lined door pulls, to the cozy concept stores, Caudill’s touch runs through the brand new brand from start to finish.
HL: Detroit isn’t just where you’re making items, it’s become part of your branding. Why Detroit?
DC: Detroit was a natural choice for us because we needed small-componentry line work. There are a lot of people doing things here downtown, but If we inspired anyone else to look at Detroit for manufacturing, that would be an amazing thing.
HL: I notice there are a lot of nice details in Shinola’s products and presentation.
DC: “I like to create an inviting environment, whether it is at our offices or at the store. In the store, our watches are out, not behind glass. Anything you look at, touch or feel is warm and comfortable. We think of every detail… or try to anyways, It’s a very collaborative environment too, we get input from people across a lot of different categories.”
HL: Speaking of, you have a lot of categories.
DC: “We do. But there are a lot of categories we want to launch, but if something isn’t perfect, if something isn’t quite right, we won’t put it out. We’ll shelve it until we can make a product we’re really proud of. That said, we really do want to make a toaster, footwear and all these different things. There will be so many categories that Shinola will eventually be in, it’s just figuring out the manufacturing component for every single one.”
HL: And everything is made in the U.S.A.
DC: Right, for watches, there was no large-scale manufacturing in the US. Our only option was to go overseas, or build it ourselves.
HL: And you did. You built this beautiful factory here in Detroit with people building them. Are people confident in the quality of a US-made watch?
DC: When you hold the watch, and see the watch, it’s the best products you can buy in the world, so there is a lot of value in the watch. The movements are made in Switzerland, the crystal cases are the best quality.
HL: Who is your buyer?
DC: Everyone. We have Wall Street guys and hipsters buying these. Some people save up for them, and others have five or six in different colors. Both see the value and quality in the watch. In that sense, I love how democratic the brand is.
HL: But your bicycles are $3,000. That is pricier than most of your products.
DC: We are definitely selling a lot of them to Haute Living-type consumers for their vacation or weekend homes. But, it’s still a good value, because it’s made like a $10,000- $12,000 bike. True bike enthusiasts know there is great value in it. 95% of the bikes in the world are made in Taiwan, and these are made here.
HL: And it’s pretty.
DC: Yes, we’ve been getting a lot of attention from Vogue and the fashion press for it. The seats are made of leather and will form to your body after you ride it.
HL: Are there any brands you admire, or want to emulate.
DC: There are different brands that I admire. Prada is an unbelievable brand. What they do with their stores, what they do in the world of art and culture, how they incorporate that into their brand and curate so much that’s amazing.
HL: So what is your goal with this new brand you are forging?
DC: Our goal is to make a product that you’ll want to wear for 10, 20 or even 30 years. To me, quality isn’t a price point, from $5 to $500,000, it’s about well-made things that are timeless classics that last.