Shinola, which proudly manufactures luxury watches, bicycles and leather goods in the Motor City, chooses Silver Lake at its West Coast flagship.
By Joseph LeMoyne
Only after the darkest night can a sunrise be fully appreciated. Detroit, Michigan, is a city more famous for its collapse than its storied ascent, but that poster child of the Rust Belt is suddenly experiencing a genuine renaissance. Participating in that trend is Shinola, which proudly manufactures luxury watches, bicycles and leather goods in the Motor City. The company’s original West Coast flagship store is in Silver Lake.
Shinola is headquartered in Detroit’s historic Argonaut Building, in better days a GM automotive research lab. “We made the decision to move to Detroit because of its great
history, deep manufacturing roots and creative talents,” says creative director Daniel Caudill.
The company’s watches are intended for the luxury market but have more approachable prices than those of most of the firm’s Swiss counterparts. The timepieces are not 100% Detroit-made—some 50 components are imported from Switzerland and other countries. Still, that probably makes them more worthy of a Made in USA seal than a Boeing Dreamliner or Cadillac Escalade.
The Silver Lake store, hidden behind a minimalist white facade that’s overshadowed by its glitzier neighbor, French fashion retailer A.P.C., is on a rapidly gentrifying stretch
of Sunset Boulevard just east of Sunset Junction. Inside, bicycles hang from a beamed ceiling, and the Detroit company’s line of timepieces is showcased in glass display cases. Leather handbags and briefcases hang from walls and sit on sleek wood shelves. A few midcentury chairs suggest that lingering isn’t discouraged.
“We want our shopping experience to be comfortable yet inspiring,” says Caudill, noting that Shinola stores are usually off the beaten path. “The goal is for our stores to be an experience that goes beyond retail.” The Silver Lake flagship incorporates a branch of Pressed Juicery and hosts events that showcase local artists, designers and authors.
The fluted gold edge of the Runwell Coin Edge men’s watch ($600-$800) provides an attractive vintage quality, complemented by a dial of turquoise, tiger’s eye or elegantly striated malachite. The latest installment in Shinola’s “Great Americans” series is the Muhammad Ali Center limited-edition watch ($2,250), packaged in a custom hickory box and accompanied by three rarely seen prints of the legendary boxer signed by photographer Thomas Hoepker. For women, the Birdy ($475) features a slim profile, thin leather strap and pink face framed by stainless steel, or a more dramatic version ($525) presented with a midnight-blue dial framed in rose gold.
Handcrafted leather goods, utilizing quality cowhide from Chicago’s venerable Horween Leather Co., include a small unisex messenger bag ($695) in black or caramel. Cases for iPhones and iPads are also offered by the Michigan-based company, as well as a women’s
travel clutch ($295) with accordion pocket for a wallet and interior credit card slips. Shinola polish—a nod to the now-defunct Shinola shoe-polish company whose name was adopted by the new Detroit manufacturer—is offered in traditional tins.
Other Shinola products include goose-feather-stuffed dog beds ($180-$230), a collaboration of Shinola and fashion photographer Bruce Weber, available in a variety of colors, as well as particularly stylish leashes and collars. Partnering with San Francisco’s Golden Bear Sportswear, Shinola offers a classic Detroit Lions varsity jacket ($550) with Melton wool and black leather sleeves.
Shinola bicycles include the Detroit Arrow ($1,000), the company’s basic single-speed model that can be upgraded to the Muhammad Ali limited edition, striking in red and white. Well suited for city riding, Shinola’s most expensive bike is the Runwell ($2,950), equipped with a Shimano Alfine 11-speed internal hub and inspired by the Porteur bicycles once popular with Parisian newspaper couriers. Whichever one chooses, there’s something special, something nostalgic, about riding any vehicle handcrafted in Detroit.
Shinola is serious about its retail operations. Included in its ambitious expansion plans are stores in Venice and, opening later this year, in downtown L.A.’s Arts District.
Shinola, 3515 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, 323.473.5250. shinola.com