Reborn in 2011, the modern Shinola brand is a far cry from the by gone years of shoe polish and creams. Headquartered in Detroit, the watch manufacturer offers a range of timepieces in automatic movements assembled in the much beleaguered 'Motor City'. While the brand started out offering the wristwatch, it has grown to offer lifestyle pieces including bicycles, stationary, leather goods, and even a homegrown collaboration with storied outerwear scion, Golden Bear in San Francisco.
Although the brand has enjoyed success in sales since its reinvention, there has also been push back from the media and fashion insiders in response to Shinola's marketing online and off which seems to be targeted at the predominately lower-middle class African - American community based in Detroit. While this may not seem harmful to onlookers not familiar with the plight of Detroit over the years, remember that up until few months ago, as much as 40% of the street lights in Detroit did not work leaving the city in a dark and potentially dangerous state for families and children and decimated the millennial population who saw no opportunity for jobs or nightlife.
Mr. Glenn Palmer; founder of the Detroit-based blog The Gentlemen's Standard which focuses on style, literature and social politics from the African-American perspective says, "If Shinola succeeds in instilling a little pride, provides employment, and helps spread the word of Detroit - I say give them some time to build a name and hit their stride."
CBS Sunday Morning recently aired an interview with Shinola CEO; Steve Bock and discussed these very topics. The response to the critics such as online menswear style magazine Four Pins, claiming Shinola marketing to be "heavy handed"; was one of recognition. The leadership at Shinola understands that there may be a disconnect between its' perceived target audience and its' ability to sell a $500-$800 watch or $2000 bicycle to that same consumer.
However, they stand by the fact that the business produces jobs for the city and gives hope to those residents who remember a brighter (literally and figuratively) Detroit in the 40's, 50's, and 60's. Mr. Palmer adds, "I think it's silly to say that since a city is in economic distress that they should not manufacture or sell luxury goods. There are plenty of people inside and outside the city that can afford a $500 watch."
We recently had the pleasure of collaborating with Shinola on their #lovemycity campaign featuring prominent lifestyle figures in major cities across the country showcasing their favorites hangout spots, landmarks and neighborhoods both well-known and undiscovered. Our project together will be one of the first videos showing DC not only from a CNN point of view, but from a life long Washingtonian's. The video was shot in collaboration with Selectism and Highsnobiety and will be aired later this Spring.
Whether or not you believe an automatic watch built in Detroit is worth $800 dollars, it is clear to see that Shinola is doing it's part to put the shine back in Detroit.