With its World War II-era Lore and extensive West Coast expansion, Shinola is at the forefront of made-in-America luxury.
For a brand founded in 2011, Shinola has achieved heritage status beyond its years: The Detroit label pioneering finely crafted-in-America watches, bicycles and accessories actually acquired its moniker from the defunct shoe-polish brand that inspired the World War II-era colloquialism “You don’t know sh*t from Shinola,” which was mentioned in a meeting during the modern incarnation’s conception.
While the handle may elicit an initial response, Shinola’s mission—cultivating the local manufacturing of luxe classic yet modern designs—was responsible for its immediate success. That and a rapidly expanding sphere of influence that includes four just-opened and upcoming California stores in Palo Alto, L.A.’s The Grove, Venice and S.F.’s historic Jackson Square. Company President Jacques Panis says last fall’s Silver Lake opening proved how deeply the brand’s story resonates. “The West Coast customers were among the first to start asking questions about the products they buy: Who made it? Where? Using what methods?” he says. “It began with food and now that thought process translates across other categories.”
For Shinola that means bold, made-to-last timepieces, colorful journals, covetable men’s leather goods designed by recent collaborators Richard Lambertson and John Truex, as well as chic bikes. The latter are enduring, custom-level frames for easy riding.
There is nothing cookie-cutter about Shinola. “Each of our new locations will be unique to the area they’re in to cater to the local customer,” says Creative Director Daniel Caudill. Indeed, Panis notes an affinity for off-the-beaten-path locales with a strong sense of community. The shops incorporate neighborhood partners for added authenticity (Silver Lake features a Pressed Juicery outlet) and showcase curated goods by local craftspeople.
It’s all part of a bigger picture. Says Sky Yaeger, director of bicycle product development, “When you think about watches, journals, fine leather goods and bikes, they seem to have nothing intrinsically in common, but when you see everything together in our stores you understand the brand story very clearly.” shinola.com. • KATHRYN ROMEYN
PHOTOS: Courtesy of Shinola.