NEW YORK — Oscar de la Renta is helping to put a little more shine in Shinola.
This story first appeared in the June 17, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The luxury brand has partnered with the Detroit-based watch and leather goods manufacturer to create a capsule collection of limited-edition timepieces for women. The unlikely collaboration came about after Alex Bolen, chief executive officer of Oscar de la Renta, read an article about Shinola. It was the first Bolen had heard of the brand. He immediately reached out to founder Tom Kartsotis, and within a week was on a plane to tour Shinola’s Detroit factory. “In the 50 years that we’ve been in business, we’ve had a lot of different kinds of partnerships,” said Bolen. “What we have learned is that we have to find people who see the world the same way that we do. At this point, in about 20 minutes, we can tell if it’s a good fit.”
For both sides, the partnership was an obvious fit. “The key is for both companies to come together at every level,” said Steve Bock, ceo of Shinola. “We understand the DNA of what Oscar wants and is looking for. We took our knowledge of what is going to work and what is going to sell and put it together [with de la Renta’s].”
The result is a limited-edition run of 1,000 watches, due out in October, inspired by de la Renta’s current jewelry offerings. The collection centers on a Lattice design, with a faceted sapphire crystal, white mother-of-pearl dial and mosaic crown. Three variations on the 36-mm. case will be offered: a face inset with 68 full-cut diamonds and black alligator strap, a red alligator strap with stainless steel case and a blue alligator strap with gold PVD-plated case. There will be 500 of the black alligator strap version produced, priced at $2,700, and 250 each of the red and blue models, priced at $1,400 and $1,600, respectively.
“Aesthetically it was not an obvious match,” said Bolen of the design collaboration. “Our stuff is very feminine, and the stuff that Shinola has done doesn’t scream feminine. But the team at Shinola said, ‘We’ve got you covered.’ They were excited at the challenge of designing something that fit with Shinola’s manufacturing but authentic to our DNA.”
The project is Shinola’s first fashion-focused endeavor, and second addition to the brand’s “Shinola Salutes” series. The “Series” program serves to recognize iconic American brands through product collaborations; last October, the brand developed a watch to commemorate the Ford Mustang’s 50th anniversary. “Oscar is a fashion icon, but to us, he’s more of an American icon,” said Bock. “It made absolute sense to salute what Oscar has done.”
The collaboration also signifies de la Renta’s first watch offering in more than two decades. According to a spokeswoman for Oscar de la Renta, the company’s jewelry business has gone from zero to more than $10 million at retail since launching in 2010. “Our jewelry business has been a pleasant surprise for us, and watches seem to be a logical extension of that business,” said Bolen.
The Shinola collaboration will be something of a test run for the potential for future watch launches. “We’ll see what the future holds,” said Bolen. “I think there are a lot of people in the world that are making watches that are beautiful, and I think that our brand has something to say in watches. This is the first thing we have to say. We both wanted to do something that we were certain would be successful and something that we were proud of.”
Neiman Marcus has prepurchased almost 70 percent of the collection, and will serve as the exclusive large specialty store retailer. The remaining pieces will be available for purchase in Oscar de la Renta and Shinola stores, as well as online. The timepieces will additionally be featured in Oscar de la Renta’s fall ad campaign. The campaign was shot in New York City by Norman Jean Roy and styled by Natasha Royt. The watches will make their official debut at a press preview at the Shinola store in TriBeCa on June 24.