Having built a business stocked with watches, bicycles, journals, leather totes and other items made in the U.S., Shinola is adding turntables and diamond watches this fall. But there is one category that still eludes the Detroit-based company: ready-to-wear clothing.
“I don’t think we’re ready for it,” said Daniel Caudill, Shinola’s creative director, who came to the City of Angels from the Motor City to preview the fall collection at the brand’s store in The Grove. “Apparel is a really big undertaking. We’re still a start-up company. It’s definitely something in our future.”
While Shinola already produces sweatshirts in Los Angeles and outerwear with Golden Bear, it refuses to divert responsibility for any category to a licensee. It is also smarting from an admonishment issued last June “to avoid deceiving consumers” by the Federal Trade Commission, which ordered it to transition from the slogan “where American is made” and append claims of being built in the U.S. with information stating that parts include “significant imported content.”
“We do everything ourselves,” Caudill said. “The whole brand is about job creation.”
The possibilities are endless for what can bear the Shinola name. “We can make anything in this country if we want to,” he said. Not that it would. “We won’t do a smart phone but we’ll make a case for it.”
To prove its point that manufacturing is viable in the U.S., Shinola is readying for the release later this month of $2,500 turntables, which were engineered in its R&D lab in Los Angeles and made with partners such as New Jersey’s VPI Industries and MDI, California’s American Board and Michigan’s MISCO. Also new for fall are women’s diamond-encrusted watches, which include a square-faced model, called The Cass, accented with rose gold and opaline that retails for as much as $2,100. The addition of a women’s collection dubbed Gomelsky allows it to grow its business with women, who now contribute to 40 percent of sales, up from 30 percent when the brand launched.
Days before officially launching a jewelry collection in October, Shinola received approval from none other than Michelle Obama. The First Lady purchased multiples of its bolt cluster necklace, which retails for $390 in sterling silver and $1,200 in gold, to give to her friends. Her support of Shinola came after President Obama’s visit to the company’s store in Detroit and their purchase of journals and watches for past holiday gifts (Shinola tops the list for another round of gifts in the coming months).
“There’s a whole lot of different things we see fitting with the brand,” Caudill said. “Basically it’s the puzzle of fitting in with the manufacturing process.”