On Shinola, Detroit’s Misguided White Knight

I wanted to like Shinola. I wanted to so badly. A Detroit "design firm" manufacturing products in the United States that's not another car company? I was ready to ride or die. But, like anything in this world that sounds too good to be true, Shinola's press kit is full of asterisks:

*Shinola isn't really a Detroit company. Bedrock Brands owns Shinola. There is no website for Bedrock, but the privately held conglomerate was created by the co-founder of Fossil watches, and owns other brands like Filson. It is based in Texas.

*The watches aren’t manufactured in Detroit, but they are assembled here from parts made overseas from their partner, Swiss-based watch manufacturer Ronda AG.

*The bikes aren't manufactured in Detroit either. Again, they are assembled here with parts made elsewhere. Although the frames are welded in Wisconsin.

All of these asterisks wouldn't be necessary except that Shinola's entire presence is predicated on its ties to the City of Detroit. The justification for the cheapest men's watch being $550? For bicycles that cost a minimum of $1,950? American manufacturing costs more. Quality materials cost more. American products are inherently worth more. Like buying a pair of Toms helps some poor Third World kid, by buying a two thousand dollar bike you're doing your part to help rebuild a fallen American city. In this way, Shinola reminds us what the American dream actually is: a selling point, nothing more than a sales pitch.

To paint this Rockwellian picture Shinola has spared no expense. They brought in Sky Yaeger, the designer of Bianchi's Pista model, among others, to design their bikes. They spent $14.5 million on their NYC TriBeCa flagship. (I wonder how much they invested in the real estate they occupy in Detroit? The details of the company's agreement to lease 30,000 square feet in the old GM Argonaut building have not been released.) They have filled out their retail stores with products from HICKOREE'S, Steven Alan, Archival Clothing and Common Projects. They even hired Bruce Weber for an ad campaign. Instead of starting in his parent’s garage, Shinola is a trust fund kid that decided one day he wanted to start a company and had his dad buy him all the cool stuff. And much to my chagrin, all this money seems to paying off. Shinola's roster of stockists is impressive. Their initial offering of watches sold out before they were even assembled.

Shinola is using my city as its shill, pushing a manufactured, outdated and unrealistic ideal of America.

The most irksome thing about Shinola and its opportunistic promotional campaign? While they've mastered opportunistic marketing, they get the most important aspects of being a "design firm" all wrong. See, the products just aren't that great.

The brand sells denim produced by a Detroit company. Again, on its surface, not such a bad move. Yet, in an interview on their blog, the owner of the Detroit Denim Co. (and Shinola by proxy) perpetuates selling points about selvedge denim that are simply not true. The selvedge aspect of denim does not make it wear better. It's not inherently better than non-selvedge denim. They say not to wash your jeans. Going so far as to suggest putting your jeans in a freezer and washing them in the ocean or even in vinegar, all of which is complete bullshit and if you don’t believe me check out this video where denim lords Andrew Chen and Kiya Babzani completely ether these myths in less than three minutes.

The watches? As the New York Times' Jon Caramanica aptly put it, the watches "…[suggest] timepieces of six decades ago, or public school wall clocks." They are made with quartz movements, which in and of itself isn't a bad thing, especially when attempting to build a watch manufacturing company from the ground up. But Shinola's emphasis is supposedly on quality, on craftsmanship, on unique goods handmade by hardworking American hands. Most mechanical movements are unique and proprietary. They are marvels of craftsmanship that seem to embody the mechanical prowess Shinola attempts to glom onto by positioning itself inside the former General Motors Design Laboratory. Currently, I doubt American manufacturing is capable of crafting mechanical movements. In that way, Shinola's watches belie the notion that American manufacturing is simply better than the rest of the world's. Granted, a mechanical movement would significantly raise the price of Shinola’s watches, but when you're introducing $2,000 bikes and simultaneously offering $5,000 Rolexes and vintage American flags that range in price from fifteen to fifty thousand dollars, price can't really be that much of an issue, can it? The thought of a company selling such luxuriously priced goods in a city that, according to the 2010 Census, has a per capita income of $14,000 is downright laughable.

Even their social media campaign are insulting:

"For every #SayNiceThings post on social media, we will write those intentions on paper embedded with seeds. The seed paper will later be planted throughout Detroit, specifically for use in the beautification of a dog park near our Detroit store."

This is Shinola's "Say Something Nice" campaign. A take on a '70s movement designed to combat the negative press Detroit was generating. This Pollyanna outlook on Detroit simply glosses over details about the city that don't conveniently fit Shinola’s narrative.

Listen, I can stomach hipsters planting flowers written with nice things about Detroit for a dog park one day. I can take $500 quartz watches and a section on their webshop entitled "Curated" that offers American flags that cost more than a brand new car. I can even take ten dollar cold-pressed juices when the city lacks grocery stores. Even those aren't too much of an affront. What I can't take is the white knighting of Shinola's promotional campaigns. The company insists that "Detroit isn’t as bad as it seems"—that there are happy and proud people here too. To demonstrate just how optimistic and amazing Detroiters are, Shinola enlisted Bruce Weber and Carolyn Murphy—both out of towners, both white—to shoot the company’s latest ad campaign. The accompanying video, subtitled "A snapshot of life in the Motor City," features photogenic models pedaling two thousand dollar bikes through the city. Photos of adorable black kids with a beautiful, benevolent white woman seem to be the centerpiece of Weber's campaign for the company. They even have a video of one of the little girls rapping. Bruce Weber is quoted saying, "People were really friendly. They looked you in the eye when they said hello on the street, and they greeted you with a smile." Detroit may be bankrupt, but that doesn't mean its citizens aren't normal, functioning human beings, Bruce.

This idea that people would be surprised by how human and artistic and talented Detroit's citizens are if they just came and visited is ludicrous and emblematic of a new type of gentrification, one that seems even more insidious than what has occurred in, say, Brooklyn. Shinola and other entrepreneurs market themselves as white knights, swooping in to save the noble savages. They help assuage the guilt associated with gentrification and consumerism by pointing out how strong and proud and culturally important the natives truly are—that simply by choosing to be in Detroit, Shinola is somehow better than other companies selling similar products. Shinola is using my city as its shill, pushing a manufactured, outdated and unrealistic ideal of America. And, in that way, the company’s slogan—"Where American is Made"—is more accurate than its owners could have ever hoped.

  • John Lugg

    yusssss.

  • Nerd

    So Moy, what ur actually sayin is: Shinola is a metaphor for Drake.

    Shinola didn’t start from the bottom; Shinola started from Degrassi.
    Shinola isn’t from Orton Park, Toronto; Shinola is from Forest Hill, Toronto.
    Shinola fake as fuck. but we still like him cause he Jewish and raps about saving his sidebitch from his traitor white best friend by using an assortment of high calibre assault rifles to blast thru some struglord russians in balas. also A$AP Rocky is there drinking champagne but he doesn’t help cause fuck you A$AP no new friends.

    • Dillon

      This must be the hardest anyone has ever jerked off for upvotes here.

      • Nerd

        hi drake

    • Diabolus ex Machina

      Mr. Incredible-type reach right here.

  • stfumikep

    Whoa, Moy wrote and didn’t yell. All of this needed to be said and you did it fucking perfectly. Great read.

  • Anthony

    You killed this. Very, very well done.

  • Otis Jackson Jr.

    b u l l s e y e

  • blargh

    Most mechanical movements aren’t unique and proprietary. Most mechanical watches use mainstream, mass-produced movements that are made by ETA (Swatch Group), Sellita (which used to be part of Swatch), Miyota, Seiko, and Sea-Gull. What Shinola is doing with their watches isn’t unusual. Many companies source parts and assemble elsewhere. Shinola is doing more than what many new watch companies do – assembling their own watches.

    That being said, I don’t necessarily disagree with your sentiment. I want to like Shinola, too, but I don’t.

  • Steve Dool

    Preach!

  • Felson

    :Applause: great write up.

  • Bruce

    This hit the nail on the head and pretty much summed up everything a lot of people were thinking + more. Very well written! Easily my favorite four-pins feature to date. Great job!

  • http://BikePretty.com/ Bike Pretty

    ugh, thank you! I wanted to like Shinola too, ’cause their bikes are so so pretty. But I just couldn’t put my finger on my discomfort with the brand.

    Thanks for doing the research into their marketing claims. And for pointing out how gross the Bruce Weber campaign is.

  • bruh bruh

    Thank you bruh, finally sees through Shinolas bullshit. Shinola isn’t Detroit. Give it a couple years people are going to associate these fuckery company with Detroit.

  • Steezy

    “Shinola is a trust fund kid that decided one day he wanted to start a company and had his dad buy him all the cool stuff. And much to my chagrin, all this money seems to paying off.” Jon you’re also describing Revive, please write something about them.

  • Tone

    Then don’t buy their products? Or you can cry about it

  • smalltie7

    But they do hire people in Detroit no?

    • designintheD

      not enough people to make a difference. – a creative local detroiter

      • Mark

        Tell the 150 people that have a job that it’s not enough to make a difference.

        • Elisavet Stefanna Palazzolo

          they barely pay enough to live on ($12 an hr – for a person living on their own, that will hardly pay the rent, utilities & buy food) also they hire thru temp agencies so they dont have to offer benefits, paid days off, sick days etc. they turned down my resume for a completely unknown reason even with my 25 yrs experience in jewlery making – handling small tools & pieces – & yeah im pretty fkn unhappy about it but whatever, shinola. you guys can kiss my unemployed detroit resident ass.

          • exwhatever

            $11/hour actually. Sad stuff.

      • http://djmeph.net/ DJ Meph

        You’d rather have a Walmart?

        • You are a dick

          Walmart would employ more people, and each walmart always donates money to the area in which it resides. So yeah asshole.

          • http://djmeph.net/ DJ Meph

            Walmart pays minimum wage to 90% of their employees. That is so little money that, without a second job, it makes you eligible for public assistance. So no, Detroit does not need minimum wage jobs and exploitative labor practices.

    • http://shinola.com ShinolaBrian

      We have hired over 150 people in Detroit so far, yes.

  • Guest

    And definitely don’t criticize them on r/detroit…

  • Drew

    Also note, and the irony is staggering here, that dog daycare where they are planting the nice things? It used to be a community garden. There was a small community uproar when the daycare acquired the land, removed the garden, and fenced it off so the dogs didn’t escape.

    Please note, I am making no value judgements here, on Shinola, the dog daycare or anything else.

    • http://shinola.com ShinolaBrian

      You’re thinking of another dog park, Drew. The location where we are planting seeds from the Say Nice Things campaign is not located on any dog daycare that used to be a community garden. There is no fence. You’re probably thinking of the location where Canine to Five is located, and this is not the location in question.

      • Jon

        Saw the bad press and decided to make an account to comment on the articles of Four Pines influencers ehh?

        • http://shinola.com ShinolaBrian

          Saw a misinformed comment and came to correct factual errors, nothing more :)

  • http://djmeph.net/ DJ Meph

    Shinola must be doing something right to get all this negative press.

  • Kevin

    Great piece.

  • Dtownhye

    The pet coke in Hubbard Farms is finally warping your brain. Would you have been happier if they were selling 5 dollar plastic watches? Stop bitching and be lucky any company chose to relocate to Detroit. Your articles only solidify your place as a lifelong journalist in online journals that hardly anyone reads…

  • jesscio

    Finally! When the impetus for locating a company is because market research says a pen “made in Detroit” will make more profit than a pen “made in China” all the rest is hype – even rescuing the “noble savage” is secondary to the worship of the almighty buck. Sure, jobs, some jobs, not a bad thing, but exploitation is exploitation.

  • Adaj Parr

    Many of us can’t tell the difference between Sh_t and Shinola. One stinks, the other just as bad!

  • Jennifer Schwab

    So a company opens a manufacturing and retail site in Detroit, hires 150 Detroiters, pays taxes which helps Detroit, and plants flowers to make Detroit prettier and you’re going to shit all over them because…? They’re not “Detroit” enough or something? You’d rather have unending blight and destruction? Because you don’t like so-called “hipsters” loving the city as much as you say you do? Stop being an ass about people actually opening businesses and trying to do the right thing in a city that desperately needs all the love it can get.

    • JM

      You must have missed the overarching point, Shinola claims to be a lot of things, chief of which is being All American, All Detroit. How can they claim that when they don’t manufacture any of the materials needed to assemble their outrageously priced pieces? Also if they cared about Detroit, why is their flagship several states away?

      • Jennifer Schwab

        No, I didn’t miss the point. Would you prefer they made shitty plastic watches that sell for 5 bucks? And you’re saying they can’t care about Detroit because they have another location? They have a business making money in a city that I love. The taxes that they pay goes toward making it a better place. I don’t see why anyone has an issue with them. Is their marketing campaign missing the mark? I’ll concede that much but I can’t hate a business putting it’s money where it’s mouth is in a city that needs it.

        • JM

          They use the same movements those shitty $5 dollar watches use.* What I’m saying is it’s all just a marketing ploy. Would you rather buy a watch that was just assembled china, or one assembled in a city that has the largest debt In history?

          *more like $100-$250 watches.

          • Jennifer Schwab

            I still don’t understand your issue. So, because some of their parts are made elsewhere, they shouldn’t be in business in Detroit? Or because they’re using the “cachet” that being in Detroit brings? So fucking what. Would you rather they be in another city, making money elsewhere? They’re making money for Detroit. They employ Detroiters. What is the freaking problem?

          • MickinDetroit

            The issue is that they are lying..ok…”embellishing”? about the whole raison d’etre of the company. They are not a “Detroit” anything. they are not “bringing back manufacturing” there is nothing in the “craftsmanship” of that watch or their bikes that is done in Detroit. .they are a company that assembles some stuff in Detroit from parts sourced elsewhere.

          • Jennifer Schwab

            This is why we can’t have nice things. Even when someone tries to do good things in Detroit, people shit all over them. Would you be happier if they left and took their tax revenue with them?

          • MickinDetroit

            No. I would be happier if they were what they said they were instead of conning people into overpaying for the stuff they don’t make but simply assemble.

            I don’t think Subaru is an american company because it assembles some cars in Indiana. Why should I think a Texas company, that sources parts elsewhere and slaps them together in a warehouse in Detroit is a “detroit” company ?

          • DB

            Do you have any idea the amount of time that goes into assembling their watches? It’s an art. I can assure you that it’s not just “slapping them together”. Please educate yourself before talking about the matter.

          • MickinDetroit

            how much time does it take to assemble a bike?

          • DB

            They go through different stages. But if one bike were to go through the stages at once it would take several hours give or take.

          • Jennifer Schwab

            I guess some people won’t be happy until the city is run all the way into the ground, leaving nothing left. Then they can claim how they’re so much more “Detroit” than anyone else.

          • MickinDetroit

            I’ll be happy when people who claim to be from Detroit, actually are (bob ritchie… I’m looking at you. too..). That really is all. I’m happy they’re here doing their thing, but it’s not without a huge helping of marketing ploy

            I think one can both bristle at the transparency of it and also acknowledge a net positive to the area…for as long at the marketing holds out that is.

          • mp

            You’re missing the point here. It’s not about running this company out of town. It’s about their disingenuous claims. Nothing more. It’s not even to begrudge their business.

          • Jennifer Schwab

            I’m not missing the point. I’ve agreed that their marketing isn’t great but I don’t believe that they deserve such skewering over it.

          • mp

            It’s more than “not great,” as it’s rather dishonest. The tone of the original article is, indeed, over the top. I agree with that.

          • Brad

            Why is it disingenuous? Few companies forge and assemble their entire product in one location. Most products marketed as ‘Made in..’ are a collection of engineering, mining, and manufacturing in the global economy. Your entire article is based around the concept that ‘globalization makes every manufacturing company full of shit’.

          • d_rek

            Yes. The veneer will run thin and people will start to realize that Shinola is not what they claim to be. At that point Shinola will have to reposition their brand. But by then it will be of little consequence as the initial stakeholders will probably have their investments returned tenfold.

          • d_rek

            The city is already run into the ground! Wake up! A fashionable consumer goods brand isn’t going to turn Detroit around.

          • Jennifer Schwab

            Well then, if that’s how to judge them let’s run all of the auto makers out of town as well.

          • MickinDetroit

            Um. well, Ford is in Dearborn and always has been…. Chrysler is an Italian company now with its HQ in Auburn Hills and its been out there for 25 years…. none of them have a plant in Detroit…other than chrysler with one.

            At least GM has it’s HQ here.

          • DB

            Yet all of those companies you mentioned claim to be from Detroit….

          • MickinDetroit

            …yup… and especially with Chrysler…its become a pretty tenuous link.

            however the history of their founding and development here is why they have the claim… not because they set up an assembly line here last year.

          • Josh Welton

            Chrysler has JNAP and Connor Assembly. I learned my trade at the Mack plants, both in Detroit. One is open the other shut down looks like it’ll be retooled for another engine. Either way, that adds up to more than one.

          • MickinDetroit

            I guess I always thought of those as one entity. can we call it one “complex”?

          • Josh Welton

            Not even fucking close, and when you say something as factually wrong as that it tends to discredit any other argument you’ve made.

          • Guest

            Discredit away. I was thinking only of JNAP and Conner as one thing. I forgot entirely that chrysler still had the Mack & Mt Elliot facilities open. I though those were entirely shuttered when they decamped for AHills.

            Can we agree the Italian company in Auburn Hills is the only Car company that operates any plant in Detroit?

          • Josh Welton

            Connor and JNAP are miles from each other. Mack 1&2 are both newer facilities, built in the late 90s.

            I don’t feel the lines should be that strict. The Big 3 basically built the city and still lead the way in charitable donations. Besides, Dearborn, Warren, Hamtramck, Sterling Heights….not exactly separated by large swaths of land or water. Everything still pretty much runs through the city.

          • jussayin

            At Connor Assembly, do they assemble parts manufactured elsewhere? Did you make similar comments on Chrysler ‘ s SuperBowl ads? We are a little late to start worrying about how authentic our advertising may be

          • JD

            Jennifer, what Shinola products do you own?

          • Jennifer Schwab

            I don’t own any. I’m saving up for a watch though.

          • Guy

            Missing the con here, the watches all say “Built in Detroit”..

          • terencewiig

            Which is apparently accurate – they do build (read: assemble) the watches in Detroit, and make the straps there by hand. So yeah, I don’t get it either. Being offended they use Swiss parts is just nuts, too – of course they do, where else? That’d be like me being offended that I’m wearing shoes made of Italian leather.

          • CookieGugglemanFleck

            Bedrock isn’t the company. Bedrock is the money behind the company. For example, J.Crew was bought by TPG, a Texas VC, in the 2000s, but JCrew was and still is based in NYC. Doesn’t make it a Texas company just because that’s where the money is coming from. That’s how these things work. Innovators come up with ideas and money people fund them. Who gives a fuck where the money is coming from. The company is based in Detroit. Shinola is a company backed by another company. That seems to be confusing people.

          • Keith McCleary

            Yes, but very little, if ANY is coming from China.

            Horween leather is US made. Bike parts made in US. Journals made by a family owned press in Ann Arbor. Watch straps hand made in FL.

            Detroit labor.

            I’m missing why I should be outraged.

          • MickinDetroit

            I don’t think anyone should be “outraged”… but the point you made and I was trying too… there is nothing “detroit” about it but the labor. and even that wasn’t here originally, but had to be taught. There was no deep well of talent here in the watchmaking industry just waiting to assemble watches.

            I’m just saying the whole “detroit” angle is purely marketing and nothing to do with the product’s relationship to “detroit”.

            I imagine the only reason they came to detroit was that they could buy square feet for pennies on the dollar.

          • CookieGugglemanFleck

            Like pretty much every company everywhere. Do you own a Louis Vuitton bag? Or Gucci? Mostly made in China. But a few parts are assembled once it reaches Italy or France and is therefore labeled “Made In Italy”.

          • sensoria

            Cachet.

          • Jennifer Schwab

            Fixed. Thanks.

          • stfumikep

            Hey, you’re from Detroit – we get that. It would be one thing for you to get offended about a city you care about if this article was just bashing Shinola, but that wasn’t the point of the article, nor was any direct hate aimed towards it. They are claiming to be something they are not. If you are too heated to see that, or are simply refusing to see that, that is your problem and no one else’s. The point is, it would be one thing if their questionably high price points reflected a 100% american made product, but that’s not the case. No one is saying “Fuck Shinola for giving Detroit residents jobs!” So please stop resorting back to that as an argument. We (as in people outside of Detroit who appreciate a quality product) are saying don’t claim to be something your not, for a price that isn’t what it should be.

            Calm the fuck down.

          • DB

            Have you ever even touched one of those watches? I can assure you that they are not crappy $5 watches. You could expose literally every company that exists of their “marketing ploys” and how they’re owned by a bigger company. Pretty disappointed with everyone that lives in the D for shaming and not welcoming a great company like Shinola. Do your own research instead of referring to some article you found on the internet that plants hilarious misconceptions into your brain.

          • JDE24 .

            Tag Heuer uses quartz movements like these. Many of which are over $1k.

          • terencewiig

            Omega used to as well (generic ETA, I believe) – and they were far, far more than $1k.

          • Keith McCleary

            JM,

            Obviously you know NOTHING about watches, so please keep your ignorance to yourself, or do some research.

          • terencewiig

            And you’ll see the same (good, but generic) Valjoux movements in some Breitlings and other crazy-spendy pieces in mid-level Longines and even some $1000 Hamiltons. Variance in sticker despite movements has nothing to do with Shinola. That’s just the watch industry.

      • DB

        Do you know what a flagship store is? They have one in multiple states. Also, have you ever been in their factory and seen what goes into assembling a watch?

      • CookieGugglemanFleck

        Their watches are relatively inexpensive. And they don’t manufacture watch parts; they manufacture watches. Assembling parts from other companies is pretty standard in every industry such as, oh, I don’t know–cars?

    • Bruce

      I don’t think the article is bashing what the company is doing for the
      city..its shedding light on the marketing ploy Shinola is using. There’s a reason why the title of the article refers to the company as “Detroit’s White Knight” (the employment + taxes for the city). Moy claims that it is “misguided” because it does appear that they may just be using the heritage of the city to falsify their image when in fact their are many asterisks to their business. Yes, criticizing the price of the product is completely subjective, but I do agree that their marketing effort (while wildly successful) makes them appear as something they’re not. The campaign with Bruce Weber was a prime example of this. It was way too curated.

      • Tim Geoghegan

        Then almost all marketing today is a ‘ploy’, by your definition. Branding is about story and image – and the levels of authenticity vary across every product in every market. In this case, yes, Shinola is leveraging the ‘Made in Detroit’ story to gain authenticity, but a lot of it is backed up – especially compared to many other brands leveraging the ‘Made in Detroit’ badge. All US auto companies, for instance. Where does ‘Detroit’, as the entire US auto industry is referred, get many of the parts that go into ‘Motor City’s’ finest automobiles?

    • Max Westerberg

      You did a great job of interpreting the subtext of this article. Moy’s article is nothing more than a loosely veiled attempt to encourage “unending blight and destruction.” While he writes that the advertising campaign perturbs him I think we all know better. He’s not trying to qualify Shinola’s statements and branding. Moy is just trying to bash American business for being inauthentic!

    • Jimbo Jr.

      His original point of Shinola co-opting the Detroit name to sell their products got lost in his sloppy, angry, race-baiting diatribe. I do agree somewhat with the original point; I think every company and every person should stop trying to sell the Detroit brand. “Made in Detroit” means nothing anymore, at least not to people outside this region. That day is long gone, and it just looks desperate for anyone and everyone who uses it.

      Today, Detroit just a city. It doesn’t just do one thing anymore. It’s a lot of things to a lot of different people and it’s time we stop fighting over the fucking name and start just doing our own damn thing without looking over our shoulder at what everyone else is doing and trying to figure out who has Detroit tattooed on their dick.

      Detroit is just the name of a 143 square mile plot of land. Like any other city, it has black people, white people, employed people, unemployed people, sports fans, music fans, entrepreneurs, homeless, young, old, rich, poor, and some of those groups are larger than others. And many of those groups intersect. And some of them live here. And some only work here. Some drive in from the suburbs and drive back home to the suburbs. Some walk home from work. Some bike. Some drive. Some take the people mover. Some take the bus.

      Detroit is one thing. It’s a 143 square mile plot of land. Let’s fill that space with great things and let those things speak for themselves.

  • Dedangelo

    Your points would have credibility if you had actually bothered to interview the folks at Shinola.

    • jon

      I have interviewed people at Shinola and toured their facilities. It was for an article for another publication that never went to print.

      • jfm

        Why not get their input? Offer them a rebuttal instead of relegating them to comment space. I don’t love or hate them, but I respect them for investing in the D. Big or small, bullshit or not, it’s something. One is only left to imagine why this other article wasn’t published and/or what your agenda is.

  • Patrick

    “This idea that people would be surprised by how human and artistic and talented Detroit’s citizens are if they just came and visited is ludicrous and emblematic of a new type of gentrification”

    No it’s not ludicrous, it’s the truth. People ARE surprised how human Detroit’s citizens can be. If you ever read comments on articles about Detroit, there are constantly comments about how the people of Detroit are the problem. There are people in the suburbs, statewide, and nationwide who won’t even come to Detroit because they think all the people will assault them. I won’t touch the whole “not Detroit enough” portion, but the fact is that these ideas DO exist, and trying to combat them is a GOOD thing, not insulting. The insulting part is that they have to dispel those fallacies.

  • JDE24 .

    It’s like saying the Chrysler 300 is imported from Detroit, yet owned by an italian company. Just because you can poke holes in a case, doesn’t mean you’re doing anything worthwhile.

  • Josh Welton

    This is the kind of race baiting shit that won’t let Detroit get over itself.

    • Jim

      Bingo.

  • http://rmeray.com Ryan Meray

    This article is complete garbage. There’s a mentality in Detroit sometimes as to whether or not stuff takes advantage of Detroit’s perception and exploits it. People constantly wonder whether or not a person or a company is “real” Detroit. No one can really agree on what that constitutes more often than not.

    Shinola is headquartered in Detroit, their office is in Detroit, their factory is in Detroit, they employ Detroit-area people and pay a living wage and use them to assemble their flagship products which can then genuinely be called “made in Detroit.” That’s a lot more than a lot of other products that slap “Detroit” on the label.

    They’re the first company to assemble watches in the US in the last few decades. Their stuff isn’t cheap. So what? You don’t want a luxury good being made in the city, employing Detroiters and paying Detroit taxes?

    Are you stupid?

    • DB

      Thank you.

  • the313

    You do realize that just about everything you have ever bought all use marketing “ploys”, right? From big name designers, photographers, models, actors, etc. Or touting how they’re made in the good ole USA (where we pretty much manufacture NOTHING these days, just assemble crap). Or trying to elicit some sort of ethos by saying their products are hand made in City, State, Country.

    You realize that Tag Heuer’s and other brands sell quartz watches with the same or similar swiss movements at a much higher cost, right?

    You realize that the bike frames are made by Waterford. And that they charge $1500 minimum for just their frame, right? Then add the fork. Then the wheels, tires, bars, gears, seatpost, stem, etc etc etc. But all those companies making their components are just perpetrators of ploys as well.

    This vitriolic piece is less about Shinola, and more about the authors hatred of…the world? Business? Who friggin knows.

    • terencewiig

      And TAG and the rest of them use image even worse – who buying these is really a NatGeo explorer ruggedly commanding a sailboat off the Galapagos? Because that’s been the TAG image for ages (or some kind of competitive driving that dudes in their Panameras are most assuredly not doing during their gridlocked commutes, as they wistfully stare into the faces of their Grand Carreras). Don’t even get me started with Omega, a brand with an insanely storied history, coasting on the whole 007 thing either. So yeah, seriously – marketing stuff is like this. Besides, $550 is not much for an entry watch these days. As in, go price a base Seamaster or Panerai right now and call me when you pick your jaw up.

  • Judge Smails

    Next week on Four Pins…Ford tires aren’t made by Ford, they aren’t Detroit!

  • designintheD

    Can I just say that the debat here isn’t even as interesting as this one on reddit? BurningInDetroit’s commentary is reddit gold. http://www.reddit.com/r/Detroit/comments/2023vi/im_the_community_manager_for_shinola_in_detroit/

  • Drew

    This article is a joke

  • awesometown

    One clarification: The reason the bikes are so expensive is they’re built buy Waterford Cycles ( http://waterfordbikes.com/w/ ) in Wisconsin. Waterford is one of America’s best frame builders and has been building bikes BY HAND in AMERICA since the mid 80s when they built all the top-of-the-line Schwinn frames. So you’ve got Shinola not only employing their own people but keeping a second company open and thriving. You really have a problem with that?

  • Jim

    Hipster blogger tries to out hipster a faux-hipster company.

  • A O Baker

    Dude, Did you take the whole bottle of negative pills? They are trying to do something. Get a life and go seek out some professional help.

  • M

    How many jobs has wack ass Four Pins created in Detroit I’m guessing less than these guys.

  • Guest

    Had to make this after seeing the ridiculous price of some of their stuff. Pulled the jcrew one out of my pocket and it was a mirror image (in fact, the jcrew one had thicker leather)

    • terencew

      The J.Crew case is listed as “import” on their site, and made in China according to reviews. It’s obvious it is Shinola’s goal to produce leather in the US, which yes, you will indeed have to pay for. P.S.: Two tightly-fitted leather cases for an identical device will, yes, likely be “mirror images”.

  • Guest

    After seeing the price of some of their stuff, this had to be made. Pulled the jcrew one out of my pocket and it was a mirror image (in fact, the jcrew one had thicker leather)

    • Chad Brosef

      not sure why two images appeared

    • terencewiig

      Where is the J.Crew case made? It appears Shinola is doing their leather by hand in Detroit. Also, man, are you ever out of touch if you think that’s “hipster”. Real “hipsters” have their shit made in Paris. They pick it up when they’re bored of sitting front row at the shows. I mean, seriously, step it up.

      • exwhatever

        Nope, not by hand in Detroit. That’s a fantasy world.

        • terencew

          “Shinola, the long-defunct shoe polish brand relaunched in 2011 as an upscale U.S.-made watch, bicycle and leather accessories label, opened its own dedicated leather goods factory in Detroit this week.

          One of the stable of brands owned by Santa Monica-based Bedrock Manufacturing, Shinola cut the ribbon Tuesday on a nearly 12,000-square-foot space that the company says by year’s end will employ 60 professionally trained leather workers who will cut and sew tanned leather into the brand’s various watch straps, small leather goods and, eventually, handbags.”

  • Nearby Worker

    It’s hilarious how many people buy this image and their watches. You are all missing something. Many businesses operate in this manner. Consumers are duped constantly. Let the people spend their money. Good for Shinola. I think the name alone should clue you in. It’s not even about Detroit. This is a business designed to make money, from a particular clientele. Not everyone does it this way, but so what? Detroit is being used to someone’s advantage. Boo hoo. The watches look kinda blah and are over priced. Boo hoo. This is happening all over this town and others, in many industries. Let the Swiss make our watches. Oh, they are. There’s probably a reason for that.

  • Toka313

    Gawd, this false binary of “If we criticize Shinola then THEY WON’T BE HERE AND/OR WILL HAVE SHITTY $5 WATCHES” is really tired.

    It’s not race baiting to point out stuff that can be construed as racist. TYVM.

  • Zan

    kill the rich kids

  • http://fuzzytek.tumblr.com/ Stephen Boyle

    Thanks for dissecting the guts of Shinola. They could have started from Detroit and created within rather than importing everything from materials to “new Detroit” workforce.

  • WatchFace

    I’m a watch collector of both vintage and contemporary pieces. The article presents what we watch collectors – who do not necessarily give a rat’s posterior about jingoism, patriotism, Switzerland, Japan, China, or USA manufacturing reputations – have always known about Shinola in that the Detroit branding is used to substantiate a huge mark-up for a generally lower level Swiss quartz movement made by Ronda. The maximum price for a Shinola should be $295-$395 which would be in-line with other watches carrying that movement with a saphhire crystal. Yes, I like the Shinola basic styling. Yes, I like the idea that it can legally carry a Made in Detroit moniker and that it can help employ individuals in need of jobs in an economically depressed area and by doing so help the Detroit tax base. But when all is said and done, certain models of the Shinola watch brand represent a 100% markup. So if you believe that you’re getting a watch whose inherent watch value is $550+, then you are sadly mistaken. If you believe that it’s worth a premium to support Detroit, then buy them like there is no tomorrow and you will be getting your money’s worth for undertaking a noble endeavor.

  • MAC

    Reading these comments has been rather enlightening as to the reason that Detroit is in the shape that Detroit is in. Detroit is not some quaint, fictional municipality built to replicate 1930’s Americana the way Greenfield Village replicates 1830’s Americana. It’s a living, breathing city. So if anyone thinks that Detroit is going to do some Phoenix-from-the-ashes resurrection by relying ONLY on Detroiters to revitalize Detroit, you might as well be living in a Disney-esque Fantasyland.

    If you want to support Detroit businesses that are only owned by people born and raised in the city proper, that’s your prerogative. But it’s not going to improve the city very much. The bottom line is, Shinola could have picked anywhere to open-up shop. There was something that attracted them to Detroit. And if it was that they could sell their watches on the theme of bringing manufacturing back to Detroit, so be it.

    I think the complaints of the “parts” not being American is a little silly. I don’t
    know of any great American manufacturers of watch parts. There’s a small motorcycle manufacturing company located in Cleveland (http://www.clevelandcyclewerks.com/). I read an article on the founder, and he
    would love to source all his parts from the US. The problem is, unless he wanted to order 10,000 units of handlebars (only builds about 150), US suppliers wouldn’t talk to him. So he had to go offshore to find a supplier that would work with much smaller unit purchases. So much for American companies sticking together…

    I just don’t get the thought that Shinola is some big sham where they are supposedly a Detroit company, but really, they aren’t. The assemble their products in Detroit. They employ workers in Detroit. They pay taxes in Detroit, but they still aren’t “Detroit” enough to advertise that they are a Detroit-based company? Those are probably the same people that think the pretty people in McDonald’s ads are the typical clientele for McDonald’s and they “are lovin’ it!” If you thing advertising is about telling the truth, then who really are the naïve ones?

  • Willy

    By all means, let’s run Shinola out of town because they market and sell overpriced crap to any dumb**s willing to purchase it. In fact, let’s just burn them out, then gather a marauding horde with pitchforks and torches to drive all the other evil white gentrifiers out too. That’ll show Detroit for daring to allow businesses to open! Yeah!

    Oh, and I repeat my comment from DeadlineD:
    Who the f**k is Jon Moy, and why do we give a s**t what he has to say?

  • Nicholas Luis Sevilla Zamoyski

    They don’t know shit from shin… oh wait. Snap.

    • http://ComicsPundit.com/ Shawn L.

      I’m stunned it took me this deep into the comments to find this obvious joke told. Rarely do you see such restraint in a comments thread.

  • AxGrinder in da D

    N E won who spend dat mucch for a waach or byke is a FOO

    • terencew

      You do realize that the true “luxury” watch market now starts around 10k USD sticker, no? Shinola is bargain basement by comparison, and it ain’t their fault you don’t know how much shit costs.

  • stattick89

    RGM Watches in Mount Joy, PA manufactures an American-made mechanical movement right now. They do charge accordingly.

  • Uh, Clem

    Love my Shinola Mustang commemorative watch, and I love my Mustang. I figure that within a few years the watch (limited edition) will be worth more than the car, but that’s okay. Is my watch worth $1,000? Not if you’re pricing parts and labor like it’s a toaster. But then, you can’t convince me that a $6,000 Rolex is worth the price, nor that’s any more accurate than my $120 Seiko, or my $50 Timex. And remember, there are watch snobs who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a Rolex instead of their Breitling Bentley Mark IV. In other words, the Shinola is worth what I’m willing to pay.

    Let me know when Mr. Moy hires 150 employees and develops a national following of fans and customers. At that point, he can talk s**t about Shinola.

  • Harold Leese

    Detroit taxpayers are asked to pay more taxes without good paying jobs. Then someone comes in and brings jobs and does not ask for more tax money. This is good news.
    It is time for Detroit to welcome more employers and get people out of office or out of their government jobs, if they want to continue to raise taxes or cut city services or not support the pensions of retired persons.
    See http://savethefueltax.org

  • Larry Hogue

    Maybe someone already said it, but if you want an affordable bike made in the D, you also have the option of Detroit Bikes, with their A-Type. Not to be confused with the Detroit Bicycle Company with their expensive art pieces.

  • Larry Hogue

    There should be battling ad campaigns between Shinola and Detroit Bikes, akin to the Ford vs. Cadillac ads right now.

  • http://charlesfrith.blogspot.com/ Charles Frith

    The name Shinola should have been a clue.

  • http://ComicsPundit.com/ Shawn L.

    So only final assembly is done “In Detroit” but the rest of parts still come from within the U.S.?

    I doubt much of anyone will care about the distinction. It’s not like “From Detroit” is any great status symbol outside of automobiles.

  • BOBOLO

    Jon, if you want to know why a watch with a Sapphire Crystal, Super-Luminova on the dial, a Horween leather strap, high quality case components/finishing, an individually numbered caseback plate, and incredible packaging costs $500+, ….I’d be happy to explain.

    Shinola watches are actually quite a deal if you know anything about watches past quartz vs mechanical, and are comparing apples to apples. As for the marketing? Yeah, Its laid on a little thick but they are a company based in Detroit….assembling in Detroit….supporting Detroit…hiring Detroit….Moving people to Detroit. Your level of criticism is a bit out of proportion on that angle. Be proud that your city is so marketable… not many cities are.

    And if you are upset that Detroit is marketable and going mainstream…. you need to ask yourself who the hipster really is.

  • The Village Mother

    Hey, I get it. 150 or so $8.00 part time jobs is not going to save Detroit. I don’t have a problem with them coming in and making a buck. But who cares if they plant flowers in a dog park. The real Detroiters that I know won’t be buying these products because they are too expensive. I you want to come in and make a buck on the backs of Detroiters and the name of Detroit, then do so. Don’t come in here like you are doing me some big favor. A lot of the problems in Detroit currently seem to be manufactured by the power structure so that they can do exacyly what you are saying. If you and your buddies want to move in and take over, Fine. But don’t claim to be doing me any favors. Thanks for your support of Detroit. and for understanding what is really going on.

  • http://jonathan-peterson.com/ Jonathan Peterson

    So you’re telling me that I shouldn’t buy the (made in Taiwan by Gyes) $95 leather bike saddle http://www.shinola.com/shop/bicycles/bicycle-accessories/mens-saddle-black.html from Shinola, but should buy it from Reno, NV’s Crown Cyles for $68 instead? http://www.crowcycleco.com/gyes/gyes-gs-17a-leather-bike-bicycle-saddle-black-laces.html.

    But SURELY that shinola logo was lovingly hand-stamped in Detroit, giving it AT LEAST $27 worth of good feelings about the rebirth of America?

  • Tim Geoghegan

    I wanted to get angry from this article. I really did. Because one thing I do absolutely hate is when large corporations copy and steal the one thing small indie companies have – authenticity – and co-opt the look and the tone and the atmosphere for marketing purpose. Considering the unfair advantage of scale, I find it a bit unethical.

    In terms of Shinola though – I think it’s just good marketing, which just makes sense – plus it’s not all gloss. At least Bedrock Brands is an American brand, so it’s not as deceptive as some others have been in the same sort of marketing. They’ve even been forthcoming about their sourcing and ownership to any consumer who even scratches the surface of the brand.

    Assembling in Detroit, ie; ‘making’ the product is what is happening here – just like American car makers and any other industry that relies on sourcing ‘parts’ from around the world. They are the chefs choosing the finest ingredients, and those happen to be swiss-made parts without question.

    Does it exploit ‘Made In Detroit’? No, I don’t think so, if they’re making something there and that’s also creating jobs. Does it leverage the aura of a bygone ‘feel good time of American manufacturing’? Yes. But what doesn’t today, from artisanal coffee to artisanal shoes to this handcrafted, bespoke post I just created for you?

    So, I think in this case, it’s more win-win; smart and shrewd marketing acumen + backing it up with real jobs.

    [ "People picked the Chinese pen over the USA pen because it was cheaper," he said. "But when offered the Detroit pen, they were willing to pay the higher price point." ] More here: http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20120527/FREE/305279963/fossil-founder-digs-the-d#

  • Bradford C.

    Thank you. Well said. Agree. The Shinola tag line should instead read “Where One City’s Misfortune Is Another Corporation’s Profit”

  • Ron

    It is a nice watch, perhaps a little overpriced for a quartz movement. However, it is a start and is putting some people back to work-in Detroit. Timex is foreign, Cross pens are Chinese and Parker pens (Jotters) are French soon to be Chinese, per my understanding. No more Schwinn bikes. And, the list goes on. I am 64 years old and I remember when just about all that we owned was American made. I miss those products. My guitars are American, so are my amps. So are my walking shoes. And, I like my Shinola watch….

  • Ted Houser

    I agree with what the author is saying here, but how much of their business is just ‘standard operating procedure’ of a luxury brand? I find the way many luxury brands run their business as obnoxious, like those Lexus ‘buy a car for Christmas’ ads. Why should a Detroit luxury brand be any less obnoxious? Is it all that surprising that their branding is 80% smoke and 20% fire? At least they disclosed their holding company.

  • terencewiig

    Bashing an American company for daring to use Swiss watch parts when assembling watches in-house is completely insane. Where else would they – or anyone with their head screwed on straight – want those parts to come from?

  • Jonathan Branch

    Might it be that the focus is not solely Detroit but rather Made in America. While other brands have indicated their desire to buy in America and use American made products, most if not the very large majority of this chatter has been idle puffery. At the end of the day competitive costing is a reason not to buy American or the allure of Italy or Germany or Switzerland is too strong. Shinola has apparently done all they can to be American Made. Whether new jobs are created in Michigan or Wisconsin or California or Florida are they not all American jobs giving work to American laborers? Is one state more important than another?The last time I looked Chicago is in Illinois and Largo is in Florida and Detroit is in Michigan and all three are in America. In every city where a vendor to Shinola is located jobs have apparently been created. Maybe the emphasis on Detroit is not where it should be but rather on America. I cannot see how that changes anything. Frankly built in America goes an awfully long way on its own and those working in all of the other cities and states appreciate that they are working and that they are not in Detroit means nothing to them or their families or their state legislators. The playing field is larger than Detroit, but if that is what the campaign is about, so be it. As long as they are spreading the wealth. Made in America by American workers and Assembled in Detroit. It seems that is all true.

  • CookieGugglemanFleck

    Oh boy. First of all, if LV can say its bags are made in France or Gucci in Italy, then Shinola can say its watches are made in Detroit. Much of what is “made” is done so through assembly of pieces made by other companies. Shinola makes watches and bikes, not watch and bike parts? See the difference? GM cars are made up of parts from several other companies.

    Second, their offices are based in Detroit and so are their facilities. The money people are in Texas–not exactly a novel or predatory idea.

    Lastly, $500 for a watch and $2000 for a bike isn’t considered “luxury” by anyone in the industry. It would be considered designer price points. If Hermes opened a boutique in Detroit and started lauding itself as a savior, I’d raise my eyebrows and accuse them of being tone deaf. But a watch shop with Swiss Army prices isn’t exactly shocking.

  • hillmad

    I’m sorry, but all I keep thinking is the old expression of someone not knowing “shit from Shinola.” Shinola was a once-popular brand of shoe polish (in the 1940s), which had a color and texture not unlike feces.

  • Martin Leaf

    I kind of agree with Moy based on the bike aspect of the business. The bikes seem to be way way overpriced based on performance (not considering style).

    Would I buy a ten year old computer if it looked really cool? No.

    A bike in keeping with what made Detroit great, would allow for using an electric motor for very long commutes, or uphill, but at the same time be lightweight so that the pedaling aspect was still viable. The world could use this.

    Detroit was greatest when the technology/price combination was unbeatable, and it was for a time.

  • Bustercat

    two things at play here — a replacement of factory jobs with marketing jobs, and a deep mistrust of american industry.
    Check it: with manufacturing haemorrhaging over the past couple of decades, one of the few ‘good’ jobs left is creative — such as the marketing behind shinola. And ultimately marketing is truth massaging. Of course in smells like BS, it’s not stuff, it’s the feelings surrounding stuff. Marketing is supposed to bend the branch to bring good fruit to the consumer… in America’s case, there’s not much on the tree and a lot of bending.
    At the same time, several generations now have grown up to be highly mistrustful of the evils of corporate America, meaning that we reflexively view business here with ALOT more mistrust than in other countries. There haven’t been factories using child labor here for over a century, yet we buy from places that have in the last 20 years, while complaining about ‘assembled’ vs ‘made.’
    In short, all we have left is bs-selling, yet we have an extremely anti bs segment of the public. not good.
    I’ll buy one of these if they raise their price point to 1k, and ditch the quartz for ETA. That’s not asking mutch.

  • Richard Rylie

    I agree, their watches are garbage to be absolutely honest. I’m not paying $800 for a non-mechanical watch (quartz) watch.