Shinola stays winning. In just five short years, they’ve established themselves as a leading purveyor in quality American-made goods, designing and manufacturing everything from handsome military-style watches to covetable bicycles, stationery and leather goods at their Detroit headquarters.
Now, the upstart label has begun to make a serious splash on the brick-and-mortar retail scene, too. Shinola’s first Canadian flagship opened its doors in Toronto last week on the corner of Queen and Ossington, and it’s an absolute gem: a light-filled industrial space with warm touches of leather furniture, portraits of employees, a hanging installation of their slick bicycles, and blonde wood display cases to show off their latest wares.
We sat down with Daniel Caudill, Shinola’s creative director, on opening day to ask him about the brand’s roots in Detroit, managing cohesive design and product development, and how the Hogtown location came to be.
What’s it like living in Detroit, and how have you seen the city change since Shinola was founded?
Detroit is amazing. It’s like everyday there’s something like a new restaurant or a new gallery opening. It’s an exciting time to be there. There are a lot of amazing artists and young people moving to the city, which always creates a level of excitement and freshness. There are also a lot of large corporations that are investing Detroit and doing some amazing things. And then there are startups, like Shinola, that are putting roots down there. So it’s all of it, from restaurants to artists and big companies to small companies. Honestly, it has changed so much in the past year and the year before that and the year before that. It’s just continuing to change and it’s pretty cool.
How have you managed to build and perfect Shinola’s aesthetic — this blend of heritage design that still feels very modern and current?
Well I’m always pushing the brand in a modern direction. We see ourselves as a design brand and we always want to have longevity. I don’t want you to want something new in six months, I want you to want to replace this in six years or ten years or sixty years. We’re always looking on the modern side, but we’re inspired by classic design.
Has the growth in Shinola’s product line — from watches, to bikes, to paper products, to leather goods — been organic or more of a strategic plan?
It may seem sporadic, but it’s not. It’s very much thought out, everything, every part. All of it is predicated on manufacturing — there’s probably 15 things I could mention off the top of my head that we want to make, that’s on the list of things, but then it’s really about what we can make. We’re launching audio this year, starting with a turntable around the holidays and then headphones next year, expanding it out. Our turntable is really, really, really cool. So we built a factory in Detroit where we’re assembling turntables. It’s so difficult and so costly to build out a factory and you have to be very calculated about what you do because we can’t do too much.
What is something else you’d like to make but haven’t been able to yet?
We want to make a toaster. Like we really, really want to make a Shinola toaster. We have designs. You can see it, you know? You can see a cool Shinola toaster. Just like the turntable. I was talking to someone this morning and told him we’re doing turntables, and he was like, ‘Oh, I can already picture it.’ And he described it to me exactly. You can always tell when something is a Shinola product, and we won’t make anything if we aren’t proud of it.
How did you approach picking Toronto as the next city for Shinola to expand into, and how did you settle on this space for your first here?
When I was a stylist, I worked here a lot because there are always a bunch of music videos shot here. I’ve also vacationed here a couple times — I’d come in for the weekend and hang out, because I could come in from New York and visit friends. I was very familiar with it, and so it was cool to come here looking for real estate, become educated about the neighbourhoods and what was happening. As for the actual space, for me it’s about finding an emotional connection — I loved the lightness and the airiness of the store, and it had so much character inside and out. This building is so cool; I love it and I hope that we did right by it. We’ve been excited about Toronto for a long time and we’ve been excited about the space for a long time, so we’re happy to be here.