Detroit is finally getting its due. Launched last year, the resurrected Shinola brand (yes, as in the shoe polish your grandparents didn't know shit from) assembles everything from bicycles and watches to leather goods and notebooks in its factory in downtown Detroit, where the company's first store opened last month.
For its New York flagship (now open at 177 Franklin Street in Tribeca), Shinola tapped architect and interior designer David Rockwell (Kodak Theatre, Nobu, W Union Square) to bring Big-Apple energy to its traditional product.
The expansive brick-walled space has a distinctly industrial feel, which lends itself to Shinola's mission of "reawakening of America's manufacturing legacy," as Rockwell puts it. The look registers in warm wood tones and white-washed brick that's adorned on the most prominent wall with a world map rendered in bronze.
"The biggest challenge was creating a retail environment that was truly synergistic with the products," says Rockwell. The store, which blends 1930s industrialism with clean minimal lines to "highlight but not compete with" the product, includes multi-purpose features like a series of white display shelves that double as stadium seating for store events.
"One of the most satisfying moments [of the design process] was seeing our installation of a Shinola bicycle in the space," says Rockwell. "We designed a display system where the bike is suspended below the atelier skylight between two columns using custom bronze hardware and black nylon rope." The display, he says, is emblematic of "the fluid relationship between the brand, product, and space."
Other furnishings, like simple oak display tables designed by Pennsylvania-based Walters Custom Cabinetry and chairs by Brooklyn's Uhuru studio bolster local bragging rights while lightening up the heavy industrialism.
"The most important thing was creating an inviting space where you could come in and feel comfortable about touching things," says the brand's creative director, Daniel Caudill.
Shoppers could easily while away an entire afternoon flipping through magazines and nibbling pastries at the onsite Smile Newsstand. The café—which looks like it fell out of a 1940s film noir, complete with marble counters and soft wood molding—cultivates the feeling of "curiosity" that Rockwell was going for. "The store and café have many layers of detail and features that can morph and change throughout the day, which encourage customers to linger and explore the space."
Should you find yourself looking up at the brass library lights or climbing the spiral staircase and longing for a simpler time, that's precisely the point. "There's a renewed interest among designers and consumers in handcrafted American-made goods," says Rockwell. "We wanted the design to celebrate the mythology of industrialism."
But it's more than mythology, according to Caudill, who claims the brand's larger aim is to lure manufacturing back to the States. "The goal of this brand—our success, our hope—is that there are small cottage industries that spring up around us."
Visit Shinola at 177 Franklin Street, NYC. www.shinola.com.
—Blair Pfander. Follow her @blairpfander.
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