This article was authored by Alexis Zimberg.
The College for Creative Studies’ A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education building (formerly, the Argonaut) is no stranger to innovation. In 1926, General Motors used the building as its primary research center. During World War Two, the 59,000 square foot space produced the American jet fighter. And just this year, this buildings on the National Register of Historic Places gained Shinola as a tenant. Shinola (yes, the pronunciation might encourage nostalgia for a certain turn-of-the-century shoe-shine) re-introduces the City of Detroit to the softer and more personal side of the manufacturing industry. Owned by Bedrock Manufacturing and RONDA, AG (also behind the Fossil brand), Shinola hand-produces high-end watches, state-of-the-art bicycles, and baby-soft leather goods.
The Shinola team’s attention to detail is immaculate (it is, after all, a high-end company run by posh and articulate design graduates/ seasonal New Yorkers). What was once an empty warehouse, similar in appearance to all the other empty warehouses across Detroit, is now a space for both creation and exhibition. Reaching to local resources, Shinola hires CCS students to design everything from the company's twelve-seat reclaimed-wood conference table to the antique-filled cabinets lining its lobby. The sterile-white and dust-free portion of the factory where hired students and locals (job creation!) hand-produce watches is organized with a semi-neurotic attention to aesthetics and clean lines. With a bicycle assembly storefront opening in Midtown and products hitting retail stores by Spring 2013, Shinola reclaims the excitement of last year’s “Imported From Detroit” Superbowl advertisements with an updated vigor.