DETROIT — Shinola, known for its Detroit-built watches, bicycles, journals, leather goods, and shoe polish, Tuesday formally opened the doors of its in-house leather factory.
Shinola’s leather factory has begun by producing a portion of Shinola’s leather watch straps, and will expand to small leather goods and eventually handbags.
Shinola said the leather factory is another step in its efforts to “reshore” American manufacturing — now, of leather goods. The company said that in 2013, 88.4 percent of the demand for United States leather goods was met by imports, a number that is forecast to rise to 91.7 percent by 2018. In handbags, a $12.8 billion-a-year industry, U.S. manufacturing accounts for less than $500 million of sales.
“We are proud to continue our growth in Detroit and the opening of our leather factory is a very important step for us,” said Steve Bock, CEO of Shinola. “The more we can manufacture at Shinola, and the more we can manufacture in Detroit, the better. Investing in our people, equipment and facilities is essential to our long-term success.”
Similar to Shinola’s partnership with the Swiss watch movement maker Ronda AG for its watch factory, Shinola has partnered with Braloba, a Swiss family owned business that has been making leather goods for two generations. Braloba’s expert craftspeople provide leadership and training to Shinola’s leather workers.
In addition, Shinola announced a partnership with Galli S.P.A., an Italian leather goods machine company, to design and produce an innovative line of custom-built machines for Shinola’s leather factory — the first of its kind in the world.
“We’re proud to have built highly innovative, world-class equipment for Shinola’s new leather factory,” said Carlos Galli, of Galli S.P.A. “Leather watch straps demand more precision and care to make than handbags, wallets, or even boots. They are the most difficult and complex leather goods to produce.”
The nearly 12,000 square foot factory launched with a team of approximately 50 professionally trained leather makers led by Paloma Vega-Perez, formerly with a French manufacturer of luxury goods. By year’s end the number of employees will rise to about 60.
Along with the addition of leather manufacturing, Shinola also recently boosted the size of its watch factory with two new lines. Since the company’s inception in 2011, Shinola has employed 260 people, with 136 people in bicycle, watch, and leather manufacturing.