Living la Vida Shinola

Shinola is on a tear. The past few weeks have seen the Detroit-based watchmaking brand open a store in London, a pop-up shop in Washington, D.C., and, as of Friday, a store in Los Angeles. Located in the neighborhood of Silver Lake, the L.A. boutique is, like all of the brand’s retail locations, a study in visual merchandising.

The palms of Sunset Boulevard reflected in the windows of Shinola’s new L.A. store

On Friday, my boyfriend, Jim, and I popped by the new space, which had its soft opening that day, and admired the expertly curated merch. The store features artful displays of books, leather goods, and accessories crafted in the well-made American tradition. There was even a Shinola- branded bottle opener and a thick wool Shinola blanket placed on a fetching leather armchair.

The branded merch at Shinola includes a thick wool blanket.

Creative director Daniel Caudill was in town for the opening; he once lived just a few miles from the store, which is located on a quickly gentrifying stretch of Sunset Boulevard. As we drank Shinola-branded bottles of cola, he showed us a photo on his phone: the party in Shinola’s D.C. temporary holiday store happening that very night, a scene of wall-to-wall people.

If and when you visit Shinola at one of its retail locations (in addition to the stores noted above, the brand has digs in Detroit, New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood, and Minneapolis, and Chicago is coming soon), take note of the merchandise: The watches for which the brand is known are displayed in trays and showcases sprinkled throughout the store, but they are hardly the focal point. The emphasis is on the Shinola lifestyle, from the pet accessories (leashes, dog pillows, chew toys) that were introduced at a big event in Detroit in June in collaboration with the photographer (and dog lover) Bruce Weber, to the stylish, premium-priced bikes that hang from the rafters.

The inside of Shinola’s new L.A. store

That said, the brand is sparing no resources when it comes to expanding its watch expertise. Just this morning, Shinola announced the opening of a new dial-manufacturing operation in Detroit. Experts from the Taiwanese company BAT Ltd., makers of dials for more than 30 years, will train Shinola’s Detroit-based team on the art of dial manufacturing, reviving an industry that hasn’t been performed on American shores at scale for decades.

A couple weeks ago, when I stopped by Shinola’s New York headquarters, I got a sneak peek at the spring 2015 watch styles that will put all of that know-how to use. The Birdy, one of the brand’s two dedicated ladies models (the other being, ahem, The Gomelsky), will come in a palette of muted shades, including periwinkle, sage, and orchid. 

The Gomelsky will also be reinvented for spring 2015. Featuring thicker, more colorful leather straps and a restyled watch face, my namesake model will also feature an exciting new complication (under embargo for the time being). The refreshed collection is part of a bigger emphasis on feminine styles for Shinola, which has heretofore focused most of its innovation on the manly Runwell model (including a popular pocket watch limited edition that’s said to be selling briskly).

Limited edition Shinola pocket watches 

Consumers, journalists, and branding experts are besotted with the brand—and not for nothing. Check out this insightful Washington Post article on Shinola’s ambitious and successful branding strategy.

I am, of course, a little biased. When I walked into the L.A. store on Friday afternoon sporting The Gomelsky on my wrist, I introduced myself to the sales associates, who had all heard the story and asked to take my photo. It never gets old!

Me in front of Shinola’s new L.A. store

On a personal note, I’m writing this post from my favorite hideaway in Mexico: Las Rocas Resort & Spa, where I’ve been seeking refuge for the better part of a decade. Situated on a rocky outcropping just a few miles south of Rosarito in Baja California, the resort is Mexico at its best: cheap, good, and utterly gorgeous.

The view from our room at Las Rocas

I’m here until Wednesday; then it’s back to L.A. to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. Have a great long weekend and a fantastic start to the 2014 holiday season. Look for a full report on Black Friday sales on JCKonline.com next week!