Monday, October 12, 2015
Imperial Stock Ranch is a family owned operation stretching across more than 30,000 acres near Maupin, Oregon. Shinola partnered with Imperial Stock Ranch, owned and operated by Dan and Jeanne Carver, to source yarn and shearling for some of this season’s new apparel and accessories. To celebrate the collaboration, we sat down with Ms. Carver to discuss sustainability, creativity in the marketplace, and the reverence and weight that comes with stewarding a heritage ranch.
In the high desert near Maupin Oregon, Jeanne and Dan Carver have built a life around listening to the land and stewarding its resources. Carrying on a ranching legacy that stretches back over 140 years, the couple guards and guides a harvest that continues to supply for humankind.
Only four individuals have owned and operated Imperial Stock Ranch since its founding during the western migration in 1871; Dan Carver is the fourth – taking ownership in 1988.
Running a heritage ranch that spans 32,000 acres has been humbling for the two Oregon natives. "You often wonder if you're up to the task. You consider your decisions and hopefully make them very intentionally for the better good of everything,” Ms. Carver said.
The couple’s decisions have demonstrated an impactful commitment to sustainability. In many ways, the couple looks to the land as a leader.
"We pay attention to how Mother Nature does things and hope to do a better job of replicating that," Ms. Carver said.
Which is why the Carvers were grievously alarmed when, in 1999, only two salmon returned to spawn in a major creek on the ranch. "It was a giant wake-up call that all was not well," said Ms. Carver.
Mr. Carver made modifications in practices at the ranch, moving to a broad-based rotational grazing system, strategically placing salt and mineral supplements in new locations and developing off-stream, high-up watering points for livestock and wildlife. By converting to a new style of farming that builds soil instead of losing it, the Carvers began reversing the effects that were destroying the habitat for spawning fish. In just over two decades, the salmon returned to the creeks in record numbers.
Mr. Carver's lifelong commitment to “see the earth win," has been a beacon for the Carvers. Serving as a secure foundation when, in the 1990s, dramatic shifts in favor of industrialization, consolidation and offshoring shook up the market for raw wool and threatened their sheep operation. By the end of the decade, around 26,000 sheep producers in the US were out of business.
Ms. Carver felt the impact personally.
"In 1999, we called our long-time wool buyer to sell the wool as we always had,” she explained. “That's when we heard from him, 'Gee, I'm really sorry, folks, but we're not buying any more. We're heading offshore like everybody else.'"
In an instant, a 100-year business relationship came to an end. The buyer was gone.
“Here you have a year's harvest -- a beautiful, natural, renewable, sunlight harvest that's been giving warmth to man, clothing and shelter since 10,000 B.C., but people were telling us they didn't want it anymore, " Ms. Carver said.
The pair faced a choice: find a new market for what the sheep provided or see them removed from the landscape.
Ms. Carver was devastated at the thought of banishing creatures that preceded them on the earth by tens of thousands of years. She was determined to find a solution, realizing that while the wool buyer was gone, the market for wool products was not. She didn’t need to abandon the harvest; she needed to get creative.
Jeanne established a partnership with a tiny textile mill, the closest operation to the Ranch (180 miles away).
"We became their biggest customer immediately. I got some yarn made. I only had one color, natural, and I tried to sell by word of mouth," Ms. Carver said. "I didn't know anything about the apparel industry. I didn't know anything about trade associations. I only knew that sheep mattered; that the ranch's history mattered. That the land certainly mattered and we needed to find a way forward."
This shift was monumental. The Carvers were no longer strictly providing wool as a commodity resource but in the form of a manufactured product – yarn. Customers gravitated to Ms. Carver’s efforts. Even those with no use for yarn wanted to purchase her products because they believed in what she was doing. Creating a new opportunity that spurred Ms. Carver to begin looking for craftspeople to make goods from the yarn.
"I said, 'let's just put it in a few stores,'" Ms. Carver explains. A few stores led to boutiques across the region which led to a national clothing retailer. In the 2014 Winter Olympics, the US team wore sweaters by Ralph Lauren knit of yarn from Imperial Stock Ranch.
Today, the Carvers have become ambassadors of slow-wear to the fashion industry. Blazing new territory in consumer-resource connectivity by connecting the tactile experience of running the ranch to the consumers who purchase their wool and other products made from their harvested fibers.
By hosting ranch tours and producing goods that enter the market still carrying the story of the ranch, the Carvers are sharing the richness of a life connected to the earth and its resources with consumers who live far from the high desert.
"For us, it's never been different. All these harvests are gifts of creation. Whether you eat it (food), or wear it (clothing), or live in it (shelter), you recognize it’s a gift." Ms. Carver explained. "It’s life to all of us, but it’s even deeper. It’s life to the spirit."
Shop Shinola Products Made in Collaboration with Imperial Stock Ranch: Here.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
As part of our #LoveMyCity campaign, we’ve been asking creators and influencers all across America to tell us what makes their towns so special, by using the hashtag #LoveMyCity. Pride, we feel, is something that drives culture, style, and, for us, it’s the lifeblood of a maker and manufacturer. And while Nick Cave isn’t from southeast Michigan — Detroit, the artist says, “gave him his soul” as a performer.
Friday, July 31, 2015
Shinola’s partnerships with the Michigan Humane Society and photographer and professed animal lover, Bruce Weber, have taught us a few things; there’s nothing like the unconditional love of a pet, heroes come in many sizes, and, most of all, when you bring home a pet from the shelter they’re guaranteed to become the hero in your life.
In honor of our four-legged companions, and Shinola’s latest collection of American-built pet gear, we sat down with some of our team members to bring you the tales, and tails, of their heroes.
Monday, July 13, 2015
In honor of Men’s Fashion Week, and Shinola’s inaugural collection by co-Design Directors of leather accessories, Richard Lambertson and John Truex; we’re bringing you a behind-the-scenes look at the people and processes behind Shinola’s handcrafted leather.
Monday, July 6, 2015
Shinola’s Summer Movie Series is in full swing, and we’ve lined up some of the most iconic feature flicks at amazing outdoor venues all across the U-S of A. Take a look at what’s coming up, and be sure to join us for some classic films, Shinola Cola and more movie madness all summer long.
Friday, June 26, 2015
On the heels of our latest brick-and-mortar shop, now open on South Main Street in Ann Arbor, we sat down with Kevin Pearson and Eric Hardin—founders of downtown menswear mecca, Today Clothing—to get their take on the must-try-see-and-do destinations in and around their fair city.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Kent and Lee Begnaud are the husband and wife duo behind Leather Works Minnesota. In honor of the National Day of Making (today), and in the spirit of our Makers Monday interview series, we asked them six questions about their products and what it means to be an American Maker. Check out Shinola’s Double Wrap Bracelet made by Leather Works Minnesota, and discover more Makers on the Makers Monday website.
What is it you make, and what should people know about your products?
We’re just interested in being happy. We like the small family business atmosphere where we all know each other and get along really well. We love how the European companies do it where it’s the same people who’ve been running a family business for a couple hundred years. It doesn’t need to become this massive corporation. Here in America we sort of think “bigger, bigger, bigger,” or “more, more, more.” We find that people get unhappy really fast when they try to do too much but we’re pretty happy with where we are.
Our focus is on small leather goods. Personally, I don’t like fabrics in wallets. That’s usually the first thing that wears out. I’m not saying we’ll never put a fabric in a wallet but a lot of times, it’ll look really nice when you buy it and six months later it’s falling apart. We definitely don’t want to be a part of that group.
We typically use a heavier leather on our products than you usually get out of the store. My wife has a saying she coined: ‘with our stuff, the ugliest it will look is the day you buy it because the more you use it the better it gets.’ You know, with most products it’s the other way around.
It’s also important we tell our customers where get our leather from. We get all of our leather from the Red Wing Shoe Tannery and people love the fact that the leather is made in the same place and some of it is the exact same leather that they are already wearing in their boots.
When did you commit to making your products in America and why did you choose to do it here?
Well, with the first leather shop that I worked for, it was a very healthy company; it was doubling every three years and our last year we were probably doing $12 million. So it was doing well, everybody was happy, but when the new owners bought it they had investors and of course they just wanted more money. So they took this American company that was perfectly healthy and took it to China so they could get more money.
So when that happened, I told Lee, ‘I’m going to bring it back to America, I’m going to start my own!’ So it was me and my old $300 sewing machine out in the garage sewing. Now we have four people that work for us and I’m so happy with the size. I don’t really have any dreams to grow; we could probably double if we wanted to, but I don’t want to. We’ll see what the future hold but I think to control the quality and the relationships we have with each other, I like the way it is.
Where is your business located, and what makes your town uniquely American?
We’re in St. Paul, Minnesota. It’s kind of a low-key, laid back area that has just gotten more and more popular over the last few years. They just revitalized the 1920s Union Depot Station so they are running trains again. They put in a light rail system now. They also just built the new Saint’s stadium and that’s like an AA size stadium. It’s just a few blocks over from us here, it’s beautiful.
Between that, the new restaurants and all the artists, it’s pretty good. All the buildings are filled with artists, they are just artists’ lofts; you have to be an artist to live here or work here. Or you have to pretend to be one.
What got you started, and what was the first thing you remember making?
Back in the late 1970s, a friend of mine from high school had a great leather shop just up the street from here. I used to work for him and it was just he and I. He was a really good businessman; he turned it into a multimillion-dollar corporation and we had about 50 employees. In ‘97 he sold the company and I was managing the manufacturing at the time. In ‘99 the new owners took all of the manufacturing and went offshore with it, taking it all to China.
At that time I had a little empty garage in our backyard and we turned that into our shop. I just started making handbags and wallets and stuff. About 4 years ago, the men’s products really caught on so since then and because of social media, it’s been growing ever since. It’s been everywhere!
When you’re not busy at work, where might we find you? What do you like to do with your spare time?
Exploring Lowertown, definitely! They have a long-standing farmer’s market that’s right across the street from us that’s been going on for years on the weekends. It’s a really great place to be. That’s Lee’s happy place: the farmer’s market.
Lowertown is really the art district of St. Paul. We’re in our third year here but since 1999 we’ve been working out of our backyard. There are a lot of great musicians down here and all that so it’s just a really happening place.
Are there other brands and makers that inspire you?
I like Tanner Goods, and there’s this guy from Japan and his business is called Dulles Club; I want to go work for that guy. It’s a one-man show. He makes handmade, leather doctor bags and different custom cases and I’ve never seen finer work than what he’s doing! He even makes the hardware for his stuff like the brass for the handle. It’s amazing.
Just imagine like the most amazing, most creative piece of sushi, and that’s what he does with leather. Every stitch, every… every piece is just amazing. He makes his own tools that he makes the leather with.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Shinola's partner project with Jocks & Nerds continues this weekend with the latest installment of our Community of Craft Pop-Up Series, featuring Bellerby & Co. Globemakers.
Monday, June 15, 2015
With Father’s Day just a week away it’s time to get serious about your gifting strategy. And we want you to think outside the tie.
This year, give your father the gift he’ll eventually give to his grandchildren.
Tools, two wheels, and timepieces, built to last.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
Twin Magazine has teamed up with Shinola to bring a bit of Motor City over to London. In celebration of Twin's 12th issue, our soho shop is hosting a release party featuring the iconic work of Detroit-born photographer Don Hudson. Their 12th edition is all about attitude, and in this archival collection, Hudson captures soulful spirit and enduring attitude of the city and people of Detroit.
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