From Waste to Wonder

BY Danielle Zito

Shinola’s new collaboration with Daylight Factory transforms leather scraps into crafty ornaments this holiday season.

Woodward Avenue is the birthplace of Detroit’s cruising culture and the soul of the automobile industry. It was here where young carriage drivers once raced each another from tavern to tavern. Henry Ford’s first plant was built within eyeshot of it. Engineers, looking for open road to test cars under development have called this roadway home.

Woodward is also where Darrin Brouhard found the name for his business. While driving this road with his wife, they saw those classic old-time production facilities fitted with ample windows—a feature not always present in modern manufacturing plants.

“We were looking at some of the old buildings and my wife called them ‘daylight factories,’” recalls Darrin Brouhard. Daylight Factory, carrying an authentic ring and a deep meaning, is what he named the leather workshop and studio he started in 2018.

Brouhard’s business may be three years old, but its operating philosophy reflects a century-old German tradition of utilizing the entire arsenal of an artist’s imagination and skill to guide the crafting process.

“It’s a Bauhaus concept,” he said. “Designing things that can be made easily and doing it in the daylight.” Traditional leather crafting techniques are essential to making beautiful leather goods that are made to last–but so is creativity.

Brouhard has been sewing things his whole life, making clothing or costumes when he was young and honing those skills as a pattern and sample maker. He earned his fine arts degree from the College for Creative Studies (CCS). He’s lived in the Detroit area his entire life.

His journey to opening a Detroit-area business received a boost when his friend and mentor, Lincoln Wolfe, gave him a collection of leather-working equipment that Wolfe had been saving for a couple decades. Two weeks later, Wolfe passed away at age 65, bequeathing Brouhard the tools and inspiration needed to venture out and fill a gap in the market.

Wolfe and Brouhard first met while Wolfe was a consultant to Shinola, and Brouhard was working as a sample maker in its leather shop. Brouhard shared Wolfe’s passion for mentorship, helping launch the Fashion Accessories and Design program at CCS in collaboration with Shinola back in 2015.

These days, Brouhard is solely focused on the Daylight
Factory. The company offers 360-degree fashion accessory services, from design to sketches to tech packs and sampling, all the way through to small production runs. A leather auto cutter he acquired allows his team to combine traditional techniques with modern technology, resulting in increased output without sacrificing quality.

That’s a good thing because Darrin has had no shortage of work. He’s hired five employees—almost all being graduates from the CCS program he helped create. He’s also forging partnerships, including a new collaboration with his former employer.

Darrin sewing a leather ornament at a sewing machine
leather prepared to be cut into shape

This holiday season, Daylight Factory is teaming up with Shinola to offer a collection of ornaments made from high-quality leather that couldn’t be used for bigger goods, such as bags.

Repurposing leather scraps was the brainchild of Gabrielle Aldridge, Shinola’s senior manager of product design & development. She was looking for a way to repurpose perfectly good pieces of material that would otherwise lie around the company’s Detroit headquarters. After playing with a few ideas, Aldridge knew who to call.

Various leather ornaments

Brouhard’s ornaments were inspired by items true to the world of Shinola—a bicycle, a turntable, an apple, and a stocking that can be personalized with monogramming.

When crafting these ornaments, Darrin and his team incorporated thoughtful details for which Daylight Factory has become known for. For example, the rivet construction used to create the bicycle and turntable ornaments allow the wheel and record to spin—a small touch that makes them unique.

As for his favorite ornament in the collection? “I have a Shinola bicycle, so making the bike was very nice.” Everyone in his family is an avid cyclist.

Using Shinola’s leather excess, Daylight Factory was able to produce roughly 500 items for the capsule collection that are now available for purchase exclusively in Shinola’s retail stores.

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