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August 31, 2017


Detroit Leather Team's newest accomplishment: The Mini Drawstring Bag

The Mini Drawstring handbag (pictured above)

August 31, 2017

Shinola’s Detroit leather factory isn’t the type of place where automated machines do all the work. From leather hide to finished product, there are ten artisans meticulously completing 39 steps to build just one Mini Drawstring. This new handbag is the direct result of Shinola’s dedication to learn the skills needed to increase in-house production.

Read more to learn about the team who put this bag together.

The leather team behind the Mini Drawstring bag.

Each Mini Drawstring is made entirely in our Detroit leather factory using American leather and imported hardware. This team uses labor-intensive methods and controls hi-tech, custom-made machinery to fulfill demanding production quotas. Since our leather factory opened three years ago, we’ve gradually increased in-house production as our team’s skills have grown. 

Each and every piece of leather is cut and measured to maintain quality control.

There are over 60 people working at the factory at any given time, and finding talented leather artisans with the right skills is an on-going challenge.

"We look for people that have some kind of manufacturing background, but that’s not enough," Jen says. "We need people that are comfortable using critical thinking. In leather, every single piece you touch is unique — it's part art and part science." 

Jen, a 30-year veteran of the leather industry, has executed a vision at Shinola that is based on teamwork and skill building. "Our biggest investment is not equipment, it's not the building — training is our largest investment," she says. "Sewing is the hardest piece, leather cutting is right behind that — there are pieces along the production process that are of varying degrees of difficulty." 

Take CeCe Martinez (pictured above) as a prime example of someone working inside the Detroit leather factory. Before coming here two years ago, she worked in a factory that constructed cardboard boxes. "I feel a part of something bigger in this corporation, it’s totally different than any other job that I've had," CeCe says. "A Shinola product you can't throw away like you would a cardboard box."

In her short time here at Shinola, CeCe has gained a world of knowledge about different types of leather, the tanneries we work with, how to spot defects within hides and more. She moved up from hand-assembling watch straps to a team leader position where she manages three people to ensure every piece of leather used for small leather goods in the Detroit leather factory passes a strict quality check.

Marcus Alexander (pictured above), is known for his big smile and team spirit. For the Mini Drawstring, he worked on a variety of steps. Above you can see him using a press machine to place holes where the shoulder strap will go.

Every piece of leather with a raw edge gets painted for a finished look. (pictured above)

Head seamstress Jovita Vrista (pictured above) has 50 years of experience sewing leather and was brought on to help train others how to sew. 

A closeup of Jovita sewing the Mini Drawstring together. (above)

Dianna Tkachuk is also a seamstress and has been sewing since she was eight years old, but had never worked with leather prior to joining the Shinola team. She loves the difficult projects the best, she says. "I love the hands-on work and it's really satisfying to see the finished product," she says.

Leticia Meraco seam pressing to ensure the bag is durable and will hold up to daily wear and tear. (pictured above)

Michelle Carr is the line leader for this handbag and makes sure the entire team meets daily quality checks and production quotas. (pictured above)

Threading the braided shoulder strap through the holes by hand.

Leather team members on the factory floor: Cheryl Lee, Jovita Urista, Michelle Carr and Deshawn Parham-Brown. (pictured above)


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