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We caught up with Daniel Caudill, creative director of Shinola and driving force behind the brand’s new sister store, Willys Detroit, to bring you a behind-the-scenes look at this epicenter of classic American-made style.

We wanted to create a destination. More than just our shop, there’s so much cool stuff happening in Midtown. We’re doing what we can to help the entire neighborhood become a shopping destination.

It’s about being part of the community and long-term sustainability. We’ve been working with the Green Alley Project, which has been really great—they find alleys in need of revamping, then they’re paved, bricked and landscaped. In the end, they connect businesses from one block to another.

The goal of Willys was not to build something that’s cool for Detroit, but something that’s cool wherever you are in the world. A store that’s compelling and different and exciting, and filled with stuff that you don’t see everywhere. So, we’re always on the hunt—whether it’s something new or vintage or a possible collaboration, it’s always interesting and fresh.

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We’re anchored by four classic brands. Filson, Steven Alan, Clare V. and Mollusk. The rest of our inventory is constantly evolving—we’re bringing in new and hard-to-find goods and makers from all over the US every month.

It’s a space that highlights each individual brand. We’re showcasing them the way they would present themselves. You’re able to walk in and see Filson the way Filson intended, see Steven Alan the way Steven Alan intended, as opposed to just “Here’s some good pants from these guys, here’s a top from these guys.”

I think Unionmade does an amazing job. You walk into their store and visually they’ve created an environment that really honors the product. That kind of shopping experience gives customers a deeper appreciation and understanding of a brand’s full breadth.

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We want classics—not basics. For back-to-school, the collection is focusing on everyday essentials. Classic product that’s not really “in-fashion,” but the stuff you’ll really wear: sweatshirts, denim, button-downs, T-shirts, tennis shoes. We’re working with PF Flyers, The Hill-side—people who really know how to execute those perfect staples.

And we’ve also got some collaborations coming up. SMPLFD—they’re a local apparel company, super-cool guys. We’re doing a sweatshirt line together, fleece letters in all different colors for every letter of the alphabet. I really can’t wait for those to hit the shelves, they’re going to be great.

So far, it’s been an amazing response. Not even just locally, but nationally. We’ve had visitors from all over the country—writers, editors, regular customers. The fact that these people are hopping on a plane to come see a store in Detroit is just so cool. It’s been an evolving process, but that’s the passion—the evolution.

Willys Detroit
441 W Canfield St
Detroit, MI 48201
313-285-1880

—C.G.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Caitlin Ganswindt