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If you’re not from a 50 to 100-mile radius of Detroit, chances are you’ve probably only heard a few things about the city: Ford, bankruptcy, Eminem, and crime. (Yes, Mom’s Spaghetti is a real restaurant here.) To understand Detroit today, we have to look back at its incredible, yet difficult, past. When the big auto manufacturers started to move out of the city in the mid-1900s, many jobs left with them, leaving a city founded on the automotive industry to find a new lane – and fast. With that, hundreds of thousands of people left the city, which was one of the major causes that led the city to ultimately file for bankruptcy in 2013.
Since then, however, Detroit has begun what can only be described as a true renaissance. Ask any native and they’ll tell you that the city has always been full of character, grit, and unparalleled pride. But now, with new industries blossoming, the city is entering a new era with the same, unique Detroit spirit. As of the last few years, hundreds of tech jobs have entered the picture, as have massive rebuilding projects and affordable housing initiatives. The city is pulsing on a daily basis with unique startups, arts of all kinds, killer food, unique bar scenes, and fresh DTC brands.
Detroit’s New Renaissance
In a February 2022 article, The New York Times teased out a bold question: “Could Detroit become the next fashion city?” The jury may still be out on that, but the city has birthed many brands – both apparel and not – that are building a very strong case for a “yes” to that question. Below, discover some of my favorites..
If you’ve been following TQE for any amount of time, you’ll know that we’re obsessed with Floyd's beautiful, long-lasting furniture. What you might not have realized is that Floyd is actually a Detroit-based brand. Founded in 2013 by Kyle Hoff and Alex O’Dell, Floyd is creating furniture for the long run to combat the problem of disposable pieces.
Floyd features sleek, modern-looking pieces to fit any space. From the signature Platform Bed (starting at $1180) (check out TQE Editor Jordan’s Platform Bed Review) to coffee tables ($364) to the brand’s new Squishy Chair ($695), Floyd offers something for every home that will stand the test of time. Each piece is beautifully modern and simple, allowing you to dress it up or keep it simple to your style. I’m currently drooling over this build-your-own Sectional and waiting until I get a bigger space that can handle the size I really want.
In addition to creating great furniture, the brand is committed to creating a better tomorrow for the planet by neutralizing its carbon footprint. The company has also launched a resale program, called Full Cycle, that allows users to buy refurbished Floyd furniture at 50% of the cost, making the furniture more accessible to consumers it might not otherwise be. Floyd’s furniture certainly is an investment, and that’s exactly the point – it’s built to last.
One of my other absolute favorite Detroit-based brands is Shinola. In 2011, the founders came to the city with the dream to build high-quality manufactured goods with well-paying manufacturing jobs. Their dream quickly became a reality as the brand began to build quality watches with classic designs, like the Birdy ($550).
Shinola has expanded to include even more luxury leather goods, such as purses and wallets, as well as audio collections with stunningly-crafted record players. Today, Shinola boasts a host of classic, luxury goods to suit any taste. I’m obsessed with the now-signature Basket Bags, like the Large Bixby Basket Bag ($895) that I dream of taking to the Eastern Market one day. The Apple Watch Strap ($150) is likely going to be a Christmas present for my husband (shhh, don’t tell him). He wears his Apple watch so faithfully, and these straps will hold up through all of the wild stuff he puts his through.
Shinola has a few brick-and-mortar stores in Michigan, Ohio, DC, San Fran, and New York, in addition to a boutique hotel in downtown Detroit. The hotel is an absolute must if you are visiting. It features stunningly crafted, unique rooms, Shinola brand goods, pet amenities, and unparalleled service. Our staycation at the Shinola Hotel was for sure the best I’ve had – and has me convinced about the brand’s total commitment to quality in everything it does.
Bon Bon Bon
As someone with a huge sweet tooth, I love seeking out local candy stores in new places. There’s something irresistible about freshly made fudge and unique flavors mixed with chocolate that you can’t get from the grocery. Naturally, when I discovered Detroit chocolatier Bon Bon Bon, I was thrilled to know where I could get my fix. Lucky for the entire country, Bon Bon Bon doesn’t just have brick-and-mortar stores in the Motor City; the brand also ships its Bon Bon Bons around the country.
Bon Bon Bons are little, one to two-bite chocolates, made “using a French technique in conjunction with a little Detroit ingenuity, a lot of local ingredients and some artisan interpretation.” The chocolates come in all kinds of flavors, from a more classic, expected pure chocolate taste to downright zany flavors. The Bon Bon Bons are stunning, yet simple in their design. The brand also makes some fun novelty chocolates in more exciting shapes, such as a triceratops ($15) or a good old-fashioned floppy disk with “Hot Pics!” written on it ($10). My family will definitely be seeing these in their stockings.
One of my other favorite parts about the brand is its unique story. The founder, Alexandra Clark, always knew she was destined for a life of chocolate greatness. But, it wasn’t until she got in a taxi accident, serendipitously while leaving a chocolate show, that she started her own brand. With the money from the accident, she was able to experiment with what were the beginnings of Bon Bon Bon in the back room of a restaurant. The rest was history, as the community took a strong liking to the chocolate and as she expanded to the rest of the country. Detroit is all about bootstrap stories like Alexandra and Bon Bon Bon, and the city is thankful for her ingenuity.
Another editor favorite, Bloomscape! (Read Kaleigh’s hibernation guide here.) Bloomscape is a DTC plant company, featuring both real and faux houseplants. I have 100% fallen into the mid-twenties obsession with houseplants, so I was geeked when I learned about Bloomscape. The concept to send plants directly to someone’s home is genius – and it avoids many of the typical problems had by plant parents, such as buying a sick plant or the mess created in the car ride home from the pickup. All of Bloomscape’s live plants are grown in greenhouses in Michigan, ensuring the perfect temperatures and conditions for your future baby plant to have a great life.
The plant offerings from Bloomscape are quite expansive. Lately, I’ve been eying the Air Plants ($49 for 3) because frankly, I’m nearly out of plant real estate in my place. I wish I had known about the Pet-Friendly XL Bundle ($229) when I first started to get into plants. I love when brands think of my pets, too.
In typical Detroit fashion, Bloomscape was grown out of generations of greenhouse growers that inspired founder Justin Mast to ultimately start the brand. Also in classic midwest style, Bloomscape’s offering doesn’t stop when the plant hits your door. The company prides itself on being able to provide expertise throughout your journey with your new plants. I’ve needed to ask quick-hitter questions about my plants before, and I only wish I’d ordered them from Bloomscape to be able to receive the A-grade support the brand offers.
A City To Watch
While the city still has a long road ahead of it, these Detroit brands are setting the tone for the city. Perhaps this quote by poet Jessica Care Moore painted on a wall of a downtown building sums it up best: “... the spirit of a fashionable city is felt as soon as she walks in. The spark lives inside the patterned faces of her community.” Detroit’s pulse is high, and I can’t wait to see the new, innovative brands her patterned people will produce.