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Shinola’s Daniel Caudill in Detroit

It wasn't too long ago that bringing up Detroit made people feel sad. For decades it was America's most downtrodden city; the first and only time I visited, 15 years ago, at age 19, I gasped dramatically upon arrival that it looked like its downtown had literally been bombed out and abandoned. But two or three years ago, Detroit got a brand new narrative, unfortunately by way of an annoyingly over-baked media frenzy that branded it the next hipster haven, complete with coffee shops, urban farms, and its first Whole Foods. The arrival of Shinola — which opened a watch factory and bicycle workshop there last year — quickly became a part of that narrative, even moreso when it opened its second retail location in New York a few months ago and began introducing the East Coast to its $2,000 artisanal bicycles and handmade leather goods. And yet the company is playing an important part in what's really going on in Detroit, beyond all the coffee shops and organic foods, which is that it's in the process of replacing parts of its failed industrial economy with a creative one, and that its residents and legislators are counting on that renewal to get the city back on its feet.
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Two-wheelers: “Once I designed the Copenhagen and it turned out to be popular, Puma asked me to design something for them as well, and then suddenly I had a design career. I followed four principles: One is that all of the parts should be integrated so the bike seems like one object. Another is that it looks iconic. It also needs to be easy to maintain, because you don’t expect to go to the car mechanic every other day, but with a bike that’s what you sometimes end up doing. The last is useability — if you transfer the paradigm of bikes to cars, it would be like having two stick shifts, and we would never accept that. Apart from those ideas, Biomega is run like an Italian furniture company: This is what I believe the world needs, and this is how it’s gonna be.”

Jens Martin Skibsted of Biomega

As the founder and creative director of Biomega, Copenhagen's Jens Martin Skibsted is one of the most respected names in bicycle design. But to hear him tell the story of how he got there, you'd think he'd done everything in his power to avoid that fate. After believing for most of his life that he would grow up to be a poet, he decided to study film in Paris — "writing sci-fi movies about giant ants" — then dropped it altogether and took up philosophy for six years. It was during that time that he took a trip to Barcelona with his girlfriend and was struck by the random conviction that he ought to start a company making city bicycles. "I started drawing bikes, but tried to forget about it because I have so many ideas, and I can’t do everything," recalls Skibsted, who as a child filled notepads with inventions like chopsticks connected at one end, many of which he says exist now. "But this was one idea I couldn't really forget."
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