Between Wayne State University, the DIA, and the host of museums and galleries that call it home, Midtown has long been considered Detroit’s cultural and artistic hub. But with the recent boom in retail options — including the pioneering City Bird and the powerhouse Shinola — it’s also becoming a destination for design and fashion.
Two new additions to the shopping scene arrive this year, bringing more stylish options for fashion-savvy Detroiters.
Kit and Ace
Founded by Shannon and JJ Wilson, wife and son of Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, Kit and Ace opened on Cass Avenue in June. The store specializes in what Shannon Wilson calls “technical luxury.” One of the brand’s proprietary fabric, Qemir, is an incredibly soft, machine-washable cashmere blend.
“When I think of luxury, I think cashmere,” Wilson says, but the function and design of the fabric “works for people living full contact lives.”
The pieces in Kit and Ace’s collections for men and women are luxurious but made to live in. Clean lines and simple silhouettes combine with smooth seams, subtle details, and functional additions like ventilation for a modern look.
“We talk about this full contact lifestyle — it’s people who are going from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and they need clothing that works with that kind of lifestyle,” Wilson says.
Kit and Ace is also weaving itself into the fabric of the community. Each of the brand’s stores is designed using locally sourced elements and includes an area called The Wall that features the work of local artists.
The stores also include a Supper Club table, where customers come together for intimate dinners and stimulating conversation. The idea was born from Wilson’s family dinners, which includes children of widely varying ages.
“We’d get together and wanted to make sure that even though we have these different ages, everybody found a way to connect,” she says. The family wrote down and collected questions, which they put into a bowl and passed around the table. Each member of the family picked a question from the bowl, spurring conversation.
The concept has become a central part in Kit and Ace’s interaction with its customers. Says Wilson: “If we’re going to take up people’s time by having them come to a Supper Club, then we wanted to make sure that we were providing them an opportunity to connect in a meaningful way with people that maybe they don’t otherwise know.”
Kit and Ace is growing quickly — with stores open in cities across Canada and the United States, and more are opening soon in Boston and Philadelphia — but is committed to Detroit. A second store on Woodward Avenue is planned for 2016. “Detroit has such an amazing comeback story,” Wilson says. “And there’s such a strong sense of creative class and possibility, and we’re excited to be a part of that.”
Will Leather Goods
For William Adler, founder of Eugene, Ore.-based Will Leather Goods, opening in Midtown is like coming home.
Adler comes from a long line of retailers; his grandfather, father, and brother all worked for or owned fashion outposts in Detroit.
Adler chose a different path, moving to California and working as an actor before starting to sell belts on the Venice Beach boardwalk in 1981. It grew into a multimillion-dollar business, and he eventually sold it to the Brighton Collectibles brand.
After the sale, Adler started Bill Adler Studio in Oregon, which designs and develops goods for Levi’s, Dockers, Calvin Klein, and Nike Golf. He established his own brand, Will Leather Goods, in 2007.
Will Leather offers leather bags, belts, shoes, and accessories for men and women (see below), as well as unique items for pets and the home. Bringing the brand to Detroit was a natural progression for Adler.
“With this heritage of my family … I not only found out that I’m good at retailing … but it all started in my family in Detroit,” he says.
Will Leather Goods was scheduled to open in September. While referencing the brand’s Oregon roots, it will feature many original elements, such as terrazzo floors and a meat rack. When designing the space, it was important to Adler to “take the essential nature of this old market … but bring in this organic, natural, funky leather goods line.”
Adler also plans to bring “Give Will” to Detroit. The initiative donates backpacks to underprivileged children. “One of my visions is that when we open this year, that we give away at least 5,000 backpacks in Detroit,” Adler says. “I think it’s important … to support the school system here.”
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