Everyone wants to feel like a kid again, which is why nostalgia is king, more so when it’s delivered to the masses in a creative, relatable, and high-class format. The Detrola watch, a limited edition offering from Shinola and crafted with local hands, covers all these bases while offering a sleek and stylish way to keep time.
“The concept of the design itself is fun to have. You can check and keep time while remembering the good old days, when you didn’t have taxes to pay and all you had to do was color in the lines,” says Tony Whlgn (pronounced like ‘Hooligan’), the artist and designer behind the mouthful that is the Shinola “Detrola” line of watches. The Detrola is a collaboration between our hometown hospitality and fashion company and the makers of a brand that has filled the cabinets of art teachers for generations.
The Detrola is a limited edition release line from Shinola–only 500 of each variation was made and released, so when they’re gone, they’re gone. The collection includes other things like journals and smaller accessories, but the watches rightfully steal the show. There are over 20 varieties, with names like “The Pee-wee”, “The Free-Skate”, and “The Ace of Detroit.” Each of the watches features bold, classic colors in blocky, stand-out patterns that invoke vintage-era Detroit and the carefree vibes of being a kid.
“They reached out to me and told me it was Crayola, which excited me. I drew with Crayons as a child, and a week before my birthday I actually found some of those old drawings. I had such a nostalgic moment, it was like the thousand-yard stare. The narrative was definitely organic, it was kind of perfect for me to work on this,” Whlgn says.
The best inspiration and knowledge often comes from the hands and mouths of babes. Whlgn says the first person he turned to for inspiration was his baby boy, which provided not only the sparks for the designs but a fun bonding experience for them both.
“They sent me a bunch of crayons, markers and colored pencils. I sat down with my son, who’s only like 18 months, and we just scribbled. I took a lot of inspiration from what he was doing, his youthfulness and playfulness and I meshed it with my interpretations of turning characters into letters and the technique I used to use with crayons, which was piling up the wax and then scraping it off to make it smoother and brighter,” he says.
This isn’t Whlgn’s first time creating wearable art. He has a 10-year design career under his belt and he’s collaborated with Mark Ecko and Kid NYC fashions and various music artists and independent companies. He says the Shinola collab provided the opportunity for him to sell his style on a larger scale, for more eyes to see, with a well-known quality product to boot.
“Shinola and Crayola came out to my studio to see who I was, what my style and process was. We created designs and packaging that speak to my life, story, and experience in this city. There are pink gators, easter eggs and references to Michan sports teams, and color combos that give you the feeling of places in Detroit that don’t exist anymore,” he says.
As for Shinola, this isn’t the first or last local artist collaboration they have in store for their fine arts and fashion products. They just released the ShinolaxPewabic collection, featuring pieces inspired by the Detroit claymakers Pewabic Pottery.
“As soon as we knew we were doing a Crayola partnership, we knew we wanted to plug a local artist,” says . “Creativity has no age limit. Crayola believes in helping parents raise creative, expressive kids, which aligns with what Shinola wants for Detroit. They were really amazing and involved during this whole process,” says Ruthie Underwood, project manager for Shinola.