Joining the growing fashion scene in Detroit is Pingree Detroit, a leather goods brand made from repurposed materials sourced from auto industry suppliers and assembled by U.S. military veterans and Detroiters.
President and CEO of Pingree Detroit, Jarret Schlaff, sought to create a sustainable brand, both in creating jobs for unemployed or homeless veterans and in building responsibly-made fashion products and accessories. He co-founded Pingree Detroit in January of 2015 with Stephen Schock. The company is currently co-owned by veterans and civilians.
“Pingree is teaching Detroiters, especially U.S. veterans, new skills,” explained Schlaff. “They’re handcrafting quality urban utility footwear, bags, and accessories from upcycled leather from the auto industry, and other high-quality materials.”
Adding to their already popular fashion accessories will be their latest product: the first line of sneakers ever manufactured in Detroit. They launch on October 1, 2018 with a high-top sneaker shoe, The Mayor, affectionately named after their namesake Hazen S. Pingree, a veteran of the civil war and founder of a successful boot company in Detroit before being elected mayor of Detroit in the 1890s.
“It’s our version of ‘boots on the ground,’” said Schlaff. “We’re employing Detroiters and creating something beautiful and useful. We think Mayor Pingree would be proud.”
In celebration of their upcoming launch, Pingree will hold a live shoe-making demonstration on September 27 and September 28 from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. in downtown Detroit’s Campus Martius Park. Attendees will be able to meet the U.S. veteran makers of Pingree Detroit as well as preorder products.
They will also be able to hear about Pingree’s mission of providing job opportunities for veterans and well as manufacturing sustainable products.
Pingree Detroit is a worker-owned brand. The employees of Pingree Detroit, known as makers, are able to become co-owners of the company after working with the company for a year. They hope this model of employee ownership, blended with sustainable strategic mechanization, will revolutionize the industry, as well as improve the surrounding communities.
“We want to inspire people and create products that are solutions, so a lot more folks can easily look good, feel well, and participate with us in sharing the gift of positive impact with the world around them,” said Schlaff.
From the auto industry to the sewing machine to purchase, Pingree Detroit seeks to operate their brand responsibly and sustainably. Using scrap leather from suppliers like Lear Corp, a Southfield-based automotive supplier, that would otherwise be thrown in a landfilled or shipped overseas, Pingree Detroit creates new products that are 100% made in Detroit.
“We are on a pathway as a company to becoming zero waste, toxic free, and carbon negative in all our processes by 2022,” said Schlaff. “We aim to eventually grow and manufacture many of the textiles and components we use in our production process as well as source the majority of our materials from the Great Lakes Watershed.”
Currently, Pingree Detroit is selling products in four stores in Michigan. They also have an online shop where you can purchase their current accessory products and preorder their new line of sneakers.
Sneaker preorders start Monday, October 1 and will be handled on a first-come, first-serve basis, according to their website. If you’re looking to order the first pair of Detroit-made sneakers, you can sign up for their monthly e-newsletter. Expected costs are $298.00 for the The Mayor with other styles coming out in the beginning of 2019.
Additional upcoming events are a guest appearance by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in the Pingree workshop in October where Duggan will tie the first Detroit-made sneaker before it ships out to the first customer.