Everyone loves a good comeback story, and cheering an underdog epitomizes Americana. Detroit is the ultimate underdog. There is grit. And if you choose to see it, there is glamour.
No city in the U.S. has experienced a tumultuous decline quite like Detroit, but as far as I can see, no city in the U.S. is currently experiencing a rebirth like this resilient city either – the progress is remarkable and the pride is contagious. Detroit may not be the most glamorous city, but rest assured, the city’s unvarnished grit is its best asset. It’s the depth and drama of Detroit’s history — bootstrapping industrialism, soulful factory workers, and hardheaded optimism – that has paved the way for its triumphant return.
On the surface, Detroit is not your traditional white-glove luxury destination, but it delivers lavishly to those who consciously seek out its cultural treasures and dare to peel back the intricate layers of history. With inventive restaurants, sleek hotels, and forward-thinking galleries, it checks off all the prerequisites—exclusivity, enrichment, and authenticity—of a luxury destination, establishing itself as the unassuming emblem of experiential luxury travel.
Detroit is like rock and roll. It’s like soul. Detroit is like the whole idea of cool. If you have to explain it to someone, they probably won’t understand. You have to see it. Live it. Be it. That’s when Detroit starts to move you. —Unknown
CONSUMERISM + CHANGE
• Quality over quantity
• Local economy consumer
• Automotive roots and innovation
• Emerging tech hub and startup culture
Heritage and history are at the core of high-quality consumer retail in Detroit. At every corner, homegrown brands are using the historical and cultural grit of the city as a launch pad into the glamour of the luxury retail space.
The fashion and automotive industries dominate luxury consumerism in Detroit. A Detroit native, John Varvatos—an upscale men’s designer—opened a 4,600-square-foot store in downtown Detroit in a neighborhood that has been bereft of significant fashion retail for decades. But today, it is one of the most visited and loved stores in Downtown. Move up to Midtown, and you’ll find one of the most celebrated success stories from Detroit at Shinola, a luxury lifestyle brand that specializes in watches, bicycles, and leather goods. Lastly, it’s impossible to discuss luxury and Detroit without mentioning one of America’s leading luxury car brands and Detroit’s crowning glory: Cadillac.
Get on the Detroit train – it’s going to be a magical ride… —John Varvatos
While Varvatos and Cadillac are global names with local roots, there’s a series of brands that are using their local roots to create global impressions. Spawned by Detroit’s wounded landscape and with a sharp focus on community and the local economy, homegrown startup brands such as Floyd and Detroit Denim are pushing the ‘Made in Detroit’ movement forward with their simple aesthetics and powerful backstories. The great allure of Detroit for luxury travelers, particularly millennials, is the humanization of brands and the rare opportunity to interact with companies and their creators in unprecedented ways.
But heritage and authenticity don’t stop at luxury retail; they extend deep into Detroit’s real estate, specifically the luxury hotel sector. Luxury hotels in Detroit are few and far between (for now), and most are steeped in layers and layers of history, culture, and art. While making your rounds through the luxury hotel space, you’ll find modern elegance meets old-world glamour at The Westin Book Cadillac Detroit—the world’s tallest hotel when it was built in 1924. And if you’re looking for a slight escape from the hustle and bustle of Detroit’s center, drive to Dearborn to stay at one of Michigan’s most revered and luxurious properties, The Henry, an Autograph Collection hotel that is famed for its hallway-turned-vintage art gallery and historical significance.
Consumption of luxury brands and experiences has only started to take off in the Motor City, and it’s only a matter of time that other high-end brands flock to Detroit to capitalize on the redefined luxury appetites of its new residents and travelers. But for now, there’s more than enough to quell and nurture your innermost commercial desires.
1) Take your retail dreams to new heights by shopping with a personal stylist at John Varvatos.
2) Go behind-the-scenes on a factory tour at Shinola to see where the grit and glamour collide.
3) Rent a Cadillac, with or without a chauffeur, to cruise the city in style.
4) Visit Pony Ride – a collaborative working space for small businesses – to speak with some of Detroit’s most talented creative visionaries and social entrepreneurs.
5) Check out The Peacock Room — a boutique featuring one-of-a-kind apparel and accessories with a vintage-inspired twist. Ask for Rachel Lutz.