Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Business & EconomicsFashion

Pingree Detroit Celebrates Five Years of Triple Bottom Line Innovation and Fashion

Social enterprise and haute couture come together in Detroit-based Pingree Detroit, a triple bottom line clothing company that focuses on empowering veterans by training them to manufacture apparel and accessories out of recycled scraps of leather from the auto industry.

Named for the late, great, progressive mayor of Detroit, the startup celebrated five years last week with a special, eponymous beer, launched at Motor City Brewing. An easy-drinking, 3.8% ABV lager, it is perhaps considerably less exciting than Pingree’s flagship boots, but we’ll give them a break, given its promotional, introductory price of $3 for a pint.

Pingree’s flagship product, The Mayor, are black boots handcrafted from discarded leather from the auto industry, sort of haute Chuck Taylor hi-tops, but with some added flair. While maintaining a nod to the minimalist utilitarianism of black combat boots, these look less suitable for the battlefield and perhaps more suited for a mod revival. They are handcrafted in Detroit and will set you back $349, competitive with similar, high-end boots. (©2020 Pingree Detroit).

I had attended Pingree’s earliest planning meetings to talk about strategy and sustainability, and it’s great to see a local social venture thriving. Early discussions focused on the sourcing of materials, and it was shocking to us when we learned just how much usable material is discarded by the auto industry every year. Leather trim for high-end truck seats, for example, form the sourcing for Pingree’s Adeline clutch.

At some point, as it was explained to me, one manufacturer agreed to set aside scraps, which were then quite literally shoveled into the back of a pickup truck to be taken back to Detroit and repurposed. “We are proud of how far we’ve come,” founder Jarrett Schlaff told us in a prepared statement, “and are inspired by our shared vision of the local and global impact we will create moving forward.”

Schlaff was looking highly fashionable in a Pingree leather bowtie, and gave some updates at the event that we’re not allowed to mention quite yet, but suffice it to say, great things are in the works! A new production studio in the Livernois Corridor is planned to open in the late spring of this year. Detroit may yet become the fashion capital of the Midwest.

(Thanks to Adrianne Kolano and Jarrett Schlaff for contributing to this article).

Nat Zorach

Nat M. Zorach, AICP is a city planner, community development professional, and MBA candidate at American University's Kogod School of Business, based in Detroit.

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