Detroit is a city on the upswing after a long decline. Major investments from the Ilitch and Gilbert families seem to have accomplished their aim to revitalize Detroit's downtown. It isn't about looking backward to recreate what was; instead it's about making Detroit relevant again. Relevant when you hear terms like Midwest, economy, design, and culture. A city that is often literally built out of the ruins of what was flourishing sixty years ago. A landscape still divided by color. A place that is cold and steamy in the winter, and perhaps more Gotham than it's midwest counterpart, Chicago. New stadiums for football, basketball, hockey, and baseball are now within ten blocks of each other. Housing is behind the demand. Cost are increasing. It's gentrification in one of the only places it is unanimously welcomed.
Garrett Blair just hit thirty. A new decade. One defined in drastically different ways depending on who you ask. Is thirty young? Should you be settled by thirty? Working on your 401k and children? Working on yourself? Having left the town he spent the last decade in, he's looking for what's next. Unsure even how to determine such a thing. Wanting his next step to be firmly planted. Being single at thirty allows the freedom for drastic change; to pull back from life and routine so as to see yourself better. To know thyself does not come without some form of a sabbatical from the grind. It can be moments of silence throughout the day. Meditation (not the repetitive kind). Marching along is for the ants. Men are to live with intention! And so Garrett is.
Skating ties his past with his present. Those in his community say they gauge their friend's health on how much he's skating. Garrett's been skating a lot these past few months, as well as hitting the gym routinely: fit in body. And he's reading. Marcus Aurelius. Seneca. Sam Harris. And whatever catches his eye in The New Yorker: fit in mind. He's spending time with family, reflecting on his roots, his 20's and hoping to learn from his mistakes. Caution isn't his thing; but gaining wisdom is. To live freely and always a little bit wildly; but hopefully less and less regretfully.
Both days together we drove to the Russell Industrial Center, just off Interstate 75. If you drove past the building on the interstate, I wouldn't blame you for thinking it was closed. I would never have ventured in if I wasn't with Garrett. These two days this historic building was infiltrated by more than just two thirty-somethings-that-don't-belong. The winter sky peeled back it's oppressive clouds, and low winter sun shone its rays into seemingly every hall of the building; no surprise when I learn the warehouse was designed by Albert Kahn, a past architect of industrial spaces known for his value of natural light. Following the stairs to the top floor, you walk down a long, windowed corridor, and a few short, windowless ones, to find yourself looking at the end of the road after a couple of minutes: a locked fence blocks the rest of your path. But before you reach the end, beneath the expanse of graffiti on the glass, down on the floor, lie two rails: skaters' delights. Garrett applied the steadfast rigor I expected: hitting the rails over and over and over, until he landed his trick well enough to satisfy him. Failure. Failure again. Bad foot placement. Falling off the board. Falling off the rail. Rolling an ankle. Bashing a shin. There are a million ways to fail, and more yet as sweat builds up and fatigue sets in. But his inward drive propels him to succeed. He knows he has it in him to do this. The body, mind and spirit are waiting to align; through the sheer effort of will, they will.
It seems like there may be a parallel here; between the spirit of Detroit and the spirit of this thirty year old skater. The world is their oyster, if only they set their sails, and set them right. There is rarely a guarantee of wind, and if all else fails, you row. Failure doesn't indicate the end. It is a sign of living.
Most of the photos above can slip right into the existing brand and design. However, they all can point to the future brand and design. A brand that we hope does better in capturing attention, displaying the product, presenting regular and aspirational life, and ultimately is better at selling product.