Store Feature: Checks Downtown
With the ongoing globalization of the fashion industry, it is becoming more accessible to gain access to products as well as industry knowledge. While the fashion capitals of the world such as Paris, New York, and London tend to dominate the entire fashion scene, it is becoming easier to participate in this growing culture through the use of the internet as well as social media websites. For a small nation like New Zealand, you wouldn't really associate fashion as a descriptive part of their identity, but there is a culture growing there. With the growing popularity of New Zealand based companies such as Newspread, I Love Ugly, and Checks, there is a new sense of respect that New Zealand's fashion culture is gaining. We recently sat down with one of New Zealand's up an coming innovators Jordan Gibson who is the founder and designer of Checks Downtown, an Auckland based boutique that houses wares from the likes of Aimé Leon Dore, Pleasures, as well as their growing in-house label of the same name. In the interview, Gibson gave us insight into the growing fashion culture of New Zealand as well as the ins and outs of running a boutique store in today's modern age of technology. Be sure to read the full shop profile and interview below.
First and foremost who are you and what is Checks?
"I'm Jordan Gibson, founder, and designer of Checks Downtown. Checks is a brand based in Auckland, New Zealand that was started in 2017. Our flagship store is located here on Auckland's High Street."
When did you decide you wanted to open a store and what was the initial thought process behind it?
"Opening a store and establishing a brand has always been the goal I kept in the back of my mind. Early last year it started to feel really urgent to go for it and the idea started to form into something tangible. I finished up a job and felt I had a unique place in the market and an opportunity to do something special in New Zealand, to put us on the map globally."
What was the hardest part about breaking ground and getting brand accounts?
"Breaking through in some cases can seem practically impossible, having an introduction is really the key. So developing a bit of a head of steam and some momentum with brands is important, once a brand sees the caliber of who you are working with they will become more interested."
Travel is also important, especially being based in New Zealand and so far away from the hubs for fashion and buying. That can also be an advantage though as the brands we have been targeting generally don't have representation here and we were vying to be their exclusive stockist, so in a lot of cases, they were just stoked to hear from a store in New Zealand.
A lot of brands, particularly the big ones, want to see if you have longevity and staying power. They're not interested in the next fly by night retail store, so it just takes time, now that I have the benefit of a bit of experience I can totally appreciate it. As hard as it can be to get those early 'not right now'. Patience is something I'm improving it!"
What brands do you currently carry in-store and are there any you are adding to your roster for SS 19?
"We work with brands such as Aimé Leon Dore, Sunni, Willy Chavarria, Kappa Kontroll, amongst others. We are adding Aries from London for SS19 which I'm excited about.
I have been putting a lot of energy into developing the Checks Downtown label and increasing our range and opportunities, so I'm being very selective with additional brands at this stage.
In addition to the brands you carry, I understand there is an in-house label as well. How would you describe it?
"Yes, we have an in-house label called Checks Downtown. It is a mix of my interests which include streetwear, tailoring and luxury clothing. The product is fun, playful and intended to have a sense of humor. We take the quality very seriously and ethical manufacturing is something that we have maintained as a priority since the outset of the brand. All of our cut and sew clothing is made in New Zealand currently, we are proud to be able to support local industry and be a New Zealand based and manufactured label. New Zealand is a young country, a couple of hundred years old, so we don't really have a developed style when it comes to clothing. Which is really fun, as there's not really lines to paint within. We can draw from references all around the world and I think there is an opportunity to lead the conversation around style here and present it to the world."
What projects are you guys currently working on, or planning to do in the near future?
"I am working on our Checks summer collection which will release here from September this year. Being in the Southern Hemisphere the seasons are opposite to that of America, Europe, Asia. We recently had our one year anniversary so we are planning an event to celebrate and will be releasing some special projects including a couple of collaborations – I'll keep those under my hat for now though!"
How is the fashion scene in New Zealand at the moment? What trends seem to be popular?
"The fashion scene is growing rapidly here within the youth market, the internet has really sped things up and there is much less of a lag with what is popular here and abroad. It is a much smaller bubble though, the population is around four million people. So there is less room for all the trends and styles that may be going on in the fringes of larger markets. It feels a bit more like what is really big globally is also big here, but there are less risk-taking and space outside the mainstream. We just haven't had the access locally to really exciting cutting-edge designers previously and I think that peer validation carries even higher value here."
What do you and Checks hope to bring to the culture of New Zealand as well as fashion itself?
"I hope to create a home for the people that felt underrepresented within both fashion and the culture here, to give the people that may have thought in a similar way to me and were consuming similar stuff something to feel a sense of ownership with. Ultimately I aimed to create the kind of store that I would be excited to shop at and could proudly buy in to and represent. To be honest, moving overseas felt like the easy option, I could have had a lot of fun and perhaps worked somewhere really exciting. But I felt that I had a vision of my own and a unique point of view and it would be much more rewarding to be a part of a change rather than sort of doing something in a place where that's already been done or is available in abundance."
What is the most rewarding thing about having your own store?
"Simple things like when someone is blown away and loves our product. Those little things that make you realize you're reaching people and it means something to them, the young cat that tells me how much he looks up to Checks. When my iPhone pings with an online order! HA"
Lastly, do you have any advice for future store owners or people who want to start their own business within the fashion industry?
"Think long and hard about what your point of view is, what sets your plan apart. That is ultimately what will gain you a following. Don't rush into it either, take your time, observe your market and where space could be for you to fill or even consider a different location where what you want to do could really stand out – some markets are just saturated. When you identify what makes your vision unique, double down on that and put all your energy towards that. But make sure you've got the pieces in your range that pay the bills! haha"