I for one find it difficult to settle on a brand that I love. One season they’re great, and you would and could wear nearly everything, then the next season comes along and they do a complete one-eighty and you never go back. There are maybe just a handful of brands that I could happily say, “I could wear only them for the rest of my life.” Names that come to mind are Norse Projects, Margaret Howell, and Our Legacy, but closer to home there is one brand that takes the top prize: Gubb & Mackie.
New Zealand-based Gubb & Mackie produce garments with a lean toward the smart casual side of a man’s wardrobe - think along the lines of what you can wear if you are a creative, or your job doesn’t require you to wear a suit, or if you are studying at university and want to look a little more sophisticated and preppy. Or, simply, in the weekends or on your days off.
Gubb & Mackie emphasise softly tailored jackets, which are easy to dress up and to dress down for the versatile gentleman. They also incorporate a large variety of classical items such as Oxford button downs and slim chinos. Gubb & Mackie use some of the best fabrics, sourced from around the world; Thomas Mason cotton for shirting, Dugdale cottons and linens for lightweight jacketing, Moon for the heavier weighted jackets.
I had a sit down with the Creative Director of Gubb & Mackie: Jordan Gibson. I would describe him as a jokester, a stickler for all things #menswear and a connoisseur on Auckland’s food scene. He also doubles as my colleague, friend and style adviser for all things sartorial, casual and workwear based.
Tell us about what you do Jordan.
I am the Creative Director at Gubb & Mackie, so I handle all the creative output for the brand – the focus being designing and developing the collections. It is a small team so I am really nurturing the development of the brand, and touch everything, including production, website management, social media, packaging, editorial, advertising, media relations and so on.
Tell us about Gubb & Mackie as a brand and its core vision.
Gubb & Mackie has a unique history with its origins as a tailor to the New Zealand Navy. This sets it apart locally, and also gives it real international relevance. We are informed by this background and reinterpret it in tailored casual clothing. The focus is on separate pieces, which can be interchanged.
The key customer is a discerning man who can dictate what he wears and values well-constructed, long-lasting pieces with a high level of attention to detail. Travel is at the core of the brand with its maritime background, so we create hard-wearing, utilitarian clothing that is intended to be worn hard and look better for it. I call this character.
Jordan wears: Gubb & Mackie Vauxhall Jacket, Huxley Trouser, Firth Tie; Crane Brothers MTM Shirt; Drake's Pocket Square and Alden Boots.
What are some brands you would put alongside Gubb & Mackie?
Brands with similar values and references to ours. I am drawn to brands rich in sportswear, military and workwear inspiration. Engineered Garments fuses all of these references in a refreshing and whimsical manner. Post Overalls is another favourite with a similar aesthetic, albeit more steadfast with their silhouettes, and their experimentation generally comes from fabrication which I like. Margaret Howell has a beautifully rounded brand that I admire, the content is so consistent with beautiful imagery that perfectly supports the always restrained and unwavering product – you know what you can get from her season to season. Something I also endeavor to instill in our collections is that sense of trust that we’re not going to change radically season to season.
You have just released the imagery of this season’s collection, photographed by James Lowe. What were some of the influences behind it? And what were you trying to portray?
I wanted to tell a bit of a story and create a scene where the garments and model feel almost secondary to the moment, as opposed to a more direct posed campaign in a studio environment. The intention of this is to create a portrait of the wearer’s lifestyle and give context to the clothing. The theme is weekend getaways, escaping the city and your working week. We wanted it to feel very international so we shot on location in a setting which isn’t overtly obvious. James Lowe embodies this as he is a bit of a global citizen at present - he may be in Tokyo one week and the USA the next.
We’ve seen soft tailoring as well as well as the new inclusions of a t-shirt and long-sleeve polo, what led you to incorporate that coming from a tailoring background first?
It’s really about rounding out the lifestyle; slowly adding to the offering when it feels right. If we think we can execute it in a way that is unique, and feels like Gubb & Mackie, then we’ll add it in to the offering. The intention is that the range is modular and completely interchangeable so you could pair one of the t-shirts with a Britten jacket and Jackson shorts for instance.
The Gubb & Mackie online website is a finalist for Best Interactive Design by Best Awards. How does having a strong online presence help the brand develop?
Online and social media are critical, and play such big parts in a brand’s identity and awareness. The first place people look to find out about a brand is their website so if you don’t have a good one, then you’ve really hamstrung yourself. In an e-commerce confident world it allows us to reach corners of the world we’d never be able to with physical retail only. For us it is also really important to set the tone of the brand and give it a voice through the website as this is really the shop front, the place where we can merchandise the product and show how it is intended to be worn. Social media backs this up and gives people instant access to the brand in real time, including myself.
Who are some of your current inspirations within the industry?
I would have to come back to Daiki Suzuki as his vision is so creative and progressive yet completely realised. I’d also add Isabel Marant and Phoebe Philo; I am becoming more and more inspired by womenswear, as I look at and talk about menswear every day and I respect their brands and output immensely – I like that in the world of womenswear the two of them maintain a consistent image whilst still moving with the more frenetic paced nature of that realm of design. I can’t answer this without mentioning my mentor, Murray Crane, who relentlessly and tirelessly pushes me to realise the best of my abilities, and trusted my vision from before I even created my first piece. His love for his brands inspires me.
How much of a challenge is it to produce in New Zealand?
It’s massive but also a vital part of the DNA of the brand. Just finding skilled tailors and training them to create garments with the level of construction that is in all of our garments is a huge challenge, let alone sourcing cloth and trims in small scales for our limited runs when we are literally based on the opposite end of the earth to many of our key suppliers. There simply isn’t the network of makers like in Italy or Japan, but the people we work with here are fantastic and equally passionate about working here. We can watch the product come off the line piece-by-piece ensuring its quality, which we wouldn’t be able to do if we were making anywhere else. Operating on this scale also allows us to be nimble and make only one of a jacket if we want to or replenish stock within 6 weeks.
Currently Gubb & Mackie is exclusive to its online store and Crane Brothers, are there any plans of this changing?
We’d love to have a bricks and mortar environment for Gubb & Mackie when the time is right. Retailing within Crane Brothers is a great incubator while we build awareness and understanding of the brand. Not having the pressure of the overheads required for a retail store has been crucial in growing the brand to where it is at now. But we’d love to have a dedicated environment where we can complete the lifestyle and give a full offering in a space that really feels like the brand’s home. That time is coming, but we’ll wait on the right space.
What can we expect to see from Gubb & Mackie in, say, a year’s time?
Continued expansion of the ranges, and international growth, supported by dynamic content making our online portals real destinations. I’m really excited by some of the pieces we have coming in the imminent future and in development.
Gubb & Mackie are set to release more of their Summer collection later this year via their online store here and in-store at Crane Brothers Auckland and Wellington. If you would like to keep updated on all their happenings their Instagram account is the best for that: @gubbandmackie.
Imagery by: Zayyar Win Thein