It's a little hard to find, it took multiple backtracks along High Street until finding the bright orange flag out front, sheepishly crawling down innocuous steps and almost stumbling on the last, the search for Checks ends when you see the bold logo resting in front of a fauna driven window display, and a clean white space fronted with the friendly smile of Jordan Gibson. Jordan, retail connoisseur turned Gubb and Mackie creative director, now turned curator and designer of streetwear, and all round friendly guy. We sat down with Jordan to talk about his new creative retail space, Checks, and the changing face of street fashion.
WG: Hey bro, it's been a while since we last talked, how have the last few years been for Jordan Gibson?
JG: Good man, a lot has changed and it's been a big year for me which is really exciting. I've reached some goals and milestones that I've had for a long time, making big steps towards my vision of what I've always wanted to do. Its cool being able to contribute to retail and fashion within New Zealand and do something positive.
WG: So you've gone from stepping stone to stepping stone, you spent some time with Gubb and Mackie, now you've opened your own store Checks. Coming to streetwear, what inspired you to make this change?
JG: Streetwear is really the origin for me, its not something that I ever let go of or abandoned, it was what I wore personally. I started out working retail in sneaker stores and worked in a store called Qubic...
...WG: RIP Qubic right?
JG: Yeah man exactly! So, this has always been my base, what excites me now is mixing these interests together. I will always love a good tee or a good pair of sneakers, but I also love high end labels and beautiful construction and fabrics. I felt like the timing was good to merge these styles together, the fashion world has come around to that. That's what it's all about right now, streetwear influencing high fashion. So I'm aiming to present my own unique vision of that with Checks.
WG: What is it about streetwear that gets you so excited?
JG: I'm interested in emerging cultures, you know, and without being a jerk I think that what I've often noticed is when a subculture is on the precipice of popularity or something new and raw in energy is starting.
WG: Like when something is at the tipping point?
JG: Yeah completely! I've always listened to Hip-Hop, since I was eight or nine, and now Hip-Hop is pop music. Sreetwear was kind of the same. It started out as something really small and interesting, if you wore a certain logo or style it was a signal that you were into something, part of a sub culture. I think it was that energy that appealed to me initially. We're now at a stage where streetwear is culture and currency within young people. The appeal for me now is seeking out new and interesting things and finding that intersection between the two worlds that I talked about, and the way we interpret those different styles and let them exist in this space.
WG: So Checks falls comfortably into streetwear, if you could describe the vibe of this place what would it be?
JG: It's a unique and playful mix of streetwear, designer labels and international brands all housed in one space. Checks is both a store and a brand. We have international labels and our own in house brand. I hope this is an environment that everyone is comfortable coming in to, whether you're a young guy or you're more mature. I want it to be something that is significant within the Auckland and New Zealand retail scene. I hope we can be known as, whether you're a local or visiting from overseas, the spot to go to. Some of the brands we're working with are really reacting to that, they seem to recognise that there is something unique happening here in New Zealand.
WG: So you have your own in house brand! Was that the starting point for the idea?
JG: I've always wanted to start a brand and build the aesthetic from the ground up. That was definitely my number one goal. I felt like retail was the best platform to launch that from, especially with the market here and where things are at, I saw a gap for a really good retail store in Auckland. My intention was that the store would serve as a launchpad for the brand, cool brands from overseas will bring people in and get people interested and over time hopefully they will get introduced to the Checks brand. This certainly seems to be happening so far, I mean it's early days, but people are picking up on our designs which is great. The two kind of market each other, the retail and the brand, which is very natural. No-one really knows what the future holds for retail and what it looks like, my perspective is that there is always room for good stores, but the store needs to more than just a retail space, it needs to be a brand with it's own identity.
WG: There's something intangible about a really good bricks and mortar store hey,
JG: Yeah man, when I was overseas [in the US] I was talking to people and they were saying the big online guys, they're not doing that well because it's so expensive to run a website, there's so much staff and time involved. I think you've gotta have a multidisciplinary approach, and that's just modern. That's what I mean about a store being a brand as well you know, it's gotta be something people want to buy in to, it's gotta be more than just a store. I think that's what people want and that's how I feel about retail right now.
WG: I never really thought about fashion that way. So then, Checks the brand, Checks the label, Checks the store, was this always the goal?
JG: Yeah I mean as long as I can remember I have wanted to make a brand. I think retail really excites me eh, just creating great experiences. I've been lucky to travel a bit, experience a lot of great stores, and I like that feeling of going into a new space, somewhere that's exciting and to see the way they do things. The mix of brands up and the way it's all tied together and displayed, I think a physical space can evolve as well, a website as an element is sort of static; but it's still something we want to develop as it serves as a great introduction and in order to break boundaries.
WG: Speaking of brands, some of the brands you have in here like London Undercover or Union Surfboards, I know I've never heard of them. Do you think you're bringing a new element to the Auckland streetwear game?
JG: Yeah that was my goal, to offer a new perspective, something fresh. I'd like to get to a point where we have a reputation for putting on new and emerging labels. Our customers seem to be reacting well to that already. I love established labels as well but for me the most exciting thing is finding something new, like stumbling upon a page on instagram or wherever and being like this is fucking cool, these guys from New York or Tokyo are doing this really cool label! The stores I tend to like from overseas, like Colette, Union LA and Dover Street Market, have built a name for launching emerging labels and if it's stocked there, you know its cool, so, that is my goal.
WG: Did you ever want to take Checks down the vintage route that seems so popular these days?
JG: No, I was really trying to offer something unique with this store that wasn't available in the market place, the guys at Parlour are my friends and I wouldn't want to replicate what they or other people are doing. I also want to treat this as more of a concept space that can change over time where we have installations and so on. Our style as a store can evolve over time that way.
WG: Yeah very well put bro, so, last one, if you could have any one person roll through the store, anyone in the world, who would you like to see walk through the door?
JG: Probably Hiroshi Fujiwara, just as a fan and out of personal interest. Of the people who's cosign's I'd love to have, his would be up there.
WG: Well cheers for taking the time man we will definitely swing through regularly to see what you've got rotating on tap.
JG: Cheers man appreciate it, yeah looking forward to it!
You can find Checks down at 3-7 High Street, Auckland Central. Signage limited, treasure hunt worth it.