Meet the Maker — Checks Downtown

Meet the Maker

Checks Downtown

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Jordan Gibson is hard to miss. He’s the proprietor of Checks Downtown, a shop on High Street as well as a clothing brand, and dresses like a guy who lives and breaths menswear. Think velvet shoes, tie-dyed shirts, a corduroy jacket. Reilly Hodson caught up with Jordan over a coffee and some griddle cakes at his top spot, the Federal Deli, to talk about what it’s like to make and sell menswear in a country filled with men who can’t dress.

What do you do and why?

I own a clothing brand and store called Checks Downtown on High Street. I do it because it’s been my lifelong dream to have my own brand, it’s what really excites me.

How would you describe Checks?

Checks is a street fashion brand with a fun, playful twist. I wanted to create a brand that’s from New Zealand that I would want to buy into as a consumer. We opened the store to offer something unique that didn’t exist in the market, and to build a sense of community around it. We want to tie in people that are doing interesting things, and we hold events in the space so people can come in and hang out. It all came from a desire to do something locally that operates on an international level.

How did you get to the place where you had your own shop?

I guess it’s been a 10 year journey. As a kid, I was obsessed with clothes, and it took a while to realise that there were options and a potential career path there. I started working in retail, in shops that stocked things that interested me. I studied to learn about garment construction, and then designed for another New Zealand label, which gave me some hands on practical experience. That gave me the confidence to do what I wanted to do, and creating something of my own was always the end goal. I went for it, and from there it’s just been a matter of doing it, having a concept and a vision, and putting all the wheels in motion.

How would you describe menswear culture in New Zealand?

It’s growing a lot, and that’s related to the global market, where menswear is growing as a sector. I still think there’s a lot of room for development. The young generation are pretty onto it, with the access through social media they’re super savvy to what’s going on. We haven’t had a great history of style and clothing, so the average interest and sense of style are probably a bit behind, but people are showing a lot more interest. I’d like to see things develop in a way that doesn’t rely so much on societal validation, it would be nice to see people be a bit more expressive, instead of just wearing brands that people know. That’s what I would hope to get to, and I think that’s much more interesting. If you go overseas, though, it’s much the same: kids are still wearing Supreme, it’s just maybe more obvious in New Zealand where it’s a smaller bubble.

What are your thoughts on Hypebeast and its influence on fashion culture?

It’s an interesting one. There are parts that I’m interested in and that resonate with me, but it’s just become so massive, and it’s for so many people now. They’re creating so much content now, they have a great magazine and podcast, and on a design level it’s great. It’s not where I go to find out about stuff anymore, but you can tell that there are some heads there that know what’s up.

Where do you shop for clothes?

More and more I just wear what we stock at Checks. Outside of that, I don’t buy much locally that’s not from our shop. Online, I shop on Grailed if there’s a drop that I missed out on. I tend to buy a lot of shoes, which we don’t stock currently.

Do you have any general tips for guys to dress better?

Just think about what works for you, and distil that down. I don’t think that guys think enough about fit. A lot of people wear skinny jeans because that’s been ‘the fit’ for a while, but maybe a straight leg works better for their style. There’s nothing wrong with building a wardrobe, and it takes a little bit of an investment. You need some good strong pieces that people will notice, and then you can fill things out with things that are lower priced. I’m a fan of mixing things up, I’ll wear a $60 t-shirt with $400 pants and some really beautiful knitwear. It doesn’t all have to be in one lane. Have fun, don’t feel like you have to keep within a strict colour palette.

What are your top 5 spots to eat

Federal Deli always holds a spot for me, and Depot is up there, but I don’t go there as often.
Small Fry at Te Tui — there aren’t many places that I would drive to Pakuranga for just to eat, but it’s super well executed.
Shaolin Kung Fu Noodle — Preferably Queen Street, but sometimes we’ll go to Dominion Road.
Paradise — it’s close and always good, you can always get a seat. My girlfriend only eats Halal meat, so that’s a consideration for us too.
Satya Chai Shop — It’s unique, I really like the guy that owns it.

Those are five that I really love and regularly go to.
Honourable mention to Gemmayze Street, which I’d love to go to more often. I’m always ready for a new spot, though.

Written by Reilly Hodson

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