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New Zealand Label Checks Brings a Cheeky Attitude to Streetwear

The NZ label has crossed the ditch, making all our tailored streetwear dreams a reality.

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It’s been two short years since Christchurch native Jordan Gibson created Checks. It’s a clothing label that’s the culmination of Jordan’s varied inspirations, striking a happy balance between streetwear and workwear, luxury and sports, fine tailoring and hip-hop.

His latest collection is the cheekiest yet—think lime green t-shirts, animal print jackets, patch-worked pants, and rugby jerseys. Shot in Sydney’s Chinese Friendship Garden, the lookbook is Checks all the way through: bold, eclectic, and irreverent.

The day after the Met Gala, we caught up with Jordan over email to chat his picks from the night, making hoodies with Jacinda Ardern’s face on them, and what being a New Zealand designer means to him.

Hi Jordan! First off—what’s your favourite part about this new collection? Was there a piece that you particularly loved making?
I was excited to develop the collection in to new areas like tailoring, knitwear and jewellery. I particularly enjoyed working on this colour blocked polar fleece we have coming. It involved a lot of new components and fabric I hadn’t worked with before so that was an exciting challenge. It’s a pretty fun style and I always enjoy putting my spin on something that is trending at the time.

You made a playlist for us—thank you! How do you go about making a playlist? What artist do you start with? Are you really conscious of flow or do you prefer a mish-mash of songs?
I wanted this playlist to be a snapshot of what we have been listening to while creating the collection. I started with artists and songs I have been listening to a lot, I like a mix of styles but generally listen to smooth songs. We listen to a lot of R&B. I’m conscious of flow and tracks blending well but also enjoy contrast. Just like Checks as a brand really!

Your background is working in streetwear and tailoring, and I think we’re seeing the two morph more and more. What was the process behind creating Check’s first two-piece suit?
Yes, I think I’m placed in a fortunate position where that’s my background and my interests have naturally converged to what is going on in fashion and culture. I’d been thinking about creating tailoring for Checks for a while and how that would fit with the brand and what I wanted. So there was a bit of time spent with the ideation, I wanted the suit to be really relaxed in fit and feel but with most of the important visual hallmarks of a beautifully hand tailored suit. I think I’d forgotten how much work goes into the fit and pattern for a tailored garment though. It took a lot of finessing but we really captured what I was looking for.

Your collections seem to be very pattern and colour driven. Where do you draw inspiration from?
Indeed! That’s what I’m drawn to, if something comes in navy or pink, I’m drawn to the pink one. My inspiration pool is fairly broad, I describe it as a mix of multiple generations and references. There will be elements in the collection coming from the 50s and 60s, 90s and 00s, hip-hop, workwear.

I know that you wanted Checks to become a kind of community for those who might be marginalised. How do you cultivate community? What does it mean to you?
Through regularly creating opportunities to engage with our audience and do things to represent them, whether it be having a party at the shop, holding an exhibition for a local emerging artist or creating a hoodie with Jacinda Ardern on it. We always wanted Checks to be about more than just clothes, to be a vehicle to represent what we’re about and to stimulate connections and conversation within our community.

In doing that we’ve reached the people that connect with our interests pretty organically. I wanted Checks to stand for something from the beginning, to contribute and have an opinion.

About a year ago, I scored a vintage Michael Kors suit at an op shop—a pretty dreamy find if you ask me. Do you remember the first suit you ever bought? The first piece of clothing you ever designed?
Sounds killer! My first suit was probably vintage also. I grew up in Christchurch and where the city might lack in cutting edge boutique stores, it makes up for it in op-shops where I think a lot of the young people that are looking for unique stuff tend to scour. The first piece of clothing I designed would have been at a similar age, in my early teens, drawing t-shirts and hoodies and coming up with brand names. That continued throughout high school designing shoes in English class!

To you, what does it mean to be a New Zealand designer?
Starting Checks, I wanted to create a clothing brand to represent New Zealand and present that on a global scale. To make our clothes here and support local industry. Do things in a different way to most of the companies you might consider similar to us.

Being a New Zealand designer, it is important to me to showcase that as much as possible, using local models, shooting our campaigns in New Zealand landscapes and doing projects that support our community, whether that be working with a charity or community organisation to support their efforts and so on.

The Met Gala 2019 was earlier this month, so I have to know—are you a fan? Whose look did you love? Thoughts on Kanye’s Dickies suit?
I think it’s superseded the Metropolitan Museum and the fine art world, and is a major cultural event, it’s definitely gone mainstream in the past couple of years. I thought Frank stole the show, I always love how he can do something quite simple that causes a moment, but isn’t ever screaming for attention. I’m just glad he’s staying in the spotlight! I was feeling Kanye’s suit look! I enjoy the way he will often subvert tradition and expectation. It was a little bit rebellious.

Pay Checks’s online store a visit here.

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