Heritage menswear retailer Gubb & Mackie has been around since 1949, but its flagship store on Auckland’s Vulcan Lane opened only last week. It’s been a bumpy road to this point.
Creative director Jordan Gibson says the area is the heart of Auckland’s fashion precinct. The category two historic building containing the 25sqm flagship store boasts rich heritage, not unlike Gubb & Mackie itself.
The label was established in New Zealand in 1949 by two servicemen who had spent World War II repairing and altering garments on board gunships in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Upon returning to shore and founding their label, the pair began making bespoke officers uniforms for the New Zealand Navy.
“The store fit out designed by Jamie McLellan references our naval heritage with adept subtlety by way of brass, powder coated steel, solid ash and mahogany wood details,” Gibson says.
The range is still completely made in New Zealand, says Gibson: “It’s a challenge but it just allows us to maintain the quality, and it’s a part of the brand.”
Blogger Isaac Hindin-Miller wrote about Gubb & Mackie’s history when it was most recently relunched in 2012. He traced the progression from the founders to Gubb & Mackie’s purchase as a “shuttered” brand during the 1990’s by a pair of Auckland businessmen. It was relaunched in 2003, but failed to fly, and was sold to Crane Brothers owner Murray Crane shortly afterwards.
Hindin-Miller says Crane was ahead of his time when he attempted to re-introduce Gubb & Mackie some 10 years ago, opening a flagship in Britomart before the area had really taken off and filling it with “beige chinos and navy cotton blazers that were far too fashion forward for the menswear buying population of the day.” The store closed in 2009 and the brand remained untouched until Gibson stepped up to steer it towards what sounds a lot like success.
Gibson, who was 21 when he took over the brand, says he wasn’t too concerned about the two failed relaunches preceding his leadership. He acknowledges its “storied history” but says the brand has been through a lot of different phases because it has been around a long time.
Asked why Gubb & Mackie opened its flagship now, he says the label has been “bubbling away under the surface” following its relaunch in 2012.
“The profile is growing to the point now where we have a stand alone retail store and people are seeking us out.”
He feels that the people who originally took it over from the founders didn’t manage to crack the market because because of a number of factors, timing being not least of those.
Consumer tastes in menswear have recently aligned with Gubb & Mackie’s offering, Gibson says. He highlights a “massive” global interest in heritage menswear which has yet to be fully met by the New Zealand market.
More and more men are seeking workwear alternatives to suits while still wanting to look smart, seeking a contemporary style based on blazers and trousers: “We’re trying to provide a one-stop shop for that particular guy.”
Gibson says Gubb & Mackie is now reinterpreting its history in contemporary garments designed with “travel and utility” at their centre. It is placing a lot of its focus on its online store, and Gibson says international growth alongside domestic retail is the goal.
In its first week of trading, Gibson reports an almost 100 percent increase in sales volume.