Popping ollies and pop-up shops

Chook Clothing Company uses store front for more than retail

Luis Cardona

A local designer is getting the opportunity to push the boundaries of urban art and fashion through a pop-up shop in Winnipeg’s downtown.

Chook Clothing Company, created and run by Jonathan Seah, opened just under a month ago. Pop-up shops, such as Chook, have been gaining popularity in Winnipeg as shop owners sign on for a short period of time, take on little risk and get to test out the market.

The shop on the corner of Graham Ave. and Vaughan St. is a melding of clothing store, design studio, and hangout spot for local skateboarders, making it stand out from other retailers in the market.

From the front display to the indoor skateboard ramps, it’s clear Chook is a different kind of skate shop, and that’s exactly how Seah wants it.

Seah is getting word out about the shop, but he’s doing more than putting up flyers and making posts on social media; he supports locals by donating merchandise to skaters.

“I love and respect skate culture,” Seah says. “This is a great way to get back into it and support young skaters … I give away probably as many shirts as I sell.”

And what exactly does Chook mean? The word is a combination of cheffing and cook, which is a nod to Seah’s own aspirations as well as anyone who is working towards something.

“Everyone who believes in my brand believes in the underdog,” Seah says. “Everyone has their own battles, their own boxing ring.”

And with the lowered risk of a pop-up shop Seah can also help others in their own battles.

Seah donates to Ghost Skateboarding - an organization based in California that gives at-risk youth access to skateboarding equipment - Winnipeg Harvest and the Canadian Cancer Society.

At the end of the day Seah makes only $3-4 a shirt, which he is putting towards his next line, still to be called Chook.

It is clear a lot of attention has gone into the details of the brand, and plans for a new, more colourful clothing line are already underway. 

You might think the best way to support an artist such as Seah is to come in and buy a piece - and you absolutely should. But the next best way is to challenge him.

Truly an underdog, Seah welcomes the buzz that comes from people not liking his products.

“Some people badmouth the brand,” Seah says. “I think that’s good because every successful brand needs resistance, because that makes you improve. It makes you want to convert them to fans.”

Despite the shop’s downtown location, it is seeing less traffic than Seah hoped for. Customers have to come downtown just to see the store, in an area where there is not much else for skateboarding.

The shop will be operating for a couple more weeks before closing up, at which point you can find Chook products either online or at another pop-up shop.

Published in Volume 69, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 10, 2014)

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