By Brenlee Coates
Most people outgrow their hometowns before they go international. But for Jonathan Seah, of Chook Clothing Co., online sales have been steady internationally since he got started – it’s Winnipeg that needs to catch up.
That’s why he jumped at the chance to set up a local brick-and-mortar shop, even if it’s only temporary. Chook Clothing Co. (pronounced like “shook”) is now the second pop-up shop rolled out by the Pop Up Shop Hop (PUSH) program through CentreVenture Development Corp.
The month-long time frame didn’t keep Seah from making 438 Graham Ave. look like Chook’s forever home.
Wanting to welcome the skateboard community, he decided to put a skateboard ramp in the shop for demos and for people to come in and mess around on.
But the ramp couldn’t fit into the store without an expensive window removal, so he opted to dismantle it and put it together piece by piece, even hiring a welder to restore a rail he had to slice open.
His dedication to the customer experience is evident in every morsel of detail surrounding his clothing line – including thoughtful packaging for shipments, direct customer interaction on Shopify and Facebook, and the sponsorship he’s imparted to a handful of local skaters.
Besides adorning them in Chook gear, Seah will be pushing their video footage and still shots to online skateboarding magazines and blogs.
Due to the power of social media, the young brand has already been able to cultivate a very sophisticated-looking website. It looks like it lives on the bodies of the rich and famous because of the high-calibre customer appreciation shots he’s been able to collect.
Asking for customers from around the world to send him photos of themselves wearing Chook was nothing short of a stroke of genius – the whole Internet population is looking for an excuse to take a selfie, and luckily, the quality of smartphone photography has become fairly refined.
His website’s homepage displays some of the best personal photos customers have sent him, and they look like they hopped over from the renowned street-style photography blog, The Sartorialist. (If you visit chookclothingco.com, you’ll do a double-take of the photo on the left to see if it’s stylish rapper, Common.)
Though screen printing T-shirts comes from a natural compulsion for him to create, Seah maintains a relentless pace producing tees, matched by a vigorous promotion schedule.
He gained traction for his line by joining a few hundred strategically related online forums: groups associated with skateboarding, art-interested groups, and graffiti culture and otherwise urban-influenced groups.
Now, his reach extends to the United States, the United Kingdom, Morocco, Brazil, and Asian countries like Singapore, where he’s from.
Seah had to hire someone to man the store throughout the workweek because he has a full-time actuarial position (he graduated from Asper School of Business), but every evening, he visits the shop to close it down, and he and girlfriend Hannah Chau mastermind their next big idea to promote Chook in Winnipeg.
The latest was a skateboard demo at the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ festival, ManyFest.
Chook hopes to move out of its Graham location into Portage Place to remain downtown and continue its seminal journey in Winnipeg.
The Graham pop-up is definitely not the last you’ll see of the hand-drawn, geometric, and sometimes cartoonish designs from Seah around the city.
“We’re going to find a way to keep popping up everywhere,” says Seah.
“There are a bunch of developers in Winnipeg – I’m going to find a way to keep bugging them.
“In big cities like Vancouver and Toronto, there may be more opportunities, but I feel like you just need to work harder here to find them.”