Interview with Lo.wer NZ founder Jake Pyne
New Zealand fashion brand Lo.wer bring a bespoke touch to their brand new G-Shock colab, with a rugged leather clip-on face protector adding some rustic rural charm to this classic Casio. We caught up with Lo.wer owner and founder Jake Pyne to get the inside word on his brand and how this unique union came about.
Hey Jake, tell us about your brand Lo.wer. Who, what, where, when and why would be a nice starter.
Well, Lo.wer is a little brand from New Zealand, which is actually part of a parent company called You Know We Ain’t LTD. (Y.K.W.A.L), which has multiple retail stores, manufacturing and even brands, one of them being Lo.wer. Because NZ is so small, we have had to be a few things as a brand, to make it work as a business in this tiny market. We also have a big mix of people here at Y.K.W.A.L and everyone seems to have an input into Lo.wer. It’s hard to put it into a box, I guess it’s a mix of fashion/street/surf with a New Zealand vibe. Lo.wer has been around for 10 years as a brand, and nine years as a business. Lo.wer starts every collection with a heavy theme, but with a loose vibe. This has become our formula for how we build collections, with quite a few people contributing.
New Zealand has an interesting appetite for street wear. How do you explain the local scene?
Our pacific location is a major part of our culture here in NZ, and I think our street wear scene is mostly driven by the Maori and Polynesian kids. They are influenced by everything else around the world, but they always put the NZ twist on it. I used to live in Hawaii as a teenager, and I saw a very similar thing going on there. I think small, unique populations often create something quite different.
Any plans for the international expansion of Lo.wer?
I don’t know. My wife Stacey and I have three children, so keeping a good lifestyle without too much travel is pretty important to us. However, exporting to some cool stores would be ok if it happened organically. In saying that, Australia is a market we really want to grow into. We have a good agent over there, and we are doing business without too much stress.
I guess everyone had a Casio growing up. If you have an image in your head of Casio… what would it be?
I moved to Hawaii when I was 10 years old. I guess it would have been 1989 and I remember going into the local department store and looking into the glass cabinets at the G-shocks for about six months until I finally got one.
So tell us about your new Lo.wer x G-Shock design project. The leather watch case looks very cool.
Yeah, this project has been real fun. When we started talking with G-Shock we were a little scared about coming up with something killer, because there are so many nice G-Shock collaborations that have already been done. Our major focus right from the start was to have something different. I spent a bunch of time on sheep farms in NZ as a kid, and all the cool farmers had these leather watch covers as well as a sheep whistle. I also have a real passion for leatherwork, so it just kind of happened from there. If I remember rightly, the DW5600 G-Shock model was the exact watch in the cabinet in Hawaii, so that was another inspiration.
I love the idea of a protective case for the world’s toughest watches. Was that another inspiration for the project?
Yeah, this shit is the toughest watch in the world!
Were you in the Scouts by any chance?
Yeah, I was a boy scout in Hawaii, where I learned how to tie knots, but the influence for this watch for me is 100% from the rugged NZ farmers I looked up to as a kid.
I see on the back of the watch that it says “Made in New Zealand”. I’m assuming those leather working skills are bit of a lost art…
We are lucky down here, as there are still a few good leather makers scattered around the country. We have been doing some leather work for one of the other Y.K.W.A.L brands, so when we thought of the idea for the watch cover, we were straight onto someone who could make it the way we wanted it.
And tell us about the idea for the viral film. Who is the farmer in the video?
We have this dude Cam working for us who does some cool video stuff.
It’s fun and he does a good job, so we wanted to make a little film to capture the NZ farming culture that was so influential in this project. The guy in the film is actually one of the farmers that I grew up with, he is a good family friend.
And finally, what is the future for LOWER?
Keep it fun, not too serious.
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