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Sük is here to make your workwear work for you

Photography by Elliott Lauren

Words by Jonti Ridley

Let’s get on with the job. 

Career counselling in high school is rarely something people look forward to. Typically, it consists of someone sitting behind a desk and advising you on what subjects to adopt with your future career in mind. 

If you were university inclined, prerequisite subjects and entry-level grades were explained to you while you tried to imagine yourself two or three years in the future, committing to another two or three years of schooling. 

If you proposed entering a trade however, your advisor’s reaction was likely influenced by your gender. Women make up less than 3 per cent of Australia’s tradespeople, and although this number is growing, it remains that women are frequently discouraged from entering this line of work.  

There’s any number of reasons for this including, but not limited to, gender stereotypes, workplace harassment and minimal support networks for women. Even after a woman has managed to jump through all these hurdles and enter a worksite, standard-issue workwear isn’t going to do you any favours when it comes to fitting in. But change is coming, and it looks great in orange. 

Mimosa Schmidt, the founder and creative director of women’s workwear label Sük, spent a good chunk of her twenties forcing herself into clothes and societal moulds that didn’t fit, all so she could get on with the work at hand. Mimosa wanted more for herself and for other women experiencing the same frustrations.

“I have spent a lot of time searching for workwear stores and trawling the web for workwear that would accommodate my body. I knew garments like this were needed and I knew, if designed well, with the right quality it would appeal to a wide range of people, not just those with physical jobs.”

Shoulders that are too wide, pants with hips too small and coveralls that struggle to keep the bust zipped tight don’t leave you excited to get ready for work in the morning.

“I knew the world was ready for everyday durable workwear that could fit breasts, hips, thighs, and make a soft ass sing.”

With the help of co-designer and garment developer Alison Pyrke, the pair have combined years of experience and research into a brand that empowers women to turn the tables on the industry from the second you hear its name.

If you’ve ever been called a sook before, it’s probably because you were being ‘over-emotional’ or ‘dramatic’. There’s also a very good chance it’s because you were expressing attributes society defines as feminine. Toxic masculinity and internalised misogyny are the two big players we can thank for firmly embedding this in our Aussie vocab. 

In ‘owning’ it or ‘claiming’ it as the name of a fierce, feminine, no fucks given workwear label, we are positioning it against our values and our ethos: that femininity and gender diversity is powerful, softness is not weakness and making yourself vulnerable is brave.”

Both Mimosa and Alison want everybody to feel comfortable in their clothes, not just physically but mentally. 

“In this context, we are able to see that ‘sook’ is a slur against what we deem to be traditionally feminine, but through Sük – its values and its team – we can laugh at the idea that being soft or vulnerable is a weakness. I wanted a brand name that was Australian, funny and empowering: Sük is all those things.”

Another important feature of the brand is that no two models are alike – Mimosa knew the importance of representation and the impact it would have, so she held a public modelling casting call on Sük’s social media.  

“Growing up, I didn’t see many examples in media or popular culture of women in intense labour roles. When I wanted to approach the workforce as a young woman I didn’t feel I had permission to enter that world. So I aim for Sük’s image to be made up of different bodies and diverse genders to showcase real strength.”

Inclusivity, accessibility and respect go deeper for Sük than just branding. Sük’s size range spans 11 sizes and two size charts, which is more than most fast-fashion brands and homegrown start-ups. 

It’s becoming more important for us to be conscious in our purchasing choices and Sük isn’t just wary of the future for women but for the world we exist in. It’s committed to a sustainable and ethical supply chain and the brand wants no part in the exploitation of overseas labour for profit. 

Although it’s true these practices come at a higher cost, the demand from consumers for further brand accountability means there’s a bigger market for ethically-made, sustainable clothing rather than cheaper, fast-fashion pieces. 

“Sük began with strong ethics: I have been to the garment factory we do business with, we clearly state how we source products, what fabrics we use, and include the accreditations our manufacturing partners comply with.”                                                                  

Australia was the second-largest consumer of new textiles in 2016, purchasing an average of 27kg worth of new textiles that year. For context, one kilogram creates 11 kilograms worth of greenhouse gases in its life cycle.  

With the current rate of fast fashion consumption in mind, Mimosa is “all for slowing things down” and creating garments that can be worn time and time again. 

“With Sük, I’m trying to create garments that are a staple uniform for all facets of life: durable enough to work in, flattering enough to wear out. I wanna see more garments last longer and look good right up till they fall apart 10 years down the track.”  

Mimosa says that by refusing to be “dictated by trends or seasons” and encouraging everyone to consume less, the brand may have to work harder to establish itself and survive in the competitive fashion market, but she wouldn’t do so if she didn’t feel like they were contributing positively.  

Sük is gamechanger for the Australian workwear market both socially and environmentally, but the biggest takeaway from the brand is its powerful message of positivity and empowerment. 

“Hyper masculine culture in worksites and on jobs is slowly shifting but still very apparent and if people can feel confident and comfortable in their bodies then the hope is they can stand up to these outdated ideas of gender and we can all just get on with the job.”

sukworkwear.com.au

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