Women on worksites have had to wear men’s workwear for a long time.
And that sucks. If you’re a dude reading this, imagine labouring down on the docks in a pencil skirt and ill-fitting bra. Forget about it. You’d be chafing like a madman. But that’s what it’s like for people with hips and boobs when they have to squeeze into a pair of narrow-ass King Gee overalls and try to move a pile of bricks. Mimosa Schmidt knows all about this, and that’s why she decided to create SÜK, a women’s workwear brand made by women for women. Genius. I had some questions for her. The first one was stupid. Sorry.
Question 1. Your name is Mimosa—were you conceived at brunch?
I am named after an extremely formidable woman, my great, great Aunty Mosa. A horse-breaker and trainer, and a true Queensland bush woman. She was named after the Acacia, which, funnily enough, is a noxious weed up there where we were both born.
Next question: When and how did you come up with the idea for a women’s workwear label?
I grew up on cattle stations and spent my 20s working on farms, building sites and long haul ships. I have a classic hourglass shape so men’s clothes translated extremely badly to my frame. It became a bit of an obsession for me, mentally designing workwear that would support my shape and make me look as pro and I knew I was on the job. Eventually, after much chaffing in masculine workwear and googling alternative options, I just cut to the chase and made some samples. The rest is history.
Why is SÜK called ‘SÜK’?
It’s a take on ‘Sook’, the classic slur you have in any toxic masculine space, and something I heard countless times on any given day working on Aussie worksites. SÜK was my way of gentling flipping the bird to all the dudes onsite that made it clear they felt I didn’t have a right to be there. Those sites were some of the most unsafe places I’ve ever set foot in, and while I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, it also made me who I am: a powerful woman who also sees the value and integrity in being soft. I wanted to take this word and make it something fearsome and inviting, use it as a new label for belonging.
How does having to wear ill-fitting men’s workwear on a site make a woman feel?
The main thing is that they are uncomfortable, they often chaff for starters and after a long days work, especially if you’re really moving and sweating, it gets painful, bloody even. But they also sag in all the wrong places and are tight in all the unflattering ones…and you just don’t feel cool in them. Compare that to wearing something like our ‘open front overalls’ which are actually built to sit on the waist and house wider hips and tits, there is no comparison. Our overalls actually make you feel like a million bucks and can go the whole day with you without chafing or slipping off your shoulder or sagging around your waist.
Why hasn’t anyone done this yet? Seems like a no-brainer gap in the market.
I think previously it was perceived that there just wasn’t much of a demand. 15 years ago when I started on building sites, I really was an anomaly. In the whole decade I worked in labour roles I worked with only two other women, and literally thousands of men. Workwear is a big industry too, so punching your way in is definitely intimidating. We have found that there is actually a huge demand for well made and good fitting femme-workwear, women in many different types of roles are on the lookout for it, but until now those modes of work have been overlooked.
How do you get the SÜK fit right?
We are designed and road-tested by a female labourer: Me. I am broad and muscular and have DD-cups. So these garments are made to house a real women’s body and the design solutions have been addressed to cater to real problems I have faced: like chaffing between the thighs and fitting around my bust, while still giving a comfortable waist fit and fully flexible body movements.
Where and how is SÜK made?
We design and sample everything in Melbourne. The design team is small, just two of us. We prototype till we have everything just right, then I trial them to ensure they fit and feel great. Then we send them off to an excellent factory in Pakistan. I’ve spent many months working alongside this small family-owned and run factory in Lahore; we work closely with them to ensure we have all the details and quality just right, then we do limited production runs to ensure we have no wastage.
SÜK looks way cooler than anything being made for men, and here’s an actual serious question: any plans to make a men’s range?
Yes, I hear you, SÜK is the best out there. I would love to offer some masculine fits to really open up the community. However, we still have our work cut out for us fine-tuning our current range and finishing off our on-site range…. But once we have this in hand, we’ll see what we can do…
What’s next for SÜK?
We will just keep our heads down and delivering primo hardwearing femme workwear.