Farms, building sites and long haul ships may seem like odd places to spark an idea for a fashion label – but that’s exactly what inspired Melbourne-based designer Mimosa Schmidt.
After a decade of labouring work, the designer and creative director made the jump from labourer to the founder of her own label.
“I got sick of trying to fit my curvy body into straight cut garments made for cis-men,” she says.
“It was at work on one excruciating voyage that I began to obsessively dream up a boiler suit that would house my breasts, hips and thighs and complement my ass in a way that made me feel as powerful as I was.
“I worked hard, excelled in my work; I wanted work clothes that reflected that.”
Schmidt’s label is SÜK – an ethical workwear label out of Melbourne built on the ethos of “celebrating all workers as worthy”.
The designer says that in the years she worked in labour jobs she never saw any images or advertisements of women in labour roles or trades.
It was this lack of representation that drove her to document all kinds of bodies, identities and expressions of femininity at work and in all their glory.
She launched SÜK with the widest size range she could manage as a small start-up – with 11 sizes, in both a short and long body option in order to fit out as many body types as possible.
The label’s collection includes boilersuits, dreamed up by Schmidt, apron suits, overalls, and the staples you’d expect to need on a work site.
Made for work, made to last
SUK’s garments are made in Pakistan by a family-owned and run factory. Schmidt says she’s spent months working alongside them, getting to know and understand how they work, fine tuning their designs and ensuring all aspects of quality are translated appropriately.
“I’m also proud to call them my friends, we have shared countless heartfelt conversations over home cooked meals,” she says.
For their garments, the designer says they use 100% Fairtrade cotton twill drill, slightly brushed in order to lose the stiffness often associated with new workwear.
“We chose this fabric because it is heavy duty and hard wearing but also soft to the touch. It’s comfortable and feels like a million bucks on.”
When it comes to managing waste and minimising the environmental impact of the label, Schmidt says they’re managing it at every stage of the supply chain.
“Firstly, with every design I ask myself: is this needed? We are trying to fill a gap in the market, not flog cheap clothing for profit. This is not fast fashion. These garments are timeless, comfortable, flattering and built to last,” she says.
“We are also working to cut down plastics wherever possible. Our garments are plastic free from factory to customer: we use biodegradable, home-compostable mailer bags and postage labels from our factory through to arrival at our customer’s door.”
Schmidt says that SÜK’s customers are women from all walks of life – from tradies to artists, to gardeners and people who just need a comfortable pair of overalls to ride their bike down to the pub.
“To me this speaks volumes: women were in need of hardwearing staples to work and get around in every day. We are here to help.”