Activewear label SukiShufu is coming to the States! That means more opportunities to see the quality pieces up close and personal, try them on for size, and experience the true difference from other brands on the market. The first collection was picked up by Harrod’s and their second is seeing even larger numbers in international sales. Last week, we met with founder Caroline White to discuss how being made redundant after 17 years as an investment banker turned into a blessing in disguise.
Caroline begins by walking us through her collection.
If you have a day where you’re feeling really good about yourself, you might want to wear something like the shorts and the little top over there. But if you’re having a day like me, when I’m teaching sometimes, where like I don’t want to have everything on show. So, I have pieces like this, which are great. So this will cover the top of your leggings, your crotch and behind, and you can still feel loose … And your not self-conscious.
You can get through and do your workout without worrying about pulling, or pushing, or like, trying to fasten up your outfit. It’s all very easy to wear. We added some sweats as well. So this is Italian loopback fabric.
You said loopback?
Yeah, loopback, which is this kind of, finish. In the back of the garment, there’s different fibers and different widths that you can do. This one’s thicker. So that’s like a loopback, as well. We did it with a contrasting panel, that’s actually kind of got a really nice coating on it. We just wanted it to be neutral tones, so if you wanted to team something together it wouldn’t be too over the top.
The prints, we did with the first collection and we carried them through just because people have loved them. So we’ve kept these three prints again for this season, but with the next collection we’ll retire these, and we’ve got some new ones that will come out with that.
What are your best-sellers?
I’d say the best sellers in terms of the gloss are the black, obviously, because that’s a staple. And then a lot of people are wearing the chrome. And you can team them with tops, so we will have the bandeau tops which are, low impact, yoga, pilates, that sort of thing. You can just team them with a tank and these leggings, or you can go for something that’s a bit more strappy with a little bit more support, which would be like this Tempura bra top which has got a really nice strap design in the back that we based off of a belly dancer’s bra top. And then if you wanted more support, you’re doing something like running on the treadmill, or like a class, then we have the Miso top, which is a lot more fitted, a lot more supportive for a bigger bust, and its got the paneling follow the paneling in the back.
So where is it all made?
Everything we get made in England, and we’ve invested in a factory, so we are hoping to finance them to grow so that we can also take advantage of having priority on production. We can guarantee the quality of our products. It’s more expensive to manufacture in the UK, but the quality and the turnaround, and there’s no language barrier or issues with some of the Asian supplies that get a lot of returns because of quality issues. We’ve had one return in two years, and we’ve sold like thousands of pieces, so we have to justify a price point, we are premium. But by the same token, you’re getting a premium garment, and you’re getting stuff that’s made to last.
Can I just say, I’m so happy you just used “premium,” because I feel as if when anyone launches anything, they always rush to use the word “luxury.” They’re so ashamed to say “Our collection is premium.” Nothing’s wrong with being premium. Premium is amazing!
If you have the disposable income to buy something that’s premium, that is not just buying into a brand, it’s buying into quality. I would rather pay for that than get something that’s going to last me two seasons and chuck out. Unless it’s just a T-shirt that I want for the beach, I’m not going to care. I teach as well, so I wear this stuff day in, day out. It needs to be durable, it needs to wear, it needs to not lose its luster, it needs not to run, and we test our products to … within an inch of life. All of this collection can actually be thrown in the washing machine. We do put on here, “Hand wash, cold only,” because we know that if we put on there “machine wash” people will put them in on a hot wash or something.
You said you teach, what do you teach?
Yeah, so I teach Hot Hatha yoga. I haven’t taught in the last couple of months but I teach in London, in Parsons Green. I actually went away to the States, to Vegas, of all places, and studied Hatha yoga, so I became a teacher. And that’s how kind of some of the ideas came about for the pieces because I couldn’t find what I wanted to wear that wasn’t quite … There’s a lot of conservative stuff out there which is very plain, very functional. Which sometimes you want to wear, but I like to feel a little bit more dressed up, without losing practicality, and so that’s kind of how the range developed. I’d see students, and I’d be teaching and I’d be pulling and tugging stuff everywhere and I’d think, “People need to do a T-shirt that’s loose, that’s long, that they can be in a posture it’s not going to rise up and go like this,” so we do things like cut out tanks extra long, so they come down, you don’t need to hitch them up.
Do you have a history in fashion?
Not at all. I was a banker.
Yeah, I was in investment banking for 16, 17 years. Then I was at Lehman Brothers, at the bank when it went into administration … When it went into bankruptcy. So then I lost my job, mostly got made redundant, and I’d always wanted to try yoga, but when you’re a banker you just … The hours are ridiculous, and you just don’t get the time to do it. So I kind of had like all this time on my hands, so I started practicing, and loved it. Then went, “Right, I’m going to go be a teacher.” So I did that thinking that eventually, I’ll get back into banking, it just needs to calm down a bit. But now I’m like … So far away from banking I couldn’t even consider sitting in an office with six flat screens around me on a trading floor, would just be like death. But if I hadn’t been booted out, I would probably still be there.
Yeah, yeah. I’m really passionate about this, and I love it. I can work all day and night on it and not feel like I’m working, because I get obsessed by little things like samples arriving, a new swatch, I go, “Oh my god, babe!” My husbands like, “Okay, right it’s just a bit of fabric.”
Will it just be online right now in the US?
It’s online and it’s in a couple of boutique sort of stores. There’s a place called Legit Activewear, which is actually in Boston. Carbon38 is probably our biggest stocker, so that’s online. We’re seeing more buyers when we’re out here. There’s a couple of spin studios, pilates studios, which stock it. But we haven’t really focused on the US until now. So now it’s like a big, kind of push. We’re hoping to have more bricks and mortar because people want to be able to go in and try it on. Also, when they see pictures of it and they think, “Oh is that rubber, is that PVC, or what?”
Yeah, I wasn’t sure online.
Yeah, but when you come and actually pick it up and you see it and you feel it, and trying on a pair obviously, you’re just like, “Oh my god, it’s completely different.” It’s practical as it is beautiful, like the fabrics and everything are just such good quality. We don’t do any overlocking or flatlocking of seams on the outside so it can be crossover into fashions and not identified as just a workout piece.
So where abroad besides Harrods can you find it?
Okay, so it’s stocked in Singapore, it’s stocked in Australia, it’s stocked throughout Europe, it’s stocked in the States. We’re going to start to look at the Middle East. Quite a big market out there, seriously. I really think for the next six months the plan was just to come to the States, and this is our first sort of launch, and our first press day out here having done atKamala [Collective]. So they’re sort of spearheading the campaign, but we get our second top purchases online are from the States.
In the interim what we’ve done, is we’ve just brought in free shipping for all international orders. So if someone in the States wants to order they’re not going to be put off by having to pay ten pounds extra or whatever it is to ship it out here. We will have more department stores and individual boutiques and stuff stocking us hopefully by the end of this year, if not early next year.