Demand quality, not just in the products you buy, but in the life of the person who made it.
What inspired the creation of Winki Suits?
Kara & I were both on the ferry home from work (me) and university (Kara) one day when we thought of creating a business right here in Manly. We often spent a long time trying to source surf-suits (the brand Seea) from the US, as there weren't really any in Australia that fit our brief of functional, timeless, and vintage(y). Every time we surfed, we’d have wedgies or some sort of swimwear malfunction so we were desperately trying to find some suits that were comfortable and cute at the same time. So we thought, hey, why don’t we design some suits?! We also really wanted our business to serve and look after other people, we wanted it to make an impact. So we prayed together about it and crazily, both got led individually to the same lady in the Philippines who helped run an organization called Honor1000 who partner with the International Justice Mission to rescue women and children from sex trafficking in the Philippines. They created ‘The Blessed Project’, which is a safe-house and rehabilitation center in the Philippines where these women and children can go to heal, rehabilitate, learn, have a bed, food, and are loved and supported by the team there.
What's it like being a small business in the (often) male-dominated giant of the surf industry?
I don’t think we’re really deterred by this at all and have never felt any kind of negativity or discouragement from men in regards to what we do, in fact, it’s been the total opposite. A lot of men in the Manly community are gunning for us and keep asking us when we’re bringing out a men's range so we’re super excited and encouraged by this! And obviously, sometimes in the line-up – there isn’t a whole lotta girls around but thankfully, wearing a functional suit in the water that keeps everything intact gives you so much more confidence than if you were having to worry about your swimwear falling off.
Where did you get the idea for the name and how do you Winki?
The name Winki came when Kip and I were sitting in her van with our two husbands (who happen to be brothers). We were thinking of something funky and iconic to surfing and Manly (where we live) when my husband came up with the name Winki. It didn’t stick at first, but after a little while everyone loved it and now it’s very iconic to us. Winki is a surf break in Manly, just between Bower and Deadmans.
What keeps you inspired?
Traveling to new places and meeting new people – whether it’s in Australia or beyond! Just getting out of your comfort zone and being renewed and refreshed by switching off and getting away is such an amazing way to clear your mind and new ideas usually spring forward. Also surfing of course and being out in nature – walking, swimming, diving, etc. – it’s all so refreshing and inspiring!
We love that you’ve made swimsuits that are really made to be surfed in, what things did you take into consideration when designing these suits? / what is your favorite suit to surf in?
It took a lot of going back and forth and something that we’ll never stop doing is editing or adjusting our patterns to ensure the fit is just right for the female body – it’s a constant process. We’re currently making a customer panel to get a group of girls to continually test our new styles and give us feedback (all shapes and sizes). Our favorite suit to surf in I think is the Lola It just fits so well and is so comfortable and sleek.
You work with the Blessed Project Sewing Program to make your suits, do you want to talk a little bit about what that’s like / what they do?
Yes, I mentioned this in the first question but we work with an organization called Honor1000 who partner with the International Justice Mission to rescue women and children from sex trafficking in the Philippines. Honor1000 created ‘The Blessed Project’, a safe-house and rehabilitation center in the Philippines where these women and children can go to heal, are fed and have a safe house, and receive rehabilitation through counseling and support in all areas. Some of the women here learn how to sew through The Blessed Project’s sewing program. Through sewing, the women can earn an income and learn a new skill while they go to school or university and figure out what they want to do with their lives. It’s so amazing to see how they flourish when they’re given support and a second chance at life.
Where is the Blessed Project workshop located? How did you find/partner with them?
It is located in the rural Philippines. We both prayed that we’d meet someone to help us with the impact side of our business and that was when we were both individually introduced to Kate, who heads up the Blessed Project! And the rest is history.
Have you met anyone that works with the Blessed Project? Any good stories?
Yes, Kip and I went over two years ago and met many girls and women there (some as young as 8 years old, which broke our hearts). One of the women rescued was deaf and she and her children were sold into trafficking. She is now learning to be a head sewer there and her children go to school. She would find it really difficult to obtain another job in the Philippines, due to her being deaf so The Blessed Project has helped her get back on her feet and has supported her and her children. It’s so beautiful to see the time and care they’ve taken in training her up to learn to sew.
How do you consider eco-consciousness in your production?
This is really tricky actually, as being a small business we don’t have access and choice to a lot of top-line, sustainable products and fabric out there in the manufacturing world. But, we’ve introduced recycled nylon for 40% of our stock in 2021 and we don’t use any plastic throughout our manufacturing process! We make small runs, so nothing goes to waste and we are constantly trying to improve on our sustainability front – even if it’s making scrunchies from leftover fabric or trying to purchase 100% recycled poly for our hooded towels! We’ll get there.
Your collaboration with Madi Rose is so cute! What's it like working with artists and do you have more plans to do so in the future?
We looove working with local artists! We’re currently working with two local artists on a slightly bigger project but it’s taking us a little longer than anticipated. We love supporting and setting the stage for them to grow and learn and having a small business gives us an awesome opportunity to do that.
Do you feel there’s more pressure as women to be “sustainable” (i.e. where our clothes, swimsuits, etc are from, lifestyle choices, diet) v.s. men?
Hmmm, I would say yes there is more of a pressure, but that’s partly the pressure we put on ourselves. Women are high-achieving, prone to anxiousness, and I would say more easily impacted than men. We’re the decision-makers in the home generally so we do have a bigger say and responsibility but I think this is a great thing if we balance it out with not feeling guilty and are able to channel that knowledge and responsibility into decision making and influencing others in our household and communities!
What are some of your best tips for beginner women surfers out in the line up?
Don’t care what people think of you! I always get worried that people think I look stupid when I surf, but no one is really looking at you or cares. They’re out there to have a good time and as long as you focus on your time out in the water and how much fun you’re having then you won’t worry as much about the people around you. I always make conversation with a few people as well, which makes me feel a lot more at home and comfortable. Men are pretty nice when you reach out too!
What’s next for winki? Do you plan to expand to making full suits or other apparel items?
We’re looking at introducing some apparel (soon) if things go according to plan, which they never do haha. And yes, wetsuits are another ball game but something we do really want to achieve eventually!
The Blessed Project Information