A tin of sardines with the lid peeled back is splashed across an organic cotton T-shirt. Fleece jackets and pants come in bright red, green, or blue, eschewing the proliferation of neutral wardrobes. And a silk scarf is adorned with illustrations of sardine tins. Welcome to the colourful world of new genderless Melbourne label Sardine Supply, which fuses fashion and the culinary in its first, slimline, collection. It’s the work of James Nicolacopoulos and Gemma McLeod, and stems from the duo’s love of the bold graphics found on sardine cans.
Broadsheet chatted to McLeod about the inspiration behind the brand, the appeal of sardines and what to expect from the label’s second collection.
When and why did you start Sardine Supply?
What began as a Covid love child and an obsession with sardine cans slowly blossomed into the launch of our first collection in May 2023. While we have no official fashion training, we have been consumers and actively engaged in the world and business of fashion for many years. Developing the brand felt like a very natural step for us in what has been a longstanding fascination with design and branding.
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We wanted to create garments that would become centrepieces for discussion, just as the eccentric graphics of a sardine can would. For us, fashion is supposed to be interesting and evoke emotion, and we want people to feel that when they look at our brand and wear our clothes.
We have always been so intrigued by the power of branding and have been continuously drawn to these tiny sardine cans that pack such a creative punch for simple, no-fuss contents. Regardless of whether these fish are for you, there is no doubt these designs are universally appreciated. The bold graphics create intrigue for the consumer and hold their own as a conversation starter – this is the formula that makes up each collection. This overall fascination led us to start collecting cans – and we cannot put into words the joy we feel when discovering a new sardine brand.
Walk us through your creative process
It’s often a colour palette that inspires us initially, then we use that and both go away and design some ideas before coming back together and refining from there. It’s often a bit of a gut feeling, but the pieces always need to be items we would buy for ourselves and that complement our love of dopamine dressing.
How important is being unisex?
For us it’s more about a way of dressing that is reflective of the way we dress; we often wear each other’s clothes, regardless of whether they were originally tailored for a specific gender.
Our garments are intentionally oversized, which often goes hand in hand with comfort. It is important to us that our brand is welcoming and inclusive of everyone’s individuality.
What’s next for Sardine Supply?
We have a pre-order underway for a limited re-release of our bestselling sardine can silk scarf. We were completely overwhelmed with the love we received for this piece and were so disappointed when people missed out. The pre-order process allows us to only make as many pieces as are ordered by our customers, and once she’s gone, she’s gone – no further releases (pre-orders close October 12).
We also can’t wait to drop our second collection in December. These pieces provide an outgoing uniform to last our customers through the warmer weather, but they are also perfect for transitional seasons. It’s an exploration of patterns and contrast, designed for a consumer who is adventurous and ambitious. This collection, like our first, is small and considered, made using certified organic cottons, recycled plastics and non-chemical dyes.