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Melbourne label, Sunshine Symbol, made its first garments from fabric store off-cuts

Photographer – Stephanie Cammarano / Model – Jemimah Di Natale / Makeup Artist – Maggie M Makeup

Words by Ruby Staley

Radiant.

Sunshine Symbol is the glorious fruit of Melbourne-based designer, Melissa Mikletic’s, labour. It’s a combination of her love of textiles, functional and sustainable design, and romantic aesthetics.

Even with a fashion degree under her belt, Mikletic credits her keen eye for fashion and design to the female members of her family. 

“My grandmother was a seamstress. She instilled an appreciation for fashion in my mum which then trickled down to me,” said Mikletic. “We are three really different women, so fashion is something that has always bonded us together.”

Talking further about maternal style icons, Mikletic says she dresses to impress them the most, “I spend more time getting ready to visit my mum or my grandmother than if I’m going to see anyone else.”

She designs each of her pieces with her female muses in mind, intended for both practicality and longevity. Although, in terms of her design process, Mikletic doesn’t subscribe to specific formula.

Instead, she tries to follow her heart and notice the kinds of clothing that she gravitates towards emotionally.

“When I started out, I looked at three or four styles in my wardrobe that I loved and then tried to make my own versions,” she said. “Through this approach I tried to create items that reminded people that clothes are not just throwaway pieces, that they are to be loved.”

Whether it’s her mother, grandmother or friend, Mikletic finds herself constantly inspired by the way that the women in her life choose to dress themselves.

And rather than just sticking to one single element or trend, Mikletic likes to mix and match pieces for her own style and incorporates this same ideology when designing for Sunshine Symbol. Borrowing from minimalist, traditionalist and trend-following styles, Mikletic combines these to devise her own garments and ensembles.

“I like that feeling of not having to be all one thing. I like dressing to be a response to clothing that makes you feel a certain way. I’ve never identified strongly with one look,” said Mikletic.

From humble beginnings making clothes for herself and her friends, Mikletic used found fabric offcuts to create her initial designs.

“For a few years I was managing a fabric store and amassing quite a lot of fabric,” said Mikletic. “Naturally, I thought I try to do my own label and open a little shop.”

While working at said fabric store, she met her business partner and creative soulmate, Dominique Healy. Now the two own, Before March, a small, ethical retail store in Northcote together that stocks mainly local labels.

But Mikletic runs Sunshine Symbol totally on her own.

“I do the pattern-making, cutting and most of the designing. I also hire two small-run, local seamstresses to do some sewing for me.”

Although she is keen to grow as a team and brand, Mikletic is grateful for the opportunity to produce on such a small scale.

Not only can she keep a close eye on things like quality and waste, but keeping hands-on with the brand also presents an opportunity to be more socially conscious.

“In an era where people want things quickly and they want it all at once so in a lot of ways it’s quite nice for customers to get a slower drop of products, slowing that fast fashion process down,” said Mikletic. “Less is more, there is a lot of power to that.”

Order yourself a sustainable wardrobe staple online, or visit in-store at Before March.

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