Australian lingerie brand, Nico Underwear, is making huge efforts in terms of environmental impact and ethical production and they are going far from unnoticed. Having recently received a SOURCE Award, the Global Awards for Sustainable Fashion, and recognition from Ethical Clothing Australia, this young but fearless label is instigating change in an industry reputable for poor working conditions and blatant environmental neglect. I spoke to creative director, Lis Harvey, about how this sweet, delicate, minimalistic underwear brand is boldly redefining industry protocol, business practices, and even the term "sexy."
Tell us a little bit about the Nico woman. Who is she? What is her personal style? Do you ever picture what she wears over her undies? :)
The NICO woman is creative, naturally stylish and has a stong sense of individuality. She is thoughtful and socially conscious. I do often think of what our customers wear over their undies and that definitely influences the design process. It's also always great to meet our lovely customers at our pop up shops and events and be inspired by their style in person! So many of them are so great at mixing things like our basic tees with something bold like a great skirt for a truly unique look that just balances really well!
Congratulations on your recent SOURCE award as well as being recognized by Ethical Clothing Australia. Tell us a little bit about how Nico strives to
reduce its impact?
Thank you! To sum it up, ethics and sustainability are factors in our decision making process in all parts of the business. This translates particularly to our choice to manufacture locally and to open up our supply chain to Ethical Clothing Australia who have confirmed that all workers are being paid fairly and working in good conditions. We also strive to consider the environmental impact of the materials we use and prefer to use natural fibres such as organic cottons.
Tell us about Nico's collaboration with "Save the Children." How did it come
about and how can our readers support the cause?
The situation in Syria has been so terrible for so long and we wanted to do something help out. After discussing our ideas with Save the Children we decided to partnter with them to raise money for their Syrian Crisis Appeal. For the entire month of January $2 from every NICO sale was donated to the appeal. Direct donations can also be made to Save the Children at
What are some of the challenges you face by holding yourself accountable to
a higher ethical standard in comparison to some of the bigger, fast fashion
Certainly when we choose to manufacture ethically it makes it really impossible to compete with fast fashion brands on the basis of price. That being said though there is a new surge of interest in ethical fashion and an understanding amongst many consumers that cheap fashion is usually cheap because somebody was exploited in the making of it. I believe that surge is growing and will continue to do so. That's good news for us as it means the challenge is becoming less of an issue for NICO and more one for fast fashion's consumers start to demand more transparency.
What are some small changes other labels could make in order to become
more environmentally and socially conscious?
More and more I think consumers are becoming aware of the environmental and social issues associated with the fashion industry and are demanding transparency and accountability from brands. I think labels need to take this on board and if they are not comfortable shining a light on parts of their business, then they should change it.
You started your career off as a fashion photographer. What was it that urged you to switch to design?
I really love working as a photographer and I still do quite a bit of it when I have the time. Photography was really my introduction to the fashion industry and I really loved being able to creatively interpret a designers concept and turn it into something visual. I suppose I was craving a bit more creative control (ok, I can be a little bit of a control freak sometimes!) and loved the idea of working on a concept all the way through from development to design to capturing that in a photograph and that was one of the reasons that led me to start NICO. I still take all of the photos for NICO and I love being able to
work on a concept from both perspectives :)
I'm super tactile and my favorite detail in garments (lingerie especially) is the way it feels on your skin. What are your some of your favorite fabrics?
It's all about natural fibres at NICO – they need to be breathable and to feel soft and luxurious! We use a lot of organic cottons and bamboo blends which are so nice to wear and perfect for comfy undies :)
How do you define "sexy?"
I think sexy is what ever you want it to be. It's about being confidant in yourself and your style, it's being gracious and intelligent. It's about being yourself and owning it!
Do you find any obstacles in such a competitive market when defining your
own terms of "sexy lingerie?"
When we launched NICO the idea was to fill a gap in the market. There were lots of brands offering traditional 'sexy' lingerie – the lacy kind of stuff I guess! And then there were lots of brands doing the simple practical stuff, but there wasn't much in between. That's where NICO sits – a different kind of sexy, and we regularly hear from our customers that it's something they've been looking for. So I'd really say it's less of an obstacle and more of an advantage!
What's next for Nico?
Big plans for this year! We'll have a new collection out in a few months which is looking really cool! We also have plans to release a classics range of our favourite everyday stylesin black and white. We're also looking forward to bringing the NICO aesthetic to more basic styles like tees and day dresses. The best way to keep updated with what's going on is to follow us on facebook or instagram :)
Thanks Lis so much for sharing with us! Keep an eye out at NicoUnderwear.com for the newest collection to be released in just a few months!