The slow fashion movement is well and truly here, with many conscious shoppers—rightly so—deciding to invest in brands that not only reduce their environmental impact with revolutionary sustainable practices, but are made ethically too. Making the switch in everything from our denim to office staples is at the forefront of many consumers' minds, choosing to opt-out of fast fashion and spend their money where it’s going to make a real difference.
But, while many might have curated that conscious collection, the need for sustainable basics, from underwear to loungewear, is arguably harder to come by — well, that is if you haven’t yet discovered Lis Harvey’s NICO yet.
Launching NICO in 2012, Harvey’s label has become the underwear brand with the longest standing accreditation with Ethical Clothing Australia, cultivating a stand-out reputation for celebrating the “sartorial philosophy of minimalism and understated luxury.” With ethical and sustainable transparency at the core of everything the brand creates, it’s easy to see why the high-quality, luxe pieces have become such a welcome addition to wardrobes everywhere.
“It’s a really exciting time in clothing production right now—there has been such pressure coming from consumers demanding greater consideration for the environment and for the welfare of the people making our clothing,” explains Harvey. “This leads to innovation and as an industry we’ve made a lot of progress in developing better ways of working.”
Since its inception, NICO has been widely praised for not only transparency in its supply chains, but also the brand’s innovative and forward-thinking techniques that reduce the environmental impacts of its creative processes.
“For us, starting to work with natural plant dyes was a really big step in the right direction—it helps us to remove toxic chemicals from our supply chain which benefits not just the wearer but importantly the people making the clothing.”As Harvey says, the decision-making at NICO has ethical and environmental sustainability factored in with the same weight as any other considerations—from fabrics right down to how it’s shipped.
“Whether it’s which fabrics to work with or how to ship—we are giving strong consideration to ethics and sustainability every step of the way,” she says. “A big part of this is who we choose to work with and we are lucky to be partnered with an amazing production team in India who are very much on the same page when it comes to creating our products.”
Harvey, who also has a background in photography, regularly celebrates women of all kinds through the brand’s NICO at Home series, an inside look at real women wearing the label’s designs. The images are raw and intimate, showing women as their authentic selves, from lounging around to making coffee in the morning sun, and often, mothers cradling their newborns.
“I’m so conscious of the responsibility of our platform and the importance of putting out a positive message. When we started creating our NICO at Home series where we photograph women in their homes wearing NICO, we had such an overwhelming response,” says Harvey. “Our community loved connecting with the brand and these women on a more human level—it was about creating a connection that went beyond just how someone looks and that celebrates the many facets of femininity.” NICO’s latest collection proves exactly why the brand has become so loved, leaning into the leisurewear side of its offerings and experimenting with new fabrics and methods of creation.
“In the midst of a lot of negativity in the world we really wanted this range to be fun,” explains Harvey of the summer collection. “We worked with the team of artisan plant dyers on a palette that felt optimistic and bold. With this collection I think we have really found our aesthetic with the leisurewear side of things—it’s all about mixing comfort with style. Cuts that are flattering to wear while at the same time can make you feel confident and relaxed.”
While the brand originally started with its womenswear collection, focusing on underwear before adding leisurewear, after the birth of her daughter Elinor, Harvey set out to create a collection of cute and practical pieces for kids, that are both playful and durable.
“I started working with my production manager in India, Rajesh, just after my daughter Elinor was born. Rajesh was starting his own company and he named it Little Elinor. Together, Rajesh and I conceptualised the idea of taking what we were already doing at NICO and applying it to babywear—minimalist designs made from high quality and sustainably focused fibres.”
Harvey created the pieces she was looking for as a new mum, designed for both comfort and playfulness, but with quality that would last (with the intention to be passed on for years to come).
“As a mother, I was really looking for pieces for Elinor that were simple and cute—that’s it. And it was surprisingly hard to find! Dressing Elinor has given me renewed appreciation for minimalism in design—we all want pieces that are timeless and built to last.”
Through these experiences, Harvey, like any new mum, learnt a lot about the demands of dressing kids, which she has since applied to the Little Elinor creations.
“I’ll admit I was pretty clueless about it before,” she says. “The fabrics need to hold up to a lot of wash and wear, they need to be super soft so as not to irritate the baby’s skin. And, as the mother of a really fussy 3-year-old—I know that having a lot of options in pink is also really important!”
“They don’t need to grow up any faster than they already do! I want them to be comfortable, to be able to run and jump and crawl around in the dirt and enjoy all the good kid things without worrying about anything else.”
Explore NICO’s collections here.