NEEMIC on China’s sustainable fashion surge

NEEMIC, Clean Air

Sino-German relations are currently having a moment, with the Hauptstadt celebrating the 20th anniversary of the cooperation between Berlin and Beijing. This week, to make the most the current love for Chinese culture in Berlin, we’re focusing on artists and designers hailing from the People’s Republic.

In large Chinese cities, pollution levels are something its population are continually aware of. But how clear is the link between the every day problems of pollution and enterprise that seeks to solve these issues? NEEMIC is an eco-friendly brand that is dedicated to bringing the best in the sustainable fashion industry. With their pared-down designs inspired by the citizens of Beijing, their approach to design is going beyond China’s borders. Sleek talked to them about how they’re bringing sustainability to some of the world’s most polluted cities.

Sleek: What is NEEMIC and what does it stand for as a clothing label?

Hans and Amihan, NEEMIC: As a fashion brand NEEMIC is bridging eco-friendly and ethical fabrics with fashion-forward design. As a platform we support creativity and sustainability in general. This includes, for example, artists-in-residence, LOHAS-driven events for consumers or organic fabric group purchasing to manoeuvre indie designers around minimum-order quantities.

What do qualities and traits does each designer in the partnership bring to NEEMIC?

Amihan is responsible for our creative aspects and Hans for business, to make things happen. Amihan’s background is in sociology and importing Japanese designer fashion and Hans’s is in sustainable agriculture and IT. Our backgrounds are pretty much reflected in NEEMIC’s mission and way of operation. 

What do think producing the collections in China offers that perhaps you wouldn’t find in Europe?

We have here in China a wider choice of conventional (yet natural) fabrics. On the other hand certified organic fabrics of a fine quality are hardly available on the Chinese market. 

Often fabrics that are produced in China will not be distributed within China, and so won’t reach retail channels which can be accessed by independent designers like NEEMIC. Instead the production all goes into export, like for example to H&M who is the world’s largest buyer of organic certified cotton. 

This is a long, unecological and uneconomic supply chain, that’s why we try to stimulate the domestic Chinese retail trade with organic fabrics. One of our projects is an design centre for sustainable fashion including China’s first retail shop with focus on sustainable fabrics.

So when we can’t find desired certified organic fabrics in China we source elsewhere, often in Western Europe like Germany or Switzerland, for example Lebensbekleidung in Berlin. Lebensbekleidung is sourcing GOTS-certified fabrics whose base material (e.g. cotton) was often initially produced in India, Turkey or China. 

How popular is sustainability and ecofashion in the current Chinese market? Do you see any change happening towards/away from sustainability?

There is a clear trend towards sustainability in fashion. Though it is still in a pioneer phase, more of a media demand, than fashion that can be bought in boutiques. One of this year’s activities is to bring out China’s first all-organic multi-brand collection. For this we act as initiator and medium between China’s leading multi-brand boutique BNC (Brand New China) and the German-based standard GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). Optimally, we try to foster local production such as the ramie fabric from Summerwood, which is hand-made in Hunan province and dyed on natural base. Locally-produced quality goods are increasingly overcoming the ‘Made-in-China’ stigma which is at least as serious domestically as internationally.      

Organic and recycled clothing is rarely seen in the realm of high fashion, why do you think this is and how does NEEMIC set out to change people’s preconceived perceptions of organic clothing?

The public perception of our brand so far was rather from the sustainability-side. By this year the interest to our fashion has also grown amongst classic fashion titles. That’s good because we have ambitions to reach out to mainstream with corresponding quantities!  

The NEEMIC aesthetic is a clear blend of Chinese tradition with a European hard edge, was it important for you to appeal to a varied spectrum of wearers and styles?

The credo is to create fashion in which the wearer feels good, which leaves room for their charisma. As a result our designs are rather quiet and appeal to quite a wide spectrum. 

How do you think the look of Chinese traditional clothing influenced the aesthetic of NEEMIC?

We get inspired daily by the colorful, flowery fabrics that we see in the streets, often on pyjamas in which the local Beijingers are dressed all day long in the traditional hutong quarters. 

What is in store for NEEMIC for 2014?

In 2014, we are collecting forces and talking with investors, to work towards a fantastic all-organic Spring/Summer 2015 collection which we would wholesale in China, Japan, the Middle East, Europe, North-America and Australia. There are several shows planned in the coming months: for example we are invited for Madrid Fashion Week in September.

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