Despite a growing awareness about sustainability, China is not yet one of the places where green ideas come to fruition. In particular, the local fashion industry isn’t sensitive toward environmental issues and the textile industry in the south of the country has often been blamed as one of the main factors in China’s dire water pollution situation. And yet, despite the unsustainable landscape of Chinese fashion, NEEMIC has been a true pioneer for the green revolution. Founded in 2011 in Hong Kong—and currently based in Beijing—the brand set the ambitious goal of combining beautiful design with an active role in making the fashion industry more sustainable. In a charming hutong house in the old city, where the company is headquartered, CH met NEEMIC’s founder and CEO Hans Martin Galliker to discover more about the brand’s developments in sustainable design.
Having grown up in his family’s holistic farm in Switzerland, Galliker came to China for the first time in 2008 as a business communications exchange student. In 2009 he partnered with a friend to carry on independent research about farming in China. “We traveled for two months across the country, visiting 17 provinces and collecting 45 interviews with farmers; this was my first glimpse into unsustainability in China, and I realized how dramatic the lack of education was and how low the sense of responsibility for the land was. And we know how the impact of the fashion industry can be hazardous for the land: the cultivation of cotton impoverishes the soil and chemicals used in the dying process dissolve poisonous substances in the underground water,” Galliker shares with CH.
NEEMIC was born in 2011 as a first step in spreading environmental awareness and sensibility in China, using fashion design as a platform to promote a holistic approach to sustainability. “I partnered with my friend Amihan Zemp, co-founder and design mastermind behind the brand, to create a collection of environmentally friendly garments. Our raw materials are mainly leftovers from the high-end fashion industry and 30% certified organic fabrics,” he continues.
Beyond the broader mission of becoming an influential example, NEEMIC’s collections are a true showcase of understated elegance. The brand’s signature is a natural and unassuming style which emphasizes the beauty and texture of precious natural materials. Simple cuts and discreet color shades call to mind Northern European and Japanese minimalism. Loose-fitting garments and the soft texture of mohair, alpaca knits, silk and organic fibers embrace the body with a sensation of inner comfort—a key feature of the latest collection, whose theme is the feeling of a quiet and effortless afternoon. Every piece is produced locally in Beijing, thanks to a partnership with local tailors, which ensures equitable conditions along the whole production line.
The array of cooperatives NEEMIC is involved with is truly impressive. Among them, both the Hong Kong Organic Textile Association and the Beijing Fashion Collective—whose goal is to ease access to organic fabric for independent designers. “In partnership with the Beijing Institute of Fashion technology, we are planning the first showroom for sustainable fabrics only, in China,” Galliker notes. More and more, the brand is becoming a lighthouse in the local design community. “Earlier this year we were invited to Italy by Not Just a Label—a world-leading platform supporting independent designers—to contribute to the innovative fair Origin Passion & Beliefs and advocate for sustainability in China,” Galliker explains.
NEEMIC’s commitment toward the community and its leading role in promoting sustainability has also attracted many artists and creatives from different fields but as Galliker emphasizes, “to truly be able to make a difference, we don’t want to represent just a niche, artsy experience, on the contrary our goal is to expand our influence by becoming a mainstream brand in the fashion business and setting a successful example for many local independent designers.”
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Portrait by Alessandro De Toni, other images courtesy of NEEMIC