It was a chance meeting for ICICLE founder Ye Shouzeng with a Japanese fabric mill that stirred up a lot of emotion for the man whose philosophy has always been about humans and nature in harmony. After launching ICICLE in 1997, Mr Shouzeng met with the Japanese mill and was moved by its eco-friendly practices so much so that it reaffirmed his passion to ensure ICICLE continued along this sustainable path.
“During the time when the brand was first founded, the trend was for man-made fibres, but ICICLE persevered in using natural fibres, because we simply have a love and passion for it,” explains Mr Shouzeng. “My childhood was in the Fujian countryside, and everything in the village, including the environment, was preserved and kept in its original form. My dream at that point was to be able to pass on Chinese traditions and heritage, with natural materials as the brand core.”
Yet the road to becoming one of China’s leading environmental advocates has not been easy, especially when trying to establish and run a solid business.
“The path to success lies in perseverance. Generally, it costs three to five times more to use environmental resources and sustainable manufacturing practices. When faced with a choice between saving the environment and making profit, most companies will choose the latter. ICICLE is different – when a more sustainable option exists, we will always choose that one instead. Perhaps in the short term consumers may not entirely realise your dedication and commitment to the environment – but one day they will discover that that lining is 100% natural and environmental, and with this newfound discovery of ICICLE’s attention to detail and resolute respect for Mother Nature, they will inevitably become a loyal follower of the brand.”
At a time when so many markets are saturated with fast fashion, ICICLE pushes for trends to be steadier and utilises exquisite craftsmanship to prolong the life of a garment. This, combined with the foresight and passion of Mr Shouzeng to pioneer eco-friendly fashion in China, adds to the lifestyle embodied by ICICLE and its consumers.
“I always ask that we preserve the integrity of our raw materials as much as possible and that our marketing department conveys the message accept natural materials, because they are good for the environment. In this industry, the more sustainable and environmental your approach is upstream of the supply chain, the more you stand to benefit and develop downstream,” he says.
No ICICLE collection would be complete without the presence of Merino wool, often undyed, and sourced from premium Italian mills. Featuring wool in both its spring/summer and autumn/winter collections further highlights the versatility of wool, showcasing it as a fibre for all seasons.
“Our autumn and winter collections cannot exist without wool; our past season included a significant 40% of double-faced woollen fabric. Handcrafted double-faced wool fabrics can elicit an emotional connection with consumers, not only is it light but it also has very good thermal properties. For the spring/summer collections, our wool garments are mostly flatbed knitted. We are also experimenting with double-faced wool fabrics for spring/summer.”