Why are we talking about a visionary person? Because we are speaking of someone who thinks different, who anticipates a future that others cannot see, who does not stick to the status quo but tries to change the world by creating new ideas through real innovation.
Students had the opportunity to discover this creative thinking outside the box by interviewing the industry insider and widely honoured Vanessa Yao, Brand President at ICICLE.
As president of the ICICLE Brand from the ICCF Group, she oversees the Group’s branding and communication, fabric sourcing, R&D, merchandising, production, and management worldwide (China, Europe and Japan).
ICICLE was founded in 1997, claiming to be the first eco-friendly Chinese clothing and accessories company with a solid ethical fashion philosophy. Originally from Shanghai, ICICLE pioneered a new way of ethical fashion with clean and sophisticated design, sustainable top-quality textiles and a vertical, integrated value chain covering manufacture, logistics, retail, and franchise. In 25 years, the brand opened more than 300 shops in China and two concept flagship stores at George V and Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris.
Let’s read what Vanessa told us.
1. Thank you for opening ICICLE’s door to MAZE35! What inspired ICICLE to create the first Chinese eco-friendly fashion brand?
They created this brand simply because they aimed to buy good quality clothes for their professional occasions, which they couldn’t find on the local market back then. We are talking about 25 years ago, and the sustainable approach was the best solution to seek better quality.
2. Can you explain your style concept, defined as “The Art of Comfort”?
It comes from the ancient Chinese spirit of harmony between humans and nature. We aim to allow people to feel comfortable from their body to soul using natural materials, with the relaxed fit of a timeless style but not body-hugging, tinted in the colours of nature and sewn with ethical fabrics.
3. All ICICLE stores recreate a sense of harmony that looks like a link to Chinese heritage. What is your retail design idea?
In our stores, we often use ceramic as a traditional material from China. Softness is in every detail: for example, the ceiling is rounded, not square, to look as fluid as water. Moreover, this harmony is reflected in our products; we use a lot of silk and cashmere, as well as natural fibres such as Japanese organic cotton, cruelty-free Chinese heavy silk and Belgian linen to create the perfect blend of nature and humanity.
4. Can you describe the ICICLE SPACE and why you have chosen to sell pottery and books?
We wanted to offer a complete lifestyle, bearing in mind that fashion is an extension of a beautiful life. Therefore the environment around us not only influences us but nurtures our spirit. As per our cultural heritage, these items have all the features to match our values.
5. What is Eco-Awareness for you, and how do you spread this culture within the company?
We use an old Chinese saying to describe the sustainable principles that we share as part of our company culture:
Jingtian (敬天): Respect nature.
Xiwu（惜物): Cherish what has been given.
Airen（爱人): Kindness to others.
6. Why have you established the Paris Design Centre?
Being an international platform for fashion, design and branding, the Paris studio allows us to find high-skilled, talented creatives and industry experts in the heart of Europe.
7. What is your life’s daily mantra?
Being fluid, like water.
8. What is your dream for the Group’s future, considering the acquisition of the historical French brand Carven?
Bringing different values to the world to strengthen ICCF’s position in the mid-to-high-end market with its originality and supporting the Group’s development of global entry strategies with its rich experience as a French fashion house (iconic Edith Piaf’s favourite!).
9. What advice would you give to young Marangoni students?
Being creative in all possible ways.