“No matter how I say it, it always sounds kinda cheesy. But the idea behind NICO was one of those instinctual things,” explains founder Elisabeth Harvey.

The photographer turned fashion designer was on holiday in Norway when she found herself staring at a high-end ‘sexy’ underwear display in a shop window.

“I know I speak for a lot of women when I say that the lacy, over-the-top stuff isn’t our idea of sexy. I still feel that there is a bit of under-representation there.

“But at the time, I saw that there was a clear gap between the high-end lacy stuff and basic underwear. I created NICO to be a stylised brand that filled this.”

Three years on, NICO is an established fashion label that produces high quality basics and women’s underwear.

The label is stocked in a few different places around Brisbane, but is predominately sold online and through pop-up stores.

Another point of difference for Nico is that it is a transparent and environmentally conscious company, striving to promote positive change.

“The materials we use are not only soft and luxurious, but are some of the most environmentally sustainable options available,” Elisabeth says.

“All of our garments are made under ethical conditions right here in Brisbane. We were the first underwear brand to gain accreditation with Ethical Clothing Australia.”

In 2013 NICO was named the winner of the Lingerie and Swimwear category at the SOURCE AWARDS, which are the global awards for sustainable fashion.

“2016 is going to be a big year for NICO. We plan to step up and take it to the next level. We are currently investigating wholesaling opportunities,” Elisabeth says.

Although focused on the future, Elisabeth has not forgotten where she started out.

“When you work in commercial photography, it is often very uncreative, as you work on other people’s briefs. I was looking for more of a creative outlet.

“I’d always had an interest in fashion and felt it was an area I wanted to be involved in.”

Her career in fashion photography fostered the relationships and connections that helped kick start NICO. It is also how Elisabeth first heard of CEA.

“I always knew about it. The Brisbane creative network is small, and everyone knows everyone. In fact, I had referred people to CEA before.”

Elisabeth joined CEA’s Fashion Accelerator program in 2015.

“I wanted to expand NICO’s product line and the manufacturers I was working with. I wanted to branch out and take it to the next level.”

Much of Elisabeth’s training was self-taught, so the mentoring and support she has received has helped fill the gaps.

CEA has also helped her lay the groundwork for NICO’s growth in 2016 and beyond.