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“You can’t wear a big pair of earrings without a bold lip.” So says jewellery designer Christie Nicolaides, who is rarely seen without either. With her jet-black tresses, Dolce & Gabbana prints and statement jewels, the Brisbane beauty looks as though she has jetted into Queensland from Cinecittà studios in Rome. Nicolaides’s penchant for cinematic glamour is evident in her dramatic jewellery collections, treasured by A-listers and stylish women everywhere, and in her unfailingly groomed appearance. This is a woman who wears fragrance to bed.
A former stylist, Nicolaides launched her own affordable jewellery line in 2015. The collection spans gold-plated, stone-studded earrings, rings, necklaces and bracelets that recall Byzantine antiquities (except in the price). Her shoulder-grazing, door-knocker earrings, in particular, cry out for a special occasion, and you’ve likely admired them on your Instagram feed. The Memo caught up with the designer to learn more about her exuberant aesthetic, her worldly inspirations, and her obsession with a single shade of NARS lipstick.
TM: How did you begin designing jewellery?CN: “I’ve always been a collector of jewellery and accessories, and growing up with a grandmother and a mother who were really into fashion helped. My playbox was full of vintage pieces and Valentino costume jewellery. I decided to start designing my own because I felt I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I noticed there was a gap in the market for really good, high-end costume jewellery. It turned into a full-time job quickly.”
How would you describe your personal style? “I always aim to be polished and glamorous, and dress appropriately for where I’m going. I love bold colours, fun prints and I often start with the jewellery. I dress for my shape, that’s the stylist part of me. I’m always conscious of wearing flattering pieces that feel beautiful, look beautiful on and move beautifully when I walk. I am very measured and careful with how I put things together, and accessories are a big focus.”
How important is travel when you’re designing your collections? “It’s vital in terms of sourcing stones, working with my manufacturers, and ensuring the collections are exciting. Plus, a lot of my inspiration comes from seeing how other women dress. Rome is one of my favourite places to observe women. Some would argue that the fashion in Italy is very classic, but then you get this beautiful mixture of old Italian style and avant-garde fashion that comes through in Milan. And how can you not be inspired visiting the Punta della Dogana museum in Venice or staying in a palazzo on the Grand Canal?”
Does your Greek heritage also inform your designs?“I try to go back to Greece every summer. Greek women and European women approach fashion and jewellery in a different way. What might seem ostentatious here is definitely natural and normal in Europe. I love style-conscious European women with perfect hair and nails. Beauty is a focus that flows across every aspect of their lives, from the way they cook to the way they decorate their homes to how they dress. That’s who I always have in mind.”
There’s an ancient Greek opulence at play in your work. How do take something with an old-school feel and make it modern? “I love antiquities. One thing I get from ancient jewellery is that beautiful yellow gold. Those pieces look so wonderfully old, fragile and aged. I’ll take elements from them, such as the colour of the gold and the shapes within them, but then I’ll blow them up to bigger proportions to make them more contemporary. I have always looked to runway jewellery from the seventies, eighties and nineties, too, which is big and bold.”
What’s the best piece of beauty advice you’ve ever received? “When I was in my teens, my mother always told me to resist touching my eyebrows. I remember a lot of girls were plucking, and I’ve always had big brows. I’m always grateful I listened. Growing up in Australia, you go through a time when you want to be the same as everybody else, and having large brows, olive skin, and long black hair isn’t what you want. But, as you get older, you realise that they’re the things that make you different and special.”
viewing of products
Do you like to match your lip colour to your accessories?“Yes, it’s playful and it’s fun! I also match colours with my outfit and with my manicure. I know that sounds a bit eighties, but I love it. Depending what I have coming up, I have my nails done and I make sure my lipstick matches. There’s no point wearing beautiful clothes and jewellery if your hair and nails aren’t done."
We hear that NARS Audacious Lipstick in Annabella is go-to colour…“Yes, I love it! I did play with some beautiful Rodin lipsticks recently, and they’re nice to layer. I like that opaque, matte-finish lipstick. I love that strong pigment, which is why ‘Annabella’ is so beautiful.”
Tell me about your skin care routine.“I’m very big on moisturiser! I moisturise nearly three times a day. Every second night I use Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel. I find they’ve made such a big difference to my skin. I love Chantecaille Vital Essence, and La Mer The Treatment Lotion. I also love Flower Harmonizing Cream from Chantecaille, and I use Chantecaille Stress Repair Concentrate as my eye cream. I do most of my skin care regime at night, before I go to bed. In the past I’ve also used the Darphin Intral Air Mousse Cleanser as part of my morning routine.”
And your fragrance of choice?“I love Une Rose by Frederic Malle. It is so lush. I always spray myself after a shower before I go to bed—I feel like it is so lovely going to bed smelling beautiful.”
You were married not long ago. How did you select your wedding day jewels?“Well, I found the dress and then I designed a new collection. I’m so lucky that all my friends support me and wear my jewellery, so I actually designed a piece for each person in the bridal party and in my family. I also designed a piece of jewellery that everyone at the wedding got as their bonbon. The collection (featured in the images that accompany this story) is my first bridal collection, and this collection is an extension of what I wore on my wedding day.”
Did you wear your signature red lip on your wedding day?“Absolutely! I wore a red lip, minimal foundation, a fine black liquid liner and lots of mascara. I had my hair down, a big bouncy blow dry—exactly what I do every day with a little bit more effort.”
Lots of celebrities have rocked your jewellery but is there someone you’d love to see it on?“I love Giovanna Battaglia Engelbert [the Italian fashion editor]. I think she’s incredible and I’d love to see her wearing my jewellery. She would style it in her own amazing way. I love Anna Dello Russo (the Italian fashion journalist) as well. I’m very inspired by her.”
Interview by Emily DeaconPhotography by Lucy LauchtJuly 2018