Must-have Brisbane-designed jewellery
It's yet another cool winter morning and the wind whips through Brisbane's CBD, its chill and ferocity amplified by rows of high-rises funnelling it down Edward St.
Yet there's a warmth emanating from the basement of Christie Nicolaides' soon-to-open shopfront.
The grey day is no match for the Brisbane-born-and-raised jewellery designer, radiant in a floral Dolce & Gabbana dress with colourful sandals, a vase of spring blooms brightening her work table.
"It's always summer somewhere," Christie, 31, says.
She's not referring to this hidden spot of colour in the city, but rather to the aesthetic she employs when designing her range of striking earrings, rings, bracelets, necklaces and headpieces.
"Live like you're on holidays all the time! That's the concept I work to."
Her opulent pieces, bejewelled with turquoise, amethyst, rose quartz and pearls, and finished in polished gold and silver-plated brass, are inspired by her own travels through Europe: to the Greek villages of her grandparents, the coastal towns of Italy and Spain, and the artisan hubs of Turkey.
"I think that's where the great love of jewellery developed. Going there and seeing the way Athenian and European women wear jewellery … which is very, very different to the way we wear it," Christie muses.
Her standout designs have won firm favour with women the world over since the self-taught jeweller opened a pop-up store on James St in late 2013.
A stylist by trade, Christie was consulting with leading fashion and retail brands including Easton Pearson and Westfield when she took a gamble on her first collection.
Encouraged by her now-husband Stephen Sourris, she invested "a huge amount" of her savings into bringing her design sketches to life.
"I realised there was a gap in the market. I couldn't find what I was looking for (so) I created exactly what I wanted
"I put all my money into it and thought, well, even if it doesn't work out, at least I'll have a fantastic collection of earrings.
"It was pretty apparent after that first pop-up there was a market of women who really liked it and that gave me the confidence to put everything behind it … and start building a brand."
She hosted a few more Brisbane pop-ups before she launched her online store, introducing her range to the rest of Australia and the world.
"My aesthetic hasn't really strayed that much," she says of the ensuing five years.
"I would like to think that every collection - I hope - gets better and I get better at developing the pieces: making them easier to wear, lighter, more fluid, more feminine."
Christie rode a similar learning curve when it came to producing and manufacturing her designs on a commercial scale.
In the early days, she would present jewellers with her sketches only to be told what she'd designed was impossible to replicate.
"I just never took no for an answer. I'd push and push and push, then redevelop, and now I've got to a point where I know the lengths I can push to make my jewellery."
Her stones and jewels are sourced globally and her pieces are manufactured throughout Europe; her supply chain finessed through countless overseas trips, factory visits, messages, video calls and translators.
"It has taken years to develop the relationships I have with the people who make my jewellery. It's a very important thing for me to know who is making it and I've now found a really great team. I know these people, they're family-run factories and … as the years go on, they understand my aesthetic."
High-profile fans include The Project's Carrie Bickmore, who wore Christie's designs to the Logies, as well as on the cover of Marie Claire magazine, and celebrities including Jennifer Hawkins, Kelly Rowland, Paris Jackson, Kate Ritchie and Samantha Harris.
Myer has sold her pieces since January 2017 and she is stocked by The Conran Shop in Paris, London and New York; by Ounass in the Middle East; and on luxury fashion websites Moda Operandi and FWRD by Elyse Walker.
Now, five years after launching her label, she is about to open her first permanent bricks and mortar store in the city where it all began.
"I'm from here, I'm based here, it makes sense for me to open my first store here and why not?" says Christie, who grew up in Highgate Hill with older brother Nicholas, younger brother James, and parents John and Angela.
"We've got a very sophisticated customer base and … if this is a success, I'd love to open a store in Sydney, Melbourne or even overseas."
The retail space on the corner of Edward and Margaret streets will double as the business' headquarters when it opens next month.
A compact shopfront at street level flows to a curved staircase that winds down to a basement-level retail space.
New pink marble flooring offsets its dark timber beams and exposed brick. At one end of this subterranean space are shelves of clear plastic tubs filled with a sparkling bounty of Christie's signature pieces.
She lives in an apartment above the shop with Stephen - a joint-owner of Brisbane's Five Star Cinemas chain with his brother Peter. She and Stephen met at a Christmas party in 2010 and married in June 2017.
Their big engagement party in 2015 at the Irish Club's former Tara House, since converted by the Sourris brothers to The Elizabeth Picture Theatre, was tempered by a smaller wedding ceremony at the Greek Orthodox Church of St George at South Brisbane and 120-person reception in Queensland Art Gallery's Watermall.
Christie travels abroad at least twice a year, for up to six weeks at a time, and says Stephen joins her when he can.
"He's a great support and because he's run many businesses, sometimes he's the bit of muscle I need when I'm negotiating," she jokes.
While overseeing the finishing touches to her store, Christie also launches her Marbella cruise collection this month, evoking the Spanish coastline of the 1960s.
She's also incorporating enamels into her February 2019 collection, sketching designs for her August 2019 collection, refining her first bridal collection - inspired by her own nuptials - and tinkering with introducing a range of eyewear, handbags and clothing.
"As a designer - and this is why I'm really excited about the shop - it's great to hear your customer; to be in that space where somebody picks up a piece and says, 'oh, that's heavy' or 'that's light' or even 'not quite', and you start to understand how to better the product and make it more universal. I'm excited about how this store will transform the brand."