Nicci Green speaks with a certain irreverence, not about her work, but about herself. While her surname is Green, she was formerly married to a Mr. Brown and claims to have dated a White and a Grey! With such an introduction, this writer is just waiting to hear the story of one of Melbourne’s leading lighting designers who, in a relatively short time, has established an enviable client list worldwide. Her fearless ‘can-do’ attitude is a reminder of what can be achieved, even at a relatively young age.

Green initially studied catering at the William Angliss Institute in Melbourne, before heading off to Greece 32 years ago, as just a 20 year old. While she wanted to be a graphic designer, her mother said that cooking was a safer bet financially. “The problem with cooking is that you are in a back room, rather than at front of house where everyone is having a great time,” says Green, who ditched cooking in a Greek kitchen after a year. At 21, she had the audacity to walk into the Vogue office in Milan. “I think I knew what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t exactly articulate that to the editorial staff. They helped me put it into words; a ‘food stylist’,” she says.

Food stylists are now recognised in the industry, but in the mid-1980s it was a different matter. Green offered to work as an unpaid assistant for three months, hoping the magazine would employ her at the end. Her ‘can do anything’ approach saw her land a position in Paris with French magazine Votre Beaute, which covered interiors, fashion and food. The mid-1980s was an exciting period to be involved in the magazine world, with Green recalling the celebrity parties she attended, including Jean Paul Gaultier’s soirees.

Returning to Australia in the early 1990s, Green worked as the Melbourne editor for Vogue Entertainment & Traveller for a number of years. However, in the belief that people have at least three careers in their lifetime, she reinvented herself by designing crockery, cutlery, glassware and lighting for Country Road. She also identified a gap in the market for Scandinavian-style coloured glasses, establishing her business, Bribe International in 2000, with Vic Kavals.

As with any businesses starting up, there are always moments one would like to forget. Green and Kavals set up a display at ‘Jeff’s Shed’ for a homewares/gift fare. “You know you’re in trouble when a neighbouring stand is selling football jerseys and total sales for that day are only 12 glasses,” recalls Green.

However, at the trough of her career, Green contacted the prestigious Conran Shop and Selfridges in London, hoping for an in with her glassware. With secured orders from both stores, and a successful showing at the Frankfurt gift fare, she was on her way. The duo ended up as the number one coloured glassware company in the United Kingdom and Europe. Even royalty from Jordan were lining up to place their orders at Maison & Objet, a year later.

While business was on a roll, the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 took the sparkle off their business, with the US and UK markets pulling out of better-end glassware. Far from being ‘stumped’ Green started to think about another venture, this time bespoke lighting.

At this time, most designer lighting was purchased offshore, from places such as Italy. Not having formal training has never fazed Green. “I knew enough about glass at that stage and I’ve always had a love of interior design and home-based products.” ‘Lumi’ was the first light developed by Green: two glass shades nestled or cocooned into each other. Conceived as a lamp, wall, pendant and floor lamp, the light’s simple form attracted some of Melbourne’s leading architectural practices, such as Bates Smart.

Then there is her ‘Fizi’ light, a relatively heavy glass ball light delicately poised on a brass bracket. Inspired by a ball-shaped paperweight owned by her mother, it still remains a popular design in Green’s collection. “When it’s placed against a wall, it’s like opening a bottle of champagne,” says Green, referring to the bubbles embedded in the glass. Green’s ‘Float’ light, designed for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York this year, was voted ‘best product in show’.

Green’s ‘Float’ light has just been installed in Tiffany & Co.’s flagship store in New York. Her ‘Eclipse’ can be seen at Melbourne’s Sofitel on Collins Street as well as at Nobu, a prestigious Japanese restaurant in New York. And Green’s ‘Fizi’ was purchased for actor Robert Downey Junior’s home. The Beckhams have also used her lights (via their interior designer). Green is also acutely aware of the subtle differences in the world markets. “Americans often tend to live in larger homes so you need to scale up. In the United Kingdom, lights tend to be smaller.”

With now a sizeable staff and orders coming in from all parts of the globe, Green literally can’t keep still. “I have to admit that I stay awake most nights. I have a pad on my bedside table,” says Green, who is currently working on a lighting design that could easily be mistaken for a sculptural centerpiece for a hall console or dining table. Now with 70 different lighting combinations in her repertoire, Green produces six to eight new collections each year from her new house-like showroom and studio in Richmond, designed by architect David Goss. Even with all this on her ‘plate’, you get the feeling that Green could quickly disappear into a kitchen and present the most exquisite meal before you, and of course, on a table that’s beautifully lit!

Text by Stephen Crafti.


Articolo Lighting can be contacted on 03 8595 8011. The Studio & Showroom is located at 18 Willis Street, Richmond

Lifestyle & Design

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