Nick Rennie is known and respected throughout the Australian design community as one of the country’s hardest working and internationally successful designers. He is also immensely likeable. In an industry that can be competitive and fickle at times, everyone you meet only has positive things to say about this creator who has more than 2 decades of success under his belt.
His mentor at RMIT, the late Kjell Grant, saw Rennie’s potential early and convinced him that to be a successful designer he needed to go to Milan, share his work and start networking. “It was 2000 so we didn’t really have access to the internet like today and none of the social media so the only way to get noticed was to get out there and meet people” he says of his start in the industry. His initial success came with a commission from Italian furniture brand Porro for his ‘Chiku’ shelving which opened up doors to other international brands including Normann Copenhagen and Ligne Rosset.
Throughout his career Rennie has enjoyed a mutually appreciative relationship with the Japanese design industry. He describes himself as being ‘besotted with the place’. Whilst exhibiting in Milan in 2004 he “met multiple designers and it just clicked and I ended up going their every year to design week in Tokyo until last year”. A residency for 3 months in 2012 supported by the Australian Design Council gave him the opportunity to understand the cultural appreciation of creativity. “I went to a factory in Hokkaido and there was the highest respect for the craftsmen, many of whom had done the same job for decades. I made incredible friends that have shown me their industry and allowed me to experience it in a way I never thought possible”. As a result Rennie lists the President of Condehouse, Tetsuya Fujita as a close friend “Our relationship is engaged and a true friendship”.
Relationships matter on home soil too. Rennie believes that a big strength of the Australian design scene is “the openness and non-competitive nature”. He points to collaborations such as Emma Elizabeth’s Local Design and the work done by Dale Hardiman and Tom Skeehan’s Friends and Associates in providing platforms from which all Australian designers can benefit. “It’s about pushing Australian design together” he says. “There must be around 20 designers from Australia who have a product with a decent European brand now. It’s like a big family here. Everyone is trying to create the best industry in Australia because it benefits all of us”.
Rennie’s latest relationship has been with designer / craftsman Dustin Fritsche and their newly launched brand Oku Space. A focus on design and quality is the anchor of this high-end, sustainably centred range. Reliability of the material he chooses has always been important hence the wide use of American timbers in his work and this relationship with high quality material has continued for the new brand. “To me there has never been any question that we would use the American oaks and American hard and soft maple. They are the most beautiful woods out there. My education in Australia was based on American oak, the bend the grain. It wasn’t until I left Uni that I even realised there was a European oak!”.
Like so many, Rennie has missed travel in the last year and a half. He’s desperate to reconnect in person with his contacts around the globe. “The best industries around the world, it comes down to the relationship and friendships. It’s one of the best parts of being in a creative industry. Those who truly love design and can’t imagine doing anything else are the ones you form real bonds with” says Rennie. “Regardless of language, you share the unwritten language of your work”.