Caroline Olah is the founder of Reddie Furniture. Design writer Sandra Tan catches up with Olah to discuss everything from Asian influence, to design heritage and manufacturing.
How does your Asian-Australian worldview impact the way you approach design?
CO: My father is Australian and my mother is Indonesian, and I’ve spent a lot of time in both places. Between that and having lived abroad, I’ve never had a singular aesthetic, it’s inspired by everywhere I’ve been and seen. Learning to understand the little details of Indonesian craftsmanship has really influenced the way I design our furniture.
Many Asian cultures have a rich design heritage, but may not be ascribed the same prestige as European made. What are your thoughts on that?
CO: Indonesians have been carving wood and making furniture for centuries. It’s in their DNA. And really, Europeans have been inspired by Asia since they began settling in the region. Rattan, for example – it’s everywhere now, but it originated from palm fronds in South East Asia. At Reddie we’re proud of that heritage, and try to give a voice to the craftspeople behind it.
What are the misconceptions that you’ve encountered about Asian manufacture?
CO: That producing in Asia means you aren’t supporting Australia. We employ Aussies in design, marketing, logistics, everything. Having a factory in Indonesia actually allows us to support staff in both countries. There are still assumptions made about unethical working conditions in Asia. We pay above award wages in Indonesia and look after our people with healthcare, social outings, sports activities.
Reddie Furniture – reddie.com.au
This article was published in Indesign magazine #84, purchase your issue here.