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What Can We Learn From Reddie Founder Caroline Olah?

Reddie founder Caroline Olah leans on a red table in front of a white wall while wearing a white shirt and jeans.

We sit down with Reddie Furniture founder Caroline Olah to discuss Asian influence, design heritage and manufacturing.

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.

An angular black and rattan Reddie chair next to a circular green table with a cylindrical base in front of a green wall.

Reddie Furniture’s Java Collection.

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.

Two angular black chairs with rattan inlays made by Reddie.

Reddie Furniture’s Live Work Live Collection.

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.

Two men measure the distance between a Reddie chair's legs in the Reddie factoy.

The Reddie factory.

Reddie Furniturereddie.com.au

This article was published in Indesign magazine #84, purchase your issue here.

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