Melbourne was introduced to Ross Madden in 1977 when his fledgling furniture store, Aero Designs, come to flourish in the city’s inner east. But he is perhaps best known for R G Madden, a boutique retail chain that became a beacon for lovers or furniture and design throughout the 90s and 2000s.
The R G Madden stores around Australia would show an eclectic mix of pieces that formed loosely into a familiar aesthetic, tied together more by Ross’ idiosyncratic taste than their own brands or makers. Ross’ stores were synonymous with designers of reputation and beauty and they were, in part, responsible for the proliferation of brands like Alessi, Iittala, Mandarina Duck and Mondaine.
Ross combined R G Madden with consultancies that saw the development of retail projects for companies including BMW Australia, Bretts Hardware QLD and Rochford Winery VIC. His mentorship and promotion of design saw him inducted to the Design Institute of Australia’s Hall of Fame. More recently he has been advising on the development of the Queen Victoria Market redevelopment through the City of Melbourne’s Masterplan Workshops.
Today, Ross’ new venture, named simply, ross madden, takes a natural deviation from the refined nature of his past. He has been in the industry for more than 40 years but explains that after a break he was drawn to start exploring from a different angle. “Time out gave me time to think about things. As I started working on this new business I didn’t really have a plan, but once I began choosing pieces a natural theme evolved. It’s back to basics, more earthy, handmade and traditional. The best analogy would be to the slow food movement interpreted as a range of carefully conceived design products.”
When asked about the new collection for ross madden, Ross describes the products in terms that belie his refined past. He talks of the pieces as unique, unusual, rate, understated and natural. They have taken time to source from many countries, over conversations in broken English and many late night phone calls. The designers are typically in small businesses with much of the manufacturing along traditional lines, using age-old methods combined with new ideas and technologies.
For Ross, his businesses were always about what to edit out as much as what to include in a range. Which is why whatever he does, and particularly for ross madden, it is always personal, thoughtful and passionate.
Welcome to ross madden.