Michael Soh, a Malaysian citizen now living in Singapore, began Redwood Interior Pte Ltd., in 1989, with the vision of raising standards of construction within the architectural sector.
REDWOOD: Behind The Designer Façade
By Michael Buckley
Singapore, Southeast Asia – One company in Southeast Asia, Redwood Interior Pte Ltd, is benefiting from the continuing faith of developers in new high-end shopping outlets and apparently of consumers for designer products. Employing hundreds of people in Singapore and Malaysia, Redwood is supplying custom interiors to a global tribe of high-end designers of luxurious goods such as clothes, jewelry, perfumes and accessories. Their retail interiors are equally of the finest quality, and hardwood is very much a part of the image they create for these exclusive international retailers and clients. Ninety percent of the company’s output is exported.
In 1989, Michael Soh – a Malaysian citizen now living in Singapore – had a vision to raise standards of construction within the architectural sector. He set up Redwood specifically to realize that vision and to become a leader in the industry. It required investment in the most efficient machinery, good knowledge of materials, and most importantly dedicated staff to achieve the company’s goals. Very simply, these are quality of workmanship and service to clients. Working at this level, nothing else is acceptable to Michael Soh and to his management team. The reward is respect and continuing business with some of the world’s top designers.
Redwood Interior’s professional draftsmen complete custom projects from design to implementation.
Asian developers, Capital Land and Sun Hung Kai Properties, have come up with “Ion Orchard” – a new iconic shopping landmark for Singapore, although perhaps no more outstanding than the latest dozen or so other iconic malls around the world. Despite the global recession, designer outlets continue their unstoppable march along fashionable high streets and in new shopping centers, not least in Asia. Ion, just launched in Singapore’s tourist centre of Orchard Road, is billed as “Singapore’s first multi-sensory experiential shopping and lifestyle mall spread out over 660,000 square feet.” Even in the current financial crisis the developers are hoping it will be a magnet to the 200,000 shoppers that visit the area each day. Some of the finest gastronomic establishments are laid out over 100,000 square feet, with 5,600 square feet devoted entirely to art and inspiration.
Described as a world-class shopping mall which “will redefine the retail, fashion and lifestyle experience in Singapore, with an unmatched location, award-winning architecture and astute management, ION Orchard is now poised to become Asia’s premier must-visit retail destination.” In any event it is the new home to 400 so-called exclusive brand boutiques, including Cartier, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Topshop/Topman, Uniqlo and Zara. Others including Bally, Burberry, Body Shop, Ermenegildo Zegna, Muji, Sephora, and Yves Saint Laurent are also said to be arriving. A visit to this concentration of brand-leaders reminds how important for wood are their budgets for shop-fitting and interiors, served by an army of fabrication companies. Along with glass, steel, marble and fabrics, hardwood takes its place in the world of fashion. Redwood, a “one-stop, build and install” company, has been responsible for several of these top new outlets in Singapore.
Redwood Interior’s production facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art CNC woodworking machinery and technology.
The key to much of Redwood’s success is in a combination of manual skills together with highly automated plant operated by the best trained and skilled craftsmen in metalwork, carpentry and joinery, as well as the latest in finishing techniques. The production facilities are equipped with state of the art CNC woodworking machinery and technology. The company’s own professional draftsmen are able to complete custom projects from design to implementation. One particular source of pride is the standard of finishing that Redwood is able to achieve in the customized spray rooms developed by its own engineers. Take a look down at the ION and the results are obvious. Take a look in Redwood’s Johor plant and the degree of handcraft finishing is impressive.
Where does wood come in to all of this success formula? The answer is undoubtedly in hardwood veneer. But the volume of hardwood plywood used by Redwood is enormous, with the company preferring its stability and strength over that of MDF. It is used to construct very intricate display cabinets and built-in furniture most of which are custom made for each project. Plywood provides a perfect substrate for expensive veneers, of which North American Cherry is the most important. Other veneers include North American Oak, Walnut and Hard Maple, Teak and Ebony, African Anigre and Makore, as well as and European Lacewood. Most clients prefer crown cut veneers which Redwood buys from just a few trusted global suppliers. Reconstituted veneers from Italy have increasing attraction by virtue of the consistency of colour and grain they offer. Plywood is mainly sourced these days from China, made ironically from tropical logs from Southeast Asia and possibly from Africa.
In Redwood’s retail interiors, hardwood is very much a part of the image they create for exclusive international retailers and clients.
Management of Redwood remains in Singapore but the bulk of production is based over the causeway in a newly built plant in Johor – currently employing 730. But the quality position that the company has established with international designer product houses gives confidence even in the current financial climate. Redwood plans to expand its workforce by several hundred in the coming months. Clearly Redwood is confident of its ability to provide a full service to clients.
Redwood is not a specialist wood processor, and sees itself as much broader than that. The company has great expertise in metal and glass. It just makes sure that any material it uses is treated with expertise, craftsmanship and care. The finishes it achieves on wood or anything else is a pleasure to behold – and here’s the rub. The involvement in wood by such a company ensures client satisfaction and a return for more. Many of Redwood’s clients have a renewal program and those with a hundred outlets around the world need to be absolutely sure of what they will get.
North American hardwoods purchased by Redwood Interior include Oak, Walnut and Hard Maple.