Tuesday, 6 May 2008

In Conversation with Ross Taylor

Ross Taylor is a local furniture entrepreneur and owner of Gabriel Ross and gabrielross.com.

Ross's sense of style has pioneered a landmark for modern design in Victoria BC. Every designer in town has worked with him or his staff members before and know that they can count on his store to bring something new and interesting to their projects.

Ross Taylor - Owner of Gabriel Ross

I remember 6 years ago when I had just started Meade Design Group, one evening I was driving by Ross's store and my car broke down so I needed to pull over, I turned into the nearest parking lot and lo and behold, I had pulled into the coolest furniture store in town. Back then, coming from México I never had the opportunity to see some of the modern classics they carry first hand and that was when I saw a Barcelona Chair for the first time. It felt like I saw a Picasso or a Dalí painting. I was so happy to discover the store. A month after I did my first purchase 2 Barcelona Chairs for my project in Shoal Point.

Iván Meade
- What was your first experience with design?

Taylor - My first experiences with design would have been in High school wood and metal shop classes.

My first design was a custom motorized go-cart. I failed miserably and never did complete the project.

Iván - Who or what has influenced your style?

Ross - I have been most influenced by the people that I have met and worked with over the years. Victoria has a dedicated community of design fanatics. Long before I realized what a great industry I was working in, I was meeting dozens of design addicts right here in Victoria. There is this amazing group of people who’s lives revolve around design. They get it. They live and breathe design for all it has to offer. I am humbled by their passion and their knowledge.

Iván - What is the story behind Gabriel Ross, how did the company begin?

Ross - When I was nineteen years old, I went to a local trade school where I learned the basics in upholstery. I was hired by that trade school as an assistant for a year or so and then went on to start my own business re-upholstering furniture. I spent many years mastering what I do and surrounding myself with like-minded individuals.

After many years in business, I partnered with another local who’s middle name was Gabriel and that is how the name came to be. That partnership didn’t work out, but the name stuck. I continued to develop a line of furniture and one day decided that I would start to display other lines of furniture, lighting and accessories that I thought were a good fit with Gabriel Ross.


Iván - Are you bringing any new lines to Gabriel Ross?

Ross - Gabriel Ross as a company is always striving to be the source for amazing authentic design. The list of manufacturers that we represent continues to grow. In the last year, we’ve added Cassina, (known as the premier Italian furniture line) Artifort, Fritz Hansen, Cherner chair and others.

Iván - What kind of things might customers find at Gabriel Ross that they won’t find anywhere else on the island?

Ross - Well, if you haven’t been in for a while, you might be somewhat amazed.Gabriel Ross has become a real lifestyle store, so we now carry everything from the furniture that you’d expect to see, to contemporary lighting, patio furniture, Viking cookware and countertop appliances, dishes, bed linens, towels and many other items.

We’re actually starting to see a few wedding registry’s this year, which I don’t think most people would think of us for, but with all of the changes, that’s the direction that things have gone.


- Since cutting back on custom work, do you plan on introducing any of your own designs as a product line?

Ross - We are planning to scale back our manufacturing and then focus on our best selling items, with the idea that we may add to the line in the coming months. I would say that we will work on new designs as time permits. We’ve learned a lot over the years about what does and doesn’t work. With today’s labour market, we’d like to get a better handle on that end of the business and lean away from the cart leading the horse and take back control. This means cutting out the custom work and spending more time upfront on developing great designs that have a broader appeal in the market that we compete in.

- I understand you travel to New York often to preview upcoming trends and designs, what do see as being the next big thing in furniture design?

Ross - I do travel a fair bit and it is when I travel that I find myself with the time to get out and see what is going on in the design community. I think we’ve reached a place where not unlike with the fashion industry, personal style is becoming more and more a part of people’s homes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some dude with a blue Mohawk in an Armani suit and likewise mixing of styles can work well in the home when done properly. So, what is the next big thing in furniture design? Personal Style. Design doesn’t have to be what you or I would do. When I walk into your home, whatever it is it should fit you like a great suit. It shouldn’t be expected, but it shouldn’t be a great surprise to those that know you.

For me, that suit is a great pair of jeans. Our home is a little more refined than my jeans, but just as comfortable to hang out in.

- Furthermore, do you feel that Victoria is ready for a change? Where do you see design going in the next 10 years?

Ross - Victoria is finally growing up. I think Victoria was more grown up 40 or 50 years ago, than it was through the 80’s and 90’s.

I remember as a teenager going into Standard Furniture when it was on Yates St. before it burned down. That store was an icon of Victoria. I think it was six stories of great furniture and several of Victoria’s Interior design icons of the time all worked there. There hasn’t been anything like that ever since. Big shoes to fill, but I think that Gabriel Ross just might be up for the challenge. Victoria is really coming into its own again and I am excited about the new urban feel that we are experiencing. It’s great to see more people living downtown or within walking distance of town.

Iván - How has technology (such as your website) affected your business?

Ross - Technology has helped to bring Gabriel Ross to the world. We now do half of our business outside of Victoria through internet sales. We’ve shipped sofa’s to most every province in Canada and at least one Territory. We’ve furnished houses in Washington state, Colorado, California and even Texas. We ship regularly to Europe as well.

If you had told me ten years ago that you could sell or for that matter purchase a sofa over the internet, I would have thought that you were crazy, but we just shipped a 9 foot sofa to Saskatchewan, so it happens more often than people think. Rural Canada has a desire for beautiful things as well and very often a drive to town to see those items could be two days in a car. That’s where the internet brings those people closer to the rest of the world.

Iván - What do you think all furniture will have in the future?

Ross - “Certificates of Authenticity”

We are often asked, “Why should I pay more for an authentic piece?”

My feeling is that besides that fact that an authentic piece holds its value, coming home to a knock-off, will never give you the same feeling as coming home to a real authentic piece made to the original specifications of the original designer.

Manufacturers of knock-offs steal designs and make money off of them. There is a big debate in the music industry about people downloading music for free and there are arguments for both sides, but they all agree that if you were to download music and then sell it without a licence to do so, that is and should be illegal. If you would like to build yourself a Noguchi table, well go ahead, but if you are going to start mass producing them and selling them, then that is wrong. People need to think twice about supporting that kind of activity.

Iván - What is the most unusual request that you have ever received from a client?

Ross - Well, that was a long time ago and I was single at the time.


Iván - What project or piece are you most proud of?

Ross - I’m most proud of what we have built over the years.

Gabriel Ross started with a $10,000 loan that my mother co-signed, in a 1,000 sq. ft. warehouse on Bridge St. with one other employee.

We now have about 15,000 sq. ft. of showroom and warehousing and 16 amazing employees keeping it all running smoothly. We have fun doing what we love to do.

When I walk around the business and people are laughing, or having fun doing what they do, it makes me proud that we have built something that you don’t find very often. There is not a single person here that I am not thrilled to have on board. I am very proud to be a part of that.

MEADE DESIGN GROUP - THE BLOG. Copyright 2007-2011


Shawn said...

I suppose the Ford Falcon in the back room is to make up for the failed go-cart.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see a feature on a local business as well beautiful design. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Please tell me they ship to France! Beautiful design.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for showing Victoria's modern side...

Anonymous said...

It would be nice to see more local store featured...

Anonymous said...

I love this interview, Gabriel Ross is one of my favorite local stores; it's great to see where it all started and learn more about Ross's view on design.