On November 27, 2015, the Canadian design community lost one of its most passionate advocates with the death of Matthew Searle. Born in 1961 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Matthew had built a career in the design industry that spanned Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. First drawn to design as a child – his father owned a furniture business and his uncle, Isadore Coop, was an architect at Number TEN Architectural Group – Searle believed that design had the power to make the world a better place.
At Azure, we were devastated to hear of Matthew’s passing. He had been a friend, colleague and collaborator of the magazine’s since not long after its inception. Azure founders Nelda Rodger and Sergio Sgaramella first met Matthew in the late 1980s, when he was working at the Resource Centre in Designers Walk, a multi-showroom destination for interior designers in Toronto. Shortly thereafter, he and a partner began developing a service for designers called FaxSource, connecting designers in the pre-Internet days with suppliers of furniture, lighting and carpeting. Matthew was always someone who worked to facilitate designers’ ambitions, seeking ways to help them optimize their projects and practices. Later, he moved to Montreal and established Rapport, a marketing firm that represented the city’s up-and-coming designers.
Matthew returned to Toronto to become the marketing and conference director of the contract expo IIDEX, a post he held for eight years before founding his own marketing firm, Searle & Company two years ago. At IIDEX, Matthew raised the show’s profile, expanded its scope, and brought in such speakers as Todd Bracher, Brendan MacFarlane and Jeremy Rifkin.
For Searle & Company, he worked with clients including Lightemotion, Scott Torrance Landscape Architect and, most recently, the World Design Summit, scheduled to take place in Montreal in 2017. His abiding love of travel and photography was manifested in an exhibition of his photographs of the vibrant street scenes and food markets of Istanbul, hosted in 2012 at designer Bev Hisey’s Toronto shop.
Matthew was on the board of the Toronto Design Offsite Festival; a juror on the OAA Awards, ARIDO Awards and Best of Canada Awards; and a board and committee member of the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. If there was a design event in Toronto, Matthew was almost certainly involved in some way. He had a tremendous talent for connecting people everywhere he went.
For those of us who knew him, among his best traits was bridging the professional and the personal. He was a kind, generous and gregarious friend. As a longtime collaborator, he was a frequent visitor to the Azure office, bicycle helmet in tow. We will miss his warmth and sincerity, his bright eyes and dazzling smile – and his infectious sense of humour. Matthew leaves behind his partner of 23 years, Pierre-Eric Villeneuve, his three siblings, many nieces and nephews and cousins, and dozens and dozens of friends and colleagues.
Donations in Matthew’s memory may be made to the Syrian Refugee Crisis at the Furniture Bank.