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21 June 2010

IN THE SHADOW OF GIANTS

In late 2009, a kitchen that I collaberated on for Bazzèo was awarded the GOLD medal for “Innovation in Design”, from the British publication DESIGNER. Shortly after the announcement, I received an invitation from CISCO BROTHERS to be a special guest at a dinner they were hosting for the Sustainable Furniture Council during the High Point Furniture Market. I was honored to be recognized for my work as well as the opportunity to represent Bazzèo.

When I arrived at the venue for the evening’s event, I was informed, by the press assistant for CISCO BROTHERS, that the other guest of honor was Vladimir Kagan, the iconic, mid-century furniture designer that I have idolized since my youth. And then, like a ton of bricks, the immensity of the evening struck me full force. Who was I to share the spotlight with a GOD? What would I say, how do I act? How do you speak with giants? For the first time in my adult life…I had sweaty palms.

About an hour before dinner, something changed…you could feel it in the air…the very atmosphere was alive with noise…”he’s here...he’s here!” And there he was, with two canes and an assistant to help him up the stairs…it was hard at first to see the young, handsome man from the photographs the sixties that I had grown up with, and then, there it was, that classic Kagan smile and that glint in his eye as he surveyed the room.
Shortly thereafter, Vladimir and I were introduced and we sat to have a drink before the evenings event was to begin. “So young man" he said as though I was a nine year boy..." what do you do?” “I am a designer” I said…”That’s wonderful…me too” he replyed. I spent the evening listening to his life story, from his boyhood in pre-war Germany to is arrival in 1938 to the US and his early love for architecture and his passion for design and at no point in the conversation did his 83 years of life seem to weigh upon him…his voice, his eyes, the excitement in sharing thoughts and ideas was that of a young man, full of “piss and vinegar” and ready to take on the world.

During the course of the evening he shared with me that he was at an interesting point in his life…on one hand a new book on his
life and collected works had just been released and the other he was just about to launch a new collection for Ralph Pucci in New York. Here he was at an age when most, if not all of his contemporaries were either retired or dead, and now at 83 he was still creating new products for a new generation.

As a practitioner of sustainable design, I asked Vladimir his thoughts in this regard…he become very serious and quite as he thought and after a minute or so he said…”You wont like this, but my new collection for Pucci has a fiberglass foundation…not very green”…he said and in almost the same breath he went on to say “Sustainability is more than materials, it is about longevity, but mostly it is about design. If something is designed well and made well, it will be kept and used for years, if not generations”.

As he was preparing to leave the dinner for another party, I reflected on the evening and felt a little star-struck and very pleased that my boyhood adoration for my hero had not been diminished by actually meeting him. And as we stood together for a press photo, he shook my had and said to me, in a voice reserved for nine year old boys, ”Keep designing” and as I released his hand, I realized that giants indeed are very real and that they still walk among us.

2 comments:

  1. Wonderful piece. Kagan is an inspiration to us all for both his designs but more importantly, for his wonderful spirit.
    Molly McCabe

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  2. Colleen Browning16 August, 2010

    Great post. And congratulations on your gold in addition to the pleasure of an evening with Vladimir Kagan.

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