VLADIMIR KAGAN: UNE VIE DE DESIGN

 

While his iconic creations can always be found exhibited in museums, or reissued for resale in specific locations around the world, now the first collection of this prolific creator has been edited by Luxury Living and placed on the French market.

Legend of the twentieth century, American design icon, professional superstar, and eternal teenager, this colorful and charismatic creator leaves no one indifferent to his work. "He is a kind of goodwill ambassador of European taste with American roots and he showed up just before the tragic brutality of plastic," says Jacques Bosser, author of ProDesign, Praise Good Design, "We think of Zaha Hadid as pioneering this gestural aesthetic, but this was way ahead of her time."

A man who once designed furniture for Marilyn Monroe, Kagan keeps curiosity and enthusiasm for his work ever-current; The passage of time does not undermine the seductive power his work has over the stars. 50 years later, Uma Thurman, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, David Lynch, Donna Karan, Diane Furstenberg, Roberto Cavalli and Fendi all claim to be fans of his creations. His design has a rare, almost pop-culture allure, much like the work of Andy Warhol. When asked about his popularity within Hollywood culture, he says "I still work for individual clients who find happiness in my Classic Collection, many of whom happen to be in Hollywood, but I also need the adoration of a wider audience to feel satisfied with my work. Now, my association with Luxury Living makes my work more accessible and I am delighted for the opportunity."

The Zeitgeist

Born in Germany in 1927 and moving to the United States just eleven years later, Vladimir Kagan began his carrer at a very young age. Although passionate about sculpture and painting, he studied architecture and design at Columbia University before ultimately learning the most from his cabinetmaker father. "He was an extraordinary craftsman," Kagan says, "it is because I was not as good as him that I became a designer. From the begining Kagan loved working organic forms, sculpture, he didn't care about breaking codes or using radical curves. He prefered the asymmetrical. Thus, the kidney-shaped silhouettes sofas and wooden chairs and tables inspired by a boomerang were born. Vladimir Kagan was 20 years old when his first furniture design was released, a chair that would be produced for fifty years after it's creation. In 1949, he designed the Serpentine sofa that has built his reputation and is still in the collections of the Vitra Design Museum, near Basel, today. Sensitive to the minimalist movement in the wake of the Bauhaus, the work of Mies van der Rohe or Le Corbusier, constantly on the lookout for beauty and trends, he was somehow able to anticipate periods and styles that have imprinted the history of design. He founded his own furniture factory in New York as a young man. It closed its doors in 1987 but not before Kagan became a legend of modernism, working with not only celebrities, but also companies such as General Electric, Walt Disney and Fairchild Aviation. In the 1990s, Tom Ford and architect William Sofield contracted him for the Omnibus range design for Gucci stores worldwide. Collector and longtime friend, Ford also wrote the preface to his biopic, The Complete Kagan: "With his finest pieces, Kagan can completely change the landscape of a space. As a designer, I am fascinated by his sofas, tables or chairs, because they both connect you to the spirit of the time but also manage to remain timeless."

Anything but Retro

Today, Kagan remains as engaged and thoughtful as when he began. He writes regularly and freely on his blog with thought-provoking and witty humor on topics as diverse as architecture, family - "vital tips for the grand-dad traveler" - and the successes and failures of life. "In my blog, I deal with all the subjects that interest me, including but not limited to design." Yesterday, he was consulting for the rehabilitation project of a private mansion in Paris. Tomorrow he prepares to receive an award in the United States. "Somtimes I slip backstage, but am never really gone," he says. And although he has seemingly already done everything, (buildings, jewelery, etc...) he still dreams of designing outside of the furniture realm, "I love what I do and what drives me is to have customers with complicated problem statements. The more problems, the more it interests me and I have more fun trying to find the answers. The beautiful, complex relaitionship between problem and solution, is an exchange like a romance between a man and a woman. " Complex indeed.

Written by Catherine Deydier from Le Figaro, Paris. Translated to english by HAUTE LIVING.