Vladimir Kagan on Sculptural Furniture, Louise Nevelson, and Tom Ford

kaganVladimir Kagan turned 87 in August, not that you would know it from his lively, globe-trotting blog or latest crop of projects, which includes new lines of furniture for Carpenters Workshop Gallery and Ralph Pucci (look for them at next year’s Design Miami). The designer appears in the January/February issue of Elle Decor, on newsstands today, looking back and pushing forward, with wit and wisdom firmly intact.

Among his own design heroes is Wendell Castle, a fellow octogenarian who Kagan has long admired and envied for “his ability to create furniture that is closer to sculpture than anything utilitarian,” he tells Elle Decor‘s Ingrid Abramovitch. And speaking of sculpture, did you know that Kagan goes way back with Louise Nevelson? She “was a ceramicist before she became a sculptor, and we carried some of her bowls in the store,” he says of the late Nevelson. “When she started to make sculpture, she went to my factory and picked up remnants of wood for her black artworks. You can see the negative shape of my furniture designs in some of the sculptures.”

The secret to his longevity? Tom Ford has something to do with it. Kagan closed his showroom in the 1980s with an eye to imminent retirement until the then Gucci creative director came calling. “The turning point was in the 1990s, when Tom Ford ordered 360 of my Omnibus sofas for Gucci stores around the world,” he says. The origins of the Omnibus aren’t quite so slick: “It was inspired by a swimming hole in Woodstock, New York, where we would sit on rocks.”