An Archive Sixty-five Years in the Making
Copyright Vladimir Kagan, February 24,2013
The Vladimir Kagan Archives, a fledgling idea that has simmered for years and is finally coming to fruition. It is an offshoot of a well-organized entity called the Vladimir Kagan Design Group Inc.; the successful home base of all of my diverse activities. This organization carries on the tradition of my father’s cabinet shop to make the finest handcrafted furniture made today. Yes, our craftsmen use some aspects of modern technology to accomplish our traditional comfort and high standard of quality. We have switched from a mouthful of upholstery tacks extracted nail by nail with a magnetized hammer… (An action now a days more akin to a circus act, which few younger upholsterers even know how to do; comparable to driving my Model T versus driving a new automatic shift car…) We have switched to the more efficient, safer power stapler. However, that is about the only concession to modernity in our upholstery. We still pride ourselves in starting with hardwood frames, eight-way tied coil springs with horsehair topping, burlap strapping, muslin under-covers and hand sewn finished upholstery. In our woodwork we have adopted electronic scanners to help us better achieve my multi-carved contouring instead of using the ancient spoke shaver. Still today, every new introduction must pass my scrutiny and hands-on fine-tuning before it goes into our workshops
My father, Illi Kagan, in his cabinet shop, teaching me the fine art of furniture making ca.1953
My Barrel Chair, from the 40s, shown in it's hardwood frame and eight-way tied coilspting seat... That's how we did it then.... that's how we do it today
The Vladimir Kagan Design Group coordinates and oversees my worldwide activities; it is my support team for the bespoke consulting services that I provide to Designers and Architects. It is the conduit for all of our representative showrooms around the country. It organizes the complex shipping to our clients in many corners of the world. It is the depot for storing all the component parts of my designs to assure efficient delivery of my furniture, and finally, it is the custodian of my valuable archives.
I have been collecting my furniture whenever and wherever it became available and affordable. “Affordable” has vanished quite a few years ago, but occasionally there were items that I could not resist. Over time, I have accumulated a substantial collection of rare Kagan specimens. These treasures were stacked on pallet rack in my crowded warehouse… collecting dust. They have survived four moves in the last twenty-five years… And the collection has kept on growing.
A rare Erica Wilson embroidered chair acquired over forty years ago
The vitrine cabinet I designed for my parent's home in Woodstock, NY in the late 40s... rescued and in the Archives
My High School project - a rendering of a dining room - it became the first chair that I actually built
Some acquisition opportunities have slipped by because I either could not afford them or I was not enough of a visionary to see their future. (Had I had the wisdom of a dealer, these would have been the smartest investments of my life)… but who knew that I would live to see the day when a sofa of mine would fetch $193,000 at auction - chairs selling for over $20,000 to $50,000. My furniture appears monthly in glossy shelter magazines adorning celebrity homes. Inadvertently I have achieved stardom… or something close to it.
Today, I regret having ever sold any of my vintage furniture, no matter how alluring the price; it was bagatelle compared to its historic value. I have finally closed the barn door after the horses fled and come to the momentous conclusion to collect rather than sell.
The “Archive” concept had been smoldering for years… I even partnered with a devoted client-fan to purchase furniture as it came up at auction. The idea was to create a Kagan Museum to be located in a funky yet –to-be-defined location… Alas, it all fell apart with the recession of 2008. Reluctantly we agreed to split our collected works; half for her new home - the other languishing on my shelves collecting dust.
All this changed when my sage business associate, Joe Vitagliano came up with the brilliant idea that we should move our offices and warehouse. Our facilities were groaning at the seams. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of my support team and their attention to the details that maintain our high level of quality, our company had grown Globally.
None-the-less the prospect of another move, this time from Paterson New Jersey to Clifton, only a five minute drive away… rekindled the nightmarish memories of our last move from Queens to Paterson five years earlier…
Until I saw the space - WOW!
A twelve thousand five hundred square foot loft with close to 100 window and twenty-five foot high ceilings… it was irresistible. This was a historic mill building famous, a century earlier, for the finest silks woven in the United States. When my children saw the raw apace they for once all agreed that I must make the move… they saw it as a great venue for parties complete with rock bands… Our vision was a bit different.
The historic Mill building that is now the home of the Vladimir Kagan Design Group
Once again I jumped into the breach and agreed to move. To everyone’s relief, it coincided with my prolonged trip to Europe. Plans were drawn up and work was done without my interference; everyone pitched-in and it was completed in time for Christmas. The huge loft was transformed into functioning offices, ample storage, a dedicated assembling and inspection space for furniture ready for delivery. Four thousand square feet of space were transformed into a stage setting for my collection of well over fifty vintage pieces of furniture.
The Archive space taking shape
The fulfillment of a vision: The Kagan Archives
A view towared the entrance with a pair of Mini-Kagan chair frames made for Angelina Jollie
Since my return from Europe I rejoice in finding “new” treasures still wrapped and tucked away on shelves; furniture that rekindles memories back to 1950 and earlier. “I may not remember your name but I sure remember the history of every piece of furniture – the client – the location – and when it was created!”
The Kagan Archives are not open to the public… We can only accommodate limited groups of professional visitors by appointment. There are no docents, no curators, and no gift shop. There is only my wonderful support team who keep the Vladimir Kagan Design Group Inc. functioning and buzzing along… If your timing is right, you might even get Vladimir Kagan as your personal guide.
To arrange a visit, kindly contact my office at 973 225-0925