PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Dallas June 2024

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An icon of mid-century design, Kagan's glamorous and impeccably handcrafted furniture has always attracted a celebrity clientele, from Marilyn Monroe and Andy Warhol to Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, and hotelier André Balazs. Kagan's Serpentine sofa, which was an instant hit in 1950, is perhaps his best-known piece. Eitel, 35, was a student at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when he began interning with Kagan in 2013. After graduation, he became Kagan's design assistant. "Vladi always said 'yes' to everything — he was open to new ideas, and I was able to incorporate things like 3D printing into the design process," he says. "But at the end of the day, these were his designs, and I was a facilitator — he trained me to interpret his vision." The tutelage extended beyond furniture to what Eitel describes as an education in lifestyle. "Coming from a small farm town in Missouri was different than the high society of Nantucket and Palm Beach," says Eitel, who often stayed at Kagan's houses there. "He showed me what that level of luxury was because you do have to understand it if you're designing for it," he says. Kagan was generous with his time and a patient teacher, Eitel remembers, but he could also be demanding and stubborn. "There were times when we argued about a design and then didn't talk for a couple days. Later, we made up over a martini, and I have fond memories of things like that." Kagan's death wasn't unexpected, he says, "but I think we all thought he'd live forever. It was really tough for me." In the months that followed, Eitel transitioned into his current role, initially overseeing the development of the Classic Collection and Kagan's limited- edition collections for Ralph Pucci and Carpenters Workshop Gallery. Holly Hunt purchased Vladimir Kagan Design Group some six months later, imbuing the company with the kind of support and stability it needed to grow. Eitel has since been researching Kagan's extensive archive of furniture designs and sketches. "We've already got a number of other reintroductions in the works that we plan to bring to the market," he says. "I'm also working on new limited-edition designs of my own, similar to the limited editions I was doing early on with him." There's a wealth of material ready to be explored. "Whatever we do will always have ties to the brand and to Vladi himself," Eitel says. Vladimir Kagan, at Holly Hunt, Dallas Design Center, 1025 N. Stemmons Freeway, The First Chair and Table in the Kagan Showroom on East 65th Street in NYC, 1948 Early portrait of Vladimir Kagan From top: Chris Eitel, director of design and production, in the New Jersey factory. The First Chair, circa 1947. 40

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