Design visionary Vicente Wolf is a man of many hats, and last night he added one more when World Market Center Las Vegas and Las Vegas Design Center crowned him this year’s Design Icon.
“We at World Market Center Las Vegas, along with the Las Vegas Design Center commend Vicente Wolf for his talent and creativity—they are unparalleled in the design industry,” said Robert Maricich, President and Chief Executive Officer of World Market Center Las Vegas. Maricich pointed out that not only is Wolf an impressive artist, he’s an impressive person. "It's great to see other talented designers here honoring a very talented designer who also happens to be a very fine human being," he said.
Wolf, who owns Vicente Wolf Associates Inc., brings with him a remarkably diverse portfolio including photography, art collecting, interior design and global travel. His accolades are also far-reaching. House Beautiful named him one of the 10 most influential designers in the United States, and Traditional Home magazine selected him as one of their 20 Icons of Design.
As a reigning World Market Center Las Vegas Design Icon, Wolf joins the ranks of past recipients such as including Roger Thomas, Vladimir Kagan and Larry Laslo. The annual award honors design legends by giving them a platform from which to share their stories and inspire and educate other designers.
The artist spoke candidly to the audience during the Wednesday evening ceremony, sharing that as a young adult he had been fired from every single job he’d ever held, including fashion, acting, advertising and merchandising. "It gave me no choice but to work for myself," he said.
That’s just what he’s done for the past 37 years. In that period of time he’s learned a number of lessons on how to remain relevant, even inside of a recession. "I've learned it's a time to be proactive and not to be scared," he said.
He said one secret to his success is that he continues reinventing and reengineering his business. Then, without missing a beat, Wolf announced the launch of a new consulting venture this fall for manufacturers and showrooms.
Wolf said that his art and design inspiration comes from traveling and photography. In fact, he commits to traveling three months out of every year to far-off destinations, including the jungles of Borneo, the markets of Indonesia, Bangkok and Paris. "I like being close to the edge and also to travel to places not many people like to go to. I like it fresh rather than through someone else's vision," he said. During his travels he shops for items to fill his Manhattan showroom, VW Home.
It’s that continued search for unique and cultural objects that makes Wolf so sought after. "I don't want my clients to see the same object in their friend's living room," he said. “I like to step out of the comfort zone we all live in. “I want to be trekking through the mountains and that has changed my perspective completely. I don't design through a portal.”
In addition to sharing his artistic expertise, Wolf also spoke briefly about business lessons he learned along the way. He emphasized the importance of keeping a sense of humor and candor in business dealings, and said he’s never shied away from irreverence or openness with his clients. “Try to talk to clients in an intelligent way, and don’t bring emotion into it or erode your professionalism,” he said.
A designer in attendance asked Wolf for his perspective on the ever popular “free consultation” trend. Would he ever do such a thing?
“I don’t give it away for free,” he said, adding that as a designer he feels like he has sight in a room full of blind people. Rather than meeting in a client’s home, Wolf said he holds initial meetings in his own office. That helps him retain control. “I want them in my environment so I can show them what I do,” he said.
In addition to his many accolades and broad talents, Wolf has published two books (Learning to See, Artisan, 2002 and Crossing Boundaries: A Global Vision of Design, Monacelli Press, 2006) and is currently planning a third, set to launch in 2010. The book is tentatively titled “Lifting the Curtain on Design.”