When my Great Grandfather’s wallet was given to me last year I remember staring at it for a while. In that moment I kept thinking about this person whom I never met, yet was always a figure in my life through stories. At that time I had never made a billfold but I suddenly knew it was time and that old wallet would be the inspiration. The most intriguing element of the original wallet was the stamped pattern on the outside and I knew that if this wallet were to claim inspiration from the original then it must have some kind of geometric ornamentation.
I honed the wallet prototype after about four or five attempts and was pleased with the arching style pocket design, the leather-lined cash slot, and with the construct-ability. It was the geometric pattern that was eluding me… As a designer, inspiration comes in many forms and from unexpected sources. About a year and half ago, Becca and I drove out to Palm Springs without a plan and we stumbled upon the Ace Hotel. When we checked into the room a postcard was on the table with a colorful geometric pattern on the front and with information about the spa on the back. The pattern was seared into my brain; I didn't realize then that I would eventually use it for the wallet.
Fast forward to mid-summer of this year when the Vernon prototypes were complete, the Ace Hotel postcard inspired geometric stamp had been recreated and applied to the wallets and all the product-shots had been taken. As I was about to release the wallets I decided to do a quick search for the geometric pattern to see if a particular artist had created it. My intention was to reach out to that person and let them know how they inspired me. That search led me to a discovery that was surprising, coincidental and very disheartening. I came across a circular key fob that Tanner Goods (a reputable leather goods maker that provides exclusive accessories for the Ace Hotel) had made. On the key fob was the exact same pattern that I had used for the Vernon wallets. They had seemingly drawn inspiration in a similar way I had, though in my mind, they had much more of a right to it than I did. After first considering contacting Tanner Goods and trying to explain what happened (because I wasn't ready to let go of it), I decided to scrap it and start over.
After much headache and many iterations, we settled on a new pattern that loosely referenced the pattern of the original vernon. The new pattern is just as dynamic and offers a little more movement when viewed from varying angles. This experience has taught me a few lessons; one must be careful where they draw inspiration from from and how it is applied. The second lesson is in regards to integrity, in art and in business. I recall making the decision to scrap the stamp when I considered how I would feel if the shoe were on the other foot. I probably would not appreciate it and would likely lose respect for that person or company regardless of where the inspiration came from.
In the end, the Vernon wallet is very unique and I am extremely proud of the design, the materials and the overall construction. Now when I look at a completed wallet I not only see a beautiful piece that honors an important man I never knew, but I also see the valuable lessons I learned while creating it.