The day I met Wally for the first time I was scared to death. Jacob asked me to share some work that we were doing for the European Patent Office. I tried to explain to Wally every single detail with a certain pedantry – which in combination with my German accent wasn’t very fortunate. Wally cut me off saying, ‘I’m not stupid Gabor, just get on with it!’ From that moment I knew I was in for a bumpy ride.
Since then, more than 10 years have gone by far too quickly and I’ve had the privilege to work with Wally as a designer and creative director at Saffron until the end.
Like my colleagues, I’ve had the immense luck to witness a living legend like Wally and learn from him at the peak of his accumulated life experience, wisdom and wit. But I’ve also been exposed to his sharp directness, grumpy impatience and his bullshit detector (always on – as someone once said). He usually thought my presentations were too long, as indeed he’d probably think of this text. But I can’t help myself. “Done it yet?” – was his notorious question.
Never before had I found someone who would enjoy ‘petrol head’ conversations about cars and exotic automobile brands that folded a long time ago as much as he did. He knew everything and nevertheless he asked for advice on what car to buy next or complained to me about the over-engineered electronics of his BMW – as if I could fix it with a quick call to Munich. The fact that Wally collected tickets for speeding at an age when others need a wheelchair is living proof of Wally’s vitality in the ultimate driving machine.
I believe in God – and in Branding. And I could never really understand how Wally as the creator of branding could not believe in God - as a Jew and belonging to the Chosen People, the most powerful and evidently branded manifestation of a nation. What a contradiction! Those profound conversations on flights between London, Madrid, Istanbul and Mumbai, I’m grateful for, I’ll miss and never forget.
I will hold dear his dedication note to me in his latest book and the last message to all of us in the company some days ago saying ‘Stand tall Saffron!’. And I’ll try to keep my presentations shorter from now on. I promise, Wally!