Last week I wrote a post about replica furniture and didn’t expect the feedback to come back as much as it did, and I’m very appreciative of hearing the comments because it’s why I wrote a blog after-all. It felt like throwing a
rock pebble in to a pond and the ripples are still going.
As a single post on the topic of Replica furniture, it was never going to be able to touch on all aspects of this subject so I had planned to pick this up again with a few more posts. The main point that was raised over this post is whether we (and by ‘we’ I am referring to the less wealthy design lover) should have the chance to buy designs at a far lower price.
Images above courtesy Vitra
Why should an Eames DSW chair be out of my reach when I’m as appreciative of this as those with more cash. After all Charles & Ray always wanted their designs to be placed in the public realm and enjoyed by everyone.
This opens two strands of conversation for me:
1. Why does an Eames DSW cost £340?
2. Should copies be allowed to offer a lower cost version?
I’ve given my moral opinion on this subject, I am against copies. They take royalties away from designers. Simple as that. (NB. I’m going to deal with the subject of royalties for designers who are no longer alive another time as that keeps coming up.)
But what about my opinion on affordability, and the desire of a designer to make their products inexpensive. And what should that price be? I hear the amount £30 a lot for a chair. In my opinion, you can’t make a good chair to retail for £30. But I do own chairs that cost £10 which I love. But I wouldn’t compare them to the comfort of my Vitra Eames DSW. If a chair is £30 then I’m desperate to sit my bum in it and see how comfortable it is. If it is comfortable then I’m starting to look at the quality of manufacturing. Do those nuts and bolts come loose easily? Is the edge of the plastic finished by hand? If that looks good to me too, then I’m wondering where it is made, what the packaging is like, and how it will look after a few years of use. This is a difficult area, and one that I’m hoping to explore very soon. (On that note, I’ve reached out to some companies for help on this, but I would love a manufacturer to explain to me why their products cost more than the copies.(
So, let’s get back on track. Should copies be allowed to offer a lower cost version? I believe in creativity, and funding this, be that a designer or a manufacturer. And copies open up issues for me with this.
But why copy a design? Why not design a £30 chair? Or is this a key point that the designing/modelling of a product takes time and costs money whereas a copy can be done for relatively little money. Perhaps it is, perhaps not. Or is it to fuel demand? We see the Eames DSW on Pinterest and in magazines all of the time which fuels our desire to have one of these icons in our own homes. If a new chair design was launched would it sell as well as a copy? Probably not. And to market a new product is expensive…to create the demand that the Eames DSW has generated. Herein lies some of the extra cost seen by the official products, they support and create the awareness that makes it appealing to copycats.
But why not let the people who want the original buy that, and let people who can’t afford it buy a copy? Here we are with a moral dilemma again. If you designed something and were happily selling it making profit from your own idea, and someone copied it and sold it undercutting you and paid you nothing, would that make you angry or happy that your product was being enjoyed by more people? Don’t worry, dear reader, there is no need to answer that question. Most of us are capitalists when it comes to commerce.
Images above courtesy Ikea
So why not design a new chair for £30? C’mon, how hard can it be? Form Us With Love were tasked with just that by mega-retailer Ikea who sell their Janinge chair for £40. It’s a plastic chair that infringes no copyright and even supports creativity by funding new affordable design and furniture. Or why not buy Hille’s reissue of the Polyprop chair endorsed by the Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation which is only £49 and is so very beautiful in all it’s utilitarian splendour. Buying that chair supports the foundation’s work with student development and funds future design exploration.
Image courtesy Wikipedia via Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation
Images above courtesy Amos Marchant / Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation
There are a variety of ways that you can buy an inexpensive chair without having to buy a copy. Great design, affordable, ethical, made to last and comfortable. Precisely what an affordable chair should be.
Product: Replica Eames DSW Chair
Designer: Charles & Ray Eames