Why I’ll never buy a Tolix chair replica

What’s the point of blogging if you don’t put a stake in the ground and say what really interests you? After all, I’m not a journalist tied to the story that my editor gives me… I can choose what to say and when to say it. So let’s talk about the Tolix chair.

And replica furniture is a real bugbear of mine, not because I am a snob or rich (neither feel true) but because I think about the effect of buying a copycat over an original design. I know first-hand how expensive it can be to design, develop, manufacture and market an original design. To see copies appearing on the market takes some of the income to be generated away from the designer.


Read more about the law on Replica Furniture →


Supporting British Designers

By reducing the income a designer can expect to make has a longer-term effect on design. The process needs to be shorter, or faster in order to keep costs lower. This also affects the research & development of products that might never become great sellers but aid designers thinking to help them become better designers and produce better designs. We want these things, so we need to realise our involvement as consumers in this process.

So, let’s talk Tolix. If you didn’t know this company’s designs before, you would have sat on the Tolix chair outside cafe’s and restaurants or even in your own garden. If you haven’t say in the exact one, you will have sat in something inspired by the Tolix chair. Sometimes designers of the imitation might not even realise that they’ve seen the chairs before, but they have been nevertheless.

Tolix chair replica
Image credit Wunderlust Hotel

Tolix chair replica
Photograph by Chelsea Fullerton of Go Forth Creative.

Tolix chair replica
Image above by Market Lane Coffee


“Over the years, this [Tolix] chair has come to symbolise what I like to term democratic excellence, meaning that it’s mass-produced and universally acceptable.” Terence Conran


Xavier Pauchard (1880-1948) was a pioneer of galvanisation. Shortly after the first world war he found himself in charge of a flourishing manufacture of galvanised sheet-metal domestic items, which at the time, embodied household comfort. It was in 1927 that he registered the trademark TOLIX, at the same time changing to the production of chairs, armchairs, stools and metal furniture. The Model A chair has become an icon of industrial design, crafted in sheet metal to become solid, durable and inexpensive.


Should I buy a Tolix chair replica?

You’ll find a lot of Tolix chair replicas, saving you a massive £150 per Tolix chair in some cases. But, when you are about to enter your credit card details into the checkout just consider the true cost of the chair, even if the quality seems comparable. How would you feel if your work was copied and others profited from it?

Tolix chair replica

Elle Decoration fought the fakes recently with the Conran Shop Get Real campaign. The campaign was originally conceived to address the disparity between intellectual property laws in the arts. The law saw product and industrial designers receive significantly less copyright protection than was granted to artists, writers and musicians. In my mind, this was not where the matter ends. It may add protection in law but doesn’t begin to change the perception of ‘fakes’ in the minds of consumers; consumers who have less money to spend and a lured by the replica prices for well-known designs.

“By protecting new designs more generously,” says Terence Conran, “we are encouraging more investment of time and talent in British design. That will lead to more manufacturing in Britain, and that, in turn, will lead to more jobs – which we desperately need right now. Properly protected design can help make the UK a profitable workshop again. We have the creative talent – let’s use it.”

Cult Furniture, who sell replicas of the Tolix chair, even make a statement on their product page that they are in no way affiliated with the company Tolix. “Our furniture is inspired by the designs of Xavier Pauchard and not to be confused with those which are manufactured and sold by Tolix”. This token gesture might help them in law to give the consumer the choice but who are we kidding?

Read more about the law on Replica Furniture →


Making an informed decision

Whichever choice you make, I hope that you consider these points and make informed decisions. So that when you sit on your Tolix chair you know exactly how you feel about it. Real versus replica, the debate continues…

Tolix chair replica

Designer: Xavier Pauchard
Manufacturer: TOLIX
Year: 1927
Price: Genuine Tolix chair, approx £180


Having worked in design for the past decade, Daniel started ateliertally.com as a discussion of timeless, modernist product design. Trained as a graphic designer, he also has an avid interest in typography. You can follow him on Twitter @ateliertally.


  • Stacey Sheppard says:

    Great post Daniel and very valid points! I also find it difficult to accept that there are so many replicas on the market these days eating away at the potential profits of excellent designers.

  • Thanks Stacey, I was unsure whether to post this one as it was more about my opinion than I usually give. But I quite enjoyed it so I think I might speak my mind more 😉

  • MaryMiddleton says:

    I’m with you Daniel and Stacey I think its far better to wait and save or find something else you like, than accept a knock off.

    Unfortunately its even more prolific in the fashion world. My poor DH is always spotting fakes and even worse virtual copies (by other brands) of his products. it’s a funny time for designers, makers and consumers.

    At one end of the spectrum you have the tirade against cheap throwaway fashion (aka the Primark effect) and then abuse at companies seen to be charging too much in the luxury market. In 2003, Carrie Bradshaw’s famous Manolo Blahniks cost $485. Exactly ten years later, the same style is $755, a 56 percent increase. (Source the Business of Fashion daily digest by by Lauren Sherman)

    The only downside to wanting to buy a real Tolix chair is the wait time…. and particularly after the French August shut down 😉

  • freshwebservices says:

    There’s another way to look at this, however. How much money is Xavier Pauchard (1880-1948) being denied by the “replica” or “Knock-off” merchants? Well, since he’s been dead for nearly 70 years, nothing! The same can be said for other 20th century designers such as Eames, Le Corbusier, Jacobsen, etc, etc. The rights to many of these designs are no longer held by descendants but by multinationals – corporations that have contributed nothing to the design but vigorously guard their intellectual property rights.
    In the UK copyright for design is 25 years after the designer’s death – although it looks like UK law will soon be replaced by EU law which is 75 years. Who will benefit from this?

    Finally, these “knock-off” merchants could be said to be democratising design, allowing “ordinary” people to enjoy design that is normally well beyond their means. Protecting the “rights” of long dead designers is about protecting the profits of multinationals and the cache of the wealthy who jealously guard access to “original” design.

  • I’m really ‘pro’ democratic design. Affordable products, designed for purpose, made fairly and shipped responsibly. These products do exist… such as the Bic Biro or the America Chair or even the Plumen 001 lightbulb.

    Hille’s polyprop chair also springs to mind – the entire purpose was to do the above and Robin Day succeeded. He designed it for a company, who still own the license and worked on the R&D for the product with the late Mr Day. In my mind there is no question that they deserve to be rewarded for that work.

    Now, I agree that some companies purchase licenses in order to make profit from designs by designers long since passed. But business is business, and if I purchased a design license legitimately, invested in the careful tooling, prototyping, modern material R&D, manufactured, marketed, and distributed this design with the integrity the designer had worked for, I still believe that this design needs to be protected from fakes.

    Democracy should afford everyone a fair chance, so those looking for affordable pieces need to look at the market which is designing products which can be produced for those price-points and not those designed with a different market in mind.

  • Meta says:

    I completely agree with the last comment ( not the response from author ). As the author mentions in the article, a lot of now cult products were made for mass consumers but have now become objets de desir of rich and mighty only to saveguard profits to the producers ( designers as said are long gone, and they probably wouldn’t agree with these elitist commercial approaches. If the rich and mighty want to buy something special , they can buy originals, real vintage objects with history, and leave the new ones to those, who were the original target for consumption.
    Nevertheless I am very much against copying and fake (chinese) products industry, because they steal the ideas , devaluate the effort of designers and products, disregard the quality, etc…. as nowadays every good and new! idea gets copied and than mass produced.

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