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.