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Acapulco Lounge Chair from Matt Blatt

Local Designer says that Replica Furniture is for Bogans

Eames Lounge Chair

Sometimes, when you’re scrawling through Facebook…

… you’ll read a headline or quote from an article and you can’t help but jump to the story because the text is so controversial. It’s commonly called click-bait and the below paragraph from an article in BRW got me hook, line and sinker today – featuring a quote from local designer Charles Wilson.

“I really think that the time has come when, apart from the ethics of it, an Eames replica chair is just bogan,” he says. “It’s on The Block, it’s for naff, dumb-arse people who can’t be bothered finding something genuine, whether it be from an auction house or a secondhand store.

“They just want to live the life now and have it on tap. I’ve no respect for anyone making those choices.”

Replica Egg ChairThe words come on the back of Wilson meeting a friend at the Park Hyatt recently and noticing that they were both sitting on knock-offs of his own chair design. This occurred after a sample of the original chair was sent to the hotel. Hashtag #awkward.

You can read the full article on the BRW website here.

The entire debate surrounding replica furniture has been going on for what feels like an eternity and I always find myself stuck in the middle of it, sitting on the fence as to how I feel about the scenario.

Having supported local makers, designers and artists on this blog, it completely pains me to think that their designs could be taken, replicated and mass-produced for public consumption (and possibly putting them out of business), while the other part of me is the bargain shopper who just wants something nice and never gives much thought to its origins (don’t hate me for being honest).

The fact that the replica market is so big suggests that there’s a large group of Australian’s who actively choose a bargain over ethics – be it intentional or in ignorance. Either way, of course, that doesn’t make it right.

Acapulco Lounge Chair from Matt Blatt

Should people who can’t afford original, designer pieces of furniture not have them? It’s a debate I have long struggled with and still don’t know the answer. What I can tell you, is that most of the people I’ve spoken to who feel that if you can’t afford originals, you shouldn’t buy replica… can usually afford the originals.

There was also a long-standing argument that the designers of classic furniture, like Eames, wanted their pieces to be enjoyed by the masses. Those who are pro-replica often use his ethos as a basis for supporting the likes of Matt Blatt, Sokol and Zanui, arguing that he would find replicas to be almost complimentary. Although the worrying thing is that it’s not just designers from the 50s who are having their pieces ripped off – it’s contemporary creatives too.

The more I hear about the plight of designers like Charles Wilson, the worse I feel about replica furniture. Though truth be told, I’ve never shopped at Matt Blatt or any of the other stores that operate under a similar operation – but I’ve never had an issue with people who do.

>>> I’d love to have you weigh in on the replica furniture debate below. Are you for or against stores like Matt Blatt? No judgement! 🙂

Image Credits: Image one | Image two | Image three

Outside of writing the TLC Interiors blog, Chris is an interior stylist and author. You can also catch him on your TV screens as a designer on Channel 10's Changing Rooms. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

Comments (9)

  • My pet peeve lol. I just don’t understand why anybody would buy mass produced furniture and especially art! It’s value automatically decreases as soon as you have paid for it, Go to a second hand store, remodel, recycle or get pieces direct from a designer or artist. You can’t loose – just do your homework and invest in what you buy!

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  • Cathy Elsmore

    Hi Chris, it’s quite sad that someone could label people bogans just because they may not be able to afford or choose not to buy a designer piece. It will always be a topic up for debate but for me it’s about everyone being able to have the chance to style and furnish their homes regardless of their income. My Instagram and Facebook pages display that I love a good replica piece. For me it’s all about helping my followers get the look for less. I could go on for ages so I’ll stop rambling now!!

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  • Thats a llittle harsh i think – we all try to create our own sense of style in our homes and for many that means a mix of affordable and a mix of high end pieces…the magazines were right into the replica pieces but yes I agree they are everywhere now but labelling someone a bogan because that is what they can afford – a little unfair…

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  • There is no such thing as a good replica piece. They’re all fundamentally bad, and for lots of reasons:

    1. They encourage the consumption of furniture, rather than its enduring appreciation
    2. They remove support from designers in the creation of new pieces
    3. They contravene the copyright and often the moral rights of the designer
    4. They encourage the unethical production of furniture
    5. They are not as durable, sustainable or considered as original pieces

    I can’t afford original furniture the likes of the Eames chair, but I would never ever buy a replica. There are plenty of perfectly good furniture options out there that look fine and do not rip off someone else’s design work.

    I recommend you take a look at the spirited discussion following a piece I wrote on the same topic. In particular, Mark Schurman from Herman Miller (the licensed manufacturer of the Eames chair) offers some highly articulate reasons to support the above.

    https://panfilocastaldi.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/herman-miller-vs-matt-blatt/

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  • john

    I hope those who are calling people who purchase replicas bogans have never purchased a print. How many Campbell soup cans would adorn these peoples walls.

    As for the financial argument, there is an assumption that if the replica buyer didn’t buy the knock off, they would buy the original, except that in the vast majority of cases it is someone who loves the design but could never afford the original in the first place, a sale lost in this manner would never have been made at the original price in the first place

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  • Kim

    I couldn’t afford an Eames or a licensed replica, nor want a knockoff. In some cases I could understand buying a replica Eames. Not so with many others. Bogans may or may not be harsh, but you can well understand the frustration of a designer (in any field) where their designs have been misappropriated, and in Charlie’s case given he is sitting on a bastardisation of his design, in the very hotel that was sent a sample. Completely reprehensible of them. The costs for those chairs should have gone to Charlie, instead of some cheap overseas workshop.

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  • Craig

    This debate is utterly redundant, People this ship has sailed! There are a few important points to make about this subject to clarify exactly what this debate is about, You would not be amiss in noticing great similarities to this issue and also the loud protests of the Fasshion Industry a few years back when the likes of H & M and Zara began to flourish in the Global Fashion Market.Yikes the big boys must have though……real competition. We dont hear words like Replica Jacket or Fake shoes being bandied about when we think of the clothes being sold by these retailers, nor do we seem particularly concerned by the market share that these retailers have taken from the likes of the big brand fashion conglomerates operating brands like Prada, Hermes etc etc. Unless you happen to have a vested interest in these companies. How many people when asked if they would prefer the ” generic” brand of medication over the brand name protest ” I couldnt buy fake drugs, I would be taking business away from the big drug companies” I need to clarify here that I am firmly against fake brands, a handbag for example with the word Gucci emblazoned all over it is clearly an illegal product.
    So let’s look at the main points of this argument
    Legality : The majority of “replica” furniture on the market today is able to be sold because the patents have expired and they are in the public domain, meaning much like the generic brand of a drug, they may legally be manufactured and sold as long as the original brand is not used to market or sell it. Much of the legal action by furniture giant Herman Miller for example has not been about any company actually selling a chair designed by say the Eames’ but the use of the brand Eames in marketing the product.
    Quality: the big names of Funiture will tell you that anything not made by them must be of inferior quality, after all it’s probably made in China and not using the quality materials and craftsmanship that they utilise. This argument may have been relevant 20 years ago when the Chinese were still developing as the worlds manufacturing powerhouse, today most of the Furniture that the big names make comes from China and the materials used are pretty much standard. It’s important to remember that we are talking about Furniture here, not a defibrillator or a jet engine, there is a point beyond which the issue of quality materials also becomes redundant and besides if you are buying the lowest price item available online, any reduction in quality is offset by the low price.
    Ethics: This is the fun one, because ethics are largely constructs of our society and can be construed many ways, especially by advertisers and marketers to like to impell us to behave in certain ways. The ethical argument usually references heavily on the legal argument, inferring that if anyone buys a chair designed by Eames but not purchased from the company that owned the license before it expired they are somehow complicit in a crime, however as we have discussed in the majority of cases the legal standpoint is mute and untrue, so much for Ethics. Some may argue it is unethical to buy anything made outside of Australia, because we are taking jobs away from Australians, some could argue that in a globalised economy, that stance takes money and jobs away from developing countries, so easy to twist isn’t it.
    The facts are that for much of the last third of the 20th c a number of large corporations “owned” designs and were able to control prestige and supply and demand through pricing and legal contructs. For a while this worked until the rise of China and the rightful expiration of design patents enabled competition. The democratisation of design we see today is largely a result of this phenomenon and like all competition is healthy for the free market. What you are hearing from the con side of the replica debate are the cries of an industry that must now accept its purple patch is over and deal in the real world, where many people understand that it is not the brand that is important but what an object means to them, that is anathema to these prestige brand companies, they want you to believe that price equates to exclusivity which equates to status.
    Don’t worry too much about them, there are still many people who prefer to wear their brands on the outside and who will want to spend 10k as opposed to 1k on a chair, because of the name on the underneath and that’s OK. But please can we move on, accept that these things are no longer the exclusive right of one company to sell and stop with the misguided name calling and elitism that seems to be rife in the design industry
    cheers

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  • Ally Mooney

    I think it’s a design conundrum! I personally love the look of original pieces, but there is no way I could afford them in this lifetime. However, when I look at replicas they are usually so incredibly cheap compared to the original, that regardless of their design origins, there’s no way they could be decent quality. I usually try to find original, cheaper options that have a similar look or style without being a replica. Ie: IKEA sell Eames chair knockoffs that aren’t a carbon copy of an Eames chair. I think replica’s are a bad idea for so many reasons and there are always another option or alternative.

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