Eames Molded Plastic chair has been on my “must-have furniture” list for years. Starting out in Interior Design is about as lucrative as starting out in philosophy – so between rent, saving up for a down payment, buying essentials like snow shovels and lawn-mowers, the Eames had to take a back seat. Couple of years ago, I finally decided that it was time. Strolling along Queen Street on a Saturday I often walked past this showroom, thinking “maybe one day”. Today was that day. I walked in. I walked past the Nelson pendants (maybe one day…), past the Noguchi table (maybe when I have a bigger office), past the Bertoia Lounge Chair (maybe when I have time to lounge) – all the way to the back, all the way to the Eames. There it was. Perfect lines – ergonomic design at its best. A velvety matt body, a cool shimmer of the chrome base. I sat in it and closed my eyes for a second. I was so happy to finally be in a position to afford it. An Eames! An icon of mid-century modern! And in my mind – the greatest piece of furniture ever designed. I got up and pulled out my wallet. Just then I was tapped on a shoulder. It was another shopper – a woman in her 40s or so in pink capris and a “save-the-drama-for-your-mama” t-shirt. She waved her index finger at me and said: “Don’t buy it here, I saw the same chair next door for $100”. I turned purple. I explained to her; as calmly as I could, given my state of mind; the difference between an original and a knock-off. I’m not sure I got through to her, but I’m pretty sure she swore off talking to strangers right then and there.
I’m not going to talk about the difference in quality of material and craftsmanship between an original product and a knock-off. I’m not going to talk about the legal technicalities that differentiate between a reproduction and a “true” fake. What I want to talk about is the damage knock-offs cause to the brand. We’ve all experienced it – you see a 13-year-old with a Rolex or the latest Louis Vuitton purse and wonder if it’s fake. Next time you see that same purse, regardless of the setting, you’ll wonder the same thing. It’s not that a 13-year-old was going to buy a real Louis Vuitton, it’s just that now you are less likely to buy it. “What’s the point?” – some of my friends say, “people are just going to assume it fake anyway”. What a high-class problem to have, you might think. It’s not like Louis Vuitton or Rolex or even Herman Miller (a licenced manufacturer of Eames products) are suffering. Maybe they aren’t. But copyright infringement affects all designers. A friend and former colleague of mine designed her mother’s tombstone, which the cemetery promptly reproduced without her authorization and have been selling copies for thousands of dollars. Take a look – http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1203387–toronto-designer-accuses-cemetery-of-copyright-infringement
It’s a lot easier to set up an off-shore manufacturing facility and sell to unsuspecting (or uneducated) consumers, than it is to come up with an original idea. As designers, we pour our blood, sweat and tears into every project we undertake. We strive, above all else, to improve the experience of your surroundings. We deserve acknowledgement.
Buy original! Support our local talent. There are hundreds of young designers graduating every year – some of them have real potential to become the next Arne Jacobsen, the next Charles and Ray Eames, the next Louis Vuitton, the next Coco Chanel. But not without your support. Not if you buy knock-offs.
The best way to protect yourself as a consumer is to do a bit of research about the product you’re interested in. If you’re not sure, ask a designer!