Ever since I have been involved in this industry, I have been both curious and confused by the ongoing debate regarding our sector. This is a debate that seems to have been going on for a long time, and has included some high profile names.
Samantha Cameron was viciously attacked by Michelle Ogundehin of Elle Decorations in 2011. More recently, at the beginning of the year, this debate reared its head again as Vitra’s Tony Ash was critical of replicas, with Voga's Chris Diemer coming to its defence. As a result I decided to do some research and formulate my own opinion on this debate.
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From the Designers’ Point of View
Our mission statement has always been to offer these iconic designs in an accessible way for all and, without companies like ourselves, this would not be possible.
It was interesting to see that in my research that the original purpose of some of the designers was to create high-quality affordable furniture. This stands true for Charles and Ray Eames in particular, but also motivated other designers such as Florence Knoll and Jean Prouvé.
The companies who do hold the licenses sell their products for absurd prices which immediately prices out anyone who does not have a few thousand pounds lying about to spend on furniture (I think that’s most people).
It’s a nice thought that we are continuing on these great designers legacies, but this debate is much more complicated, so let’s start from the beginning.
What to expect from Replica Furniture
Our company takes a great deal of pride in the quality of our products. Our factories operate at the highest standards. They purchase every original we reproduce and focus on every single detail in their reproduction. The products go through extensive sustainability tests and are checked by our quality control before they leave the factories. We are so confident of the quality of our products we offer a 5 year guarantee.
We are aware of the somewhat undeserved reputation of replica furniture companies of having poor quality furniture, and while we accept that in a small handful of cases that is true, but we are clearly not on this level.
I have found that the vast majority of the people in this industry do it as a labour of love. They, as do we, adore the designs and want to make sure that they are of the highest quality possible while maintaining an affordable price.
Why Replica Furniture exists?
Simply put, replica furniture exists because there is a market for it. These classic designs are incredibly sought after by a large number of people, however without companies like ours the vast majority of these people would be priced out.
Replica furniture is a legal enterprise and we are very clear that we are selling reproductions. I could understand the argument if we pretended that we were selling the originals as Matt Blatt did in 2006 but the majority of websites (such as ours) are incredibly obvious.
However, I have always wondered, and never found the answer to, exactly why the “originals” are over four times the price of our products. For those who would suggest licencing, they would have acquired the licencing for most of the products over 50 years ago so this is not a current cost. In fact most of the designers have either passed away or are retired, so this added cost is not going to the original designers.
As was discussed at the beginning of the article, the original designers wanted to create affordable furniture. With that in mind I don’t understand how having to pay over £5000 for the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman is providing affordable furniture for the consumer.
This is not to say that I think these companies should lower their prices. They cater to a certain market, as do we and others like us. There is no reason why our two businesses should be mutually exclusive.