In this guest post, interior designer Darren Palmer, who rose to fame on homeMADE and The Block, adds an interesting view, and a possible solution, to the replica furniture debate.
“We had an industry debate at Corporate Culture a few years ago to try and decide whether replicas had value. I was on the affirmative, only for the sake of discussing a point that seemed worth debating: that there is clearly a great deal of value in the market given there is so much revenue made from it.
I put forward the idea that given there is such a high demand for luxury, fake or otherwise, surely there are ways to take advantage of that market with integrity whilst hopefully denying the fake furniture market a slice of the pie.
The thinking I had was this: there is high demand for luxury at consumer level and there is a great deal of revenue to be made from it. Replica furniture meets this market. Surely there is a way for legitimate design and established designers to meet the market too?
An example I gave in this discussion was what Stella McCartney achieved with her alliances with Target and H&M. What she was able to do was offer a product at a price point that was accessible without affecting the rest of her brand, or dragging down her high-end perception. I wonder whether there isn’t some way for established, high end furniture manufacturers (the same ones who are affected by the replica furniture market like Eames, Mies Van der Rohe, Hans Wegner, Florence Knoll et al) to offer versions or new offerings using techniques and materials that allow product to be produced at a price point that captures that demand.
My personal view is that there are so many products that already exist in the market at an achievable price point, that are made and sold with integrity, that you can buy and enjoy for years to come, that there is no need to desire a replica of anything. Great design does not only mean design classics but for those that manufacture the real thing perhaps there is a way to cut into some of that great stream of revenue worldwide.
I’m no expert on the business models of the likes of Eames and other design classic manufacturers, and I do not claim to be, though I do think the question is an interesting one, at least as part of this greater issue.
As a footnote I would like to mention two personal experiences of the replica furniture market. The first was when I was trying to use a Tom Dixon beat light in a high end residential project. The beat lamp is a beautiful and original design at a really great price point and was loved by myself and my client. But the lead time on it was 12 weeks. My client wasn’t willing to wait so he purchased a replica instead for not that much less than the original. It was the delay alone that lost a sale for the original and I couldn’t understand why, with such a popular product at such a low price point, there wasn’t stock in Australia. A shame but also understandable from my client’s point of view.
The other experience was with a friend of mine who purchased the expensive version of a replica Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman that’s sold for $1895. When it arrived, the arm was detached from the chair, which had pierced the leather in a few places. When my friend notified the company selling it they sent him a replacement one, however when he asked when they would pick the other one up they told him to just put it on the street. It was worth so little to them that it wasn’t even feasible to send a courier to pick it up and repair it. That should give some indication of the value that the retailers of replicas put on the product they’re selling.
That chair was fixed by me and now sits in my office and I’m ok with having it purely because I have saved another piece of disposable furniture from hitting the rubbish tip.”
Read an earlier interview with Darren here.