Part 2 of 3: The design of an icon – the replica debate

Mar 21, 2016 | Anoushka's Blog, Interior design and decoration

Following on from last week’s blog on what makes something an icon; this week I wanted to touch on a very contentious subject in the design community surrounding the iconic.  Should we accept replicas or do they in some way detract from, or diminish the impact of, the originals?

It’s not exactly news that replica furniture is in high demand in Australia.  If we’re design savvy or just want to make a statement, at some point we all want a piece of design history in our home: from furniture to flooring; or artwork to fabrics; and everything in-between.

I’m sure many of us would prefer the real thing, but cost and availability mean that’s not always possible, especially when originals can set you back tens of thousands.  However, the replica furniture industry focusses on reproducing designs that are no longer copyright protected or are produced under licence.  A classic example of this is the Eames lounge chair and ottoman, originally conceived in the 1950’s by husband and wife design team, Charles and Ray Eames.

In Australia we love replicas, last year the “online furniture” sector was worth $360 million of which replica furniture was seen as THE “rising trend” (Source: IBIS World).  When produced within copyright it’s legal to sell replica furniture and a number of businesses openly do so.  However, it’s not always cut and dry, such as in 2011 with Herman Miller, which owns the rights to the Eames chairs internationally, famously sued Matt Blatt to try to get them to stop using the Eames name.

Legality aside, as I’m not a lawyer, it is possible to pick up quality reproductions for your home, such as but not limited to:

Wishbone ChairHans Wegner, Wishbone Chair – Matt Blatt

ERO SAARINEN TULIP DINING TABLEEero Saarinrn, Tulip Dining Table – Matt Blatt

eric_buch_stool_black_leather_and_walnutErik Buch, Bar Stool – Replica Furniture

replica_poul_henningsen_artichoke_pendant_light_largePoul Henningsen, Artichoke Pendant Light – Replica Furniture

eames coat hanger multi color on white 2015-500x500Eames, Coat Hanger – Glicks Furniture

However, the question remains, should we?  Copyright owners might suggest not and that reproduction damages the icon.  Whereas reproducers and resellers argue that providing replicas expands the audience, in terms of availability and price point.  For me, quantity and the overall design is always the key consideration, and I avoid cheap knock-offs at all costs.

Each of us will have our own opinion on replicas, mine is if you can afford an original, go for it!  You’ll never regret it and it’ll hold its value.  What do you think?

References:

(Jan – Mar 2016) Age of an icon. Habitus, #30, 65-73

(Jan – Mar 2016) Iconic Heavyweights. Habitus, #30, 49-54

Images supplied via Matt Blatt, Replica Furniture and Glicks Furniture

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