It's quite amazing how a word can create a reaction. By selecting your words carefully you can ease situations, negotiate deals and comfort people. Words are essential. Not only do you use them to express how you feel or what you think, but seeing and hearing words creates a physical or emotional reaction in you.
Flick through any home-ware magazine and you'll see the word "Replica" furniture advertised by numerous online retail outlets. Interesting use of word. But what happens when you replace the word "REPLICA" with "FAKE"? All of a sudden, it doesn't sound so flash. These two words have slightly different meanings, but the feelings they generate are diametrically opposed.
If you look in a dictionary, a replica is an exact copy or model of something (an example of that could be a scale model of a famous building - a replica Sydney Opera House). Whilst a fake means not genuine, an imitation or counterfeit. Both words mean to copy. However "Replica" almost legitimizes the action, whilst "fake" makes you more likely to walk the other way. Stores know this. Thats why the word "Replica" is everywhere. In addition, those stores who advertise pieces as "replicas" are allowed to use the original design name too (Replica Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair) creating another layer of faux authenticity. Replica does not mean an authentic copy. It doesn't mean vintage. It doesn't mean limited edition. It doesn't mean quality designed product. In furniture terms, replica simply means fake. Gulp. From here on, they shall be called what they are.
Whether you're happy buying a fake item over a real one, is a personal choice. But there are considerable ramifications in doing so. Many of the fakes are manufactured in a substandard way. The cost of the chair is reduced with alternative materials used and the manufacturing process. A marketing guru might describe it as 'replica furniture is about having stylish designs at an accessible price'. The reason its cheaper than the original design is that its not the same product. Clearly there's been shortcuts along the way. The big question is at the cost of what or whom and do you want to be a part of it?
I have two major issues with fake furniture. Firstly you're not saving money. An Eames original Lounge Chair and Ottoman costs $7990, but a fake will cost you $595. A non designer faux leather lounge chair could cost you $295. So my question is: Are you saving $7395 or paying $300 more? It depends on what you are using as a base to compare to. If you remove the shape and visual design of the piece, what you are doing is buying a cheap item at an inflated price, by comparing it to a piece that is better quality. Its like comparing a tap made of stainless steel with a tap made of gold. Surely the question you need to ask is If I'm prepared to pay $500 for a lounge chair and ottaman, what is the best quality, ethically sourced one I can find and leave the 'famous design' out of the equation altogether. But if its that specific named design you are after, consider buying second hand, or vintage. I know a few people who have picked up absolute bargains at auctions.
The other issue is ironical. The original design was painstakingly designed to be a classic in terms of form and function, a piece that will last the test of time. But its very classic design has caused it to be desirable and as such copied, mass produced, cheapened and made practically disposable. A victim of its own success.
I also get the other side of the argument. $7990 is a lot for a chair and ottoman and how is it worth that much. Why are you paying for the 'design' when the designer is deceased. Where is the money going? Who manages the pricing of such items? Is it still made in the 'authentic' way? Some of the prices charged for furniture pieces can seem outrageous, but if authentic craftsmenship is still being used to produce the piece then it's clearly going to cost more.
But why are there so many fakes at the moment? Thats all down to copyright and design protection laws, which differ from country to country. Some protect individual designs for a certain period after the item was designed (anything from 10 to 50 years), whilst other protect the design for a certain period after the designers death. The combination of the rise of 'retro' and the lapse of these protected design periods on an international level, means we are seeing a flurry of mid century designs as replicas, sorry, fakes. You could argue that the lapse of the design protection is pushing the design styles of today. But that's another discussion.
In Australia, the sale of fake furniture is thriving. Our lack of rigorous copyright and design protection laws is one reason for this. The other is our lack of understanding that a 'replica' is in fact a fake and caring enough to make informed choices. But what's interesting is that design protection laws are changing overseas and this has the potential to effect Australia. The European Union (EU) are moving towards extending the copyright period of a design from 25 to 70 years after the designers demise (death), with the UK last to fall in line in 2020. So all the iconic fake mid century furniture we see today will be protected by copyright law once again. But only in the EU. With weak design protection laws here, and free international trade agreements this creates two major issues.
Firstly as these products become illegal overseas, Australia and other countries could end up being a dumping ground for these fake and inferior products. We clearly have enough of these already. They're everywhere!! This could be a major future waste problem.
Secondly it seriously threatens the "Australian Made" "Hand crafted" movement that we're experiencing. If Australian designers can not get protection for their original designs, there isn't any financial incentive to create them. Or at the very least, design them here. By having inferior design protection Australia runs the risk of loosing its designers to other countries that do.
What you and I need to understand as a consumers is that items which are designed and made in Australia are not going to be price competitive to items designed and made overseas , or even designed in Australia and made overseas. If you want to see real, innovative, exciting Australian designs in the future then you need to pay real Australian prices for real Australian products. Ultimately if you want to support the local or global design industry, then don't support its demise by buying fake. I've said it once, I'll say it again "You really get what you pay for. Buy quality. Buy once." Besides wouldn't life be boring if we all had the same furniture. Worst still, if it were all replica!! Be individual people!