Thursday, September 30, 2010

authenticity — "knock off" versus reproduction

I am wrestling once again with the issue of authen­tic­ity, in par­tic­u­lar with regard to fur­nish­ings. I received the new Restora­tion Hard­ware cat­a­log last week, and flipped through it, even though I'm not a fan of their cur­rent look. I was shocked when I reached page 16 and saw this:

photo from Restora­tion Hardware's web site

To me, this is clearly a "knock off" of the Egg Chair, designed in 1958 by Arne Jacob­sen. No attri­bu­tion given in the cat­a­log to the designer, although per­haps alluded to with the name "1950s Linen Copen­hagen Chair"? There are plenty of copies of the Egg Chair being sold all over the inter­net, and I don't care for those either. Am I hold­ing RH to a higher stan­dard? Have they tweaked this chair in some way that makes it dif­fer­ent enough to not be a knock off? And how dif­fer­ent is "dif­fer­ent enough"?

Fur­ther along in the cat­a­log on page 28, I see a mir­ror with this descrip­tor: "our hand­crafted mir­ror is an exact repro­duc­tion of an early 19th-century Ital­ian baroque antique". Pic­tured below:

from Restora­tion Hardware's web site

Now, this doesn't offend me at all. It's an exact copy of some­one else's design, and it's described as such. So the ques­tion remains: when is a copy a "knock off" ver­sus a repro­duc­tion? Is there a time limit, 50 years perhaps?

Does it mat­ter that we don't know who orig­i­nally designed the mir­ror but we do know who designed the chair? The licensed, orig­i­nal Egg Chair design is still being man­u­fac­tured by Repub­lic of Fritz Hansen. Is it okay to copy it, given the copies sell for sub­stan­tially less and are thus avail­able to far more people?

Thoughts, any­one?

Leave a comment

  1. Catherine says:

    This is such a sticky wicket. A few of my clients love the mod­ern designs but can't afford the orig­i­nals. I do check the qual­ity of repros with a fine tooth comb. I think it's okay, but only okay. And it's espe­cially impor­tant for fur­ni­ture com­pa­nies to be hon­est about it. I would hold Restora­tion Hard­ware to a higher stan­dard as they are mass mar­ket and so much in the pub­lic eye.

  2. Cynthia says:

    Cather­ine, I too wres­tle with the cost issue. And I think repro­duc­tions are fine in many cases. It just struck me this one was so bla­tant. You're right, RH should be con­sid­er­ing their own rep­u­ta­tion if noth­ing else.