Farewell to Fakes?

From tomorrow the repeal of section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988 means that furniture designs in Britain are protected from unlicensed manufacture for 70 years, up from 25 years. Classic designs such as Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona by Knoll, Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair by Fritz Hansen and the Eames Lounge chair by Vitra are once again fully copyrighted. Retailers selling unlicensed copies will be liable to fines up to £50,000 and jail terms of up to 10 years.

Copyrighted Designs

Just some of the many designs that will once again be under copyright protection in the UK: Eames Lounge Chair by Vitra, Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona by Knoll Studio & Verner Panton’s Swan by Fritz Hansen

A quick google search reveals quite a lot of vehement hostility aimed at the new law and its promoters, with some branding the likes of Vitra, Knoll and Herman Miller as ‘thieves’. Many of the naysayers are members of the general public who wish to furnish their homes cheaply and care little for the manufacturing provenance of the product or its future value. They complain that it shouldn’t cost for example £4500 for a lounge chair or over £1000 for a dining set for your home. Whilst this may be true the problem is less about individuals (although this all adds up) but well known national and multi-national brands who are buying fakes en masse for roll-outs in offices, cafeterias and restaurants. Even well known supermarkets have got in on the act with special promotions.

Of course, many of these commentators display a complete ignorance of the design, research and development process and its costs and seem to think that tooling never needs to be replaced. Nor do they acknowledge the cost of promotion without which these classics would be unknown failures and there would be no market for the replica manufacturers. They also fail to acknowledge the continual development that genuine manufacturers put into these products as well as investment in R&D for future products. For example, Verner Panton’s ‘Panton’ chair by Vitra has only fairly recently been sold as originally intended due to material limitations, the Bertoia Side chair by Knoll Studio is now available with a much more cost conscious plastic shell and the Eames Lounge Chair itself was improved upon after release, not being fully realised until the mid-60s.

An oft touted defence of replicas is that the Eameses stood for accessible and affordable design for the masses. However, the replica market is largely filled with poor quality products made with cheap Far-East labour in factories with dubious environmental credentials. Was that really what Charles and Ray Eames stood for? It’s also well known (but conveniently ignored by many) that Charles and Ray Eames themselves fought against fakes, even going so far as to create a ‘Beware of Imitations’ advertisement for Herman Miller in 1962.

Furniture Innovations & Developments

Recent furniture innovations: Joyn benching and Alcove sofas by Vitra kickstarted the agile working revolution. Continuous development: the Aeron by Herman Miller now released as a Remastered version and the Bertoia Side Chair by KnollStudio now available as a plastic shell.

Is it time for 21st Century Classics?

Herman Miller can hardly be accused of resting on their laurels, especially in the task seating market with innovations and developments such as the Aeron (a new revised Aeron Remastered has recently been launched that utilises up to date materials and mechanisms), Mirra, Embody, Sayl, and Keyn chairs. Vitra also continue to sponsor new designs and designers, with innovations such as the Alcove sofa and Joyn bench by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, two products that have been massively influential in the changing work patterns of the early 21st century office environment.

The key here though is the focus on innovations in the office environment. New – and more importantly affordable – design in crossover lounge and dining furniture that may be used in the office or the home seems less prevalent.

We love mid-century design but it’s too often used as a default, redefined or copied. Has this led to design stagnation? Certainly, there is still innovation in the furniture industry but new designs are often overlooked by architects and interior designers in favour of the safe option. There are already many good modern designs and designers out there but it’s difficult to get new designs recognised when the market is flooded with cheap copies of classics.

Responsibility

Why should the fakers circumvent the processes of design, research & development, prototyping and promotion? With the new legislation comes new challenges. Whilst some of these companies will seek to find loopholes to circumvent the new legislation (we have heard of one company importing to Ireland where fakes are not illegal and then 3rd party freight forwarding to the UK) it would be hoped that others will choose to focus on new products and to employ the next generation of designers to create their own design classics. This is certainly a challenge, but not one without rewards for the bold.

Specifiers, architects and designers must also play their part and seek beyond the obvious. Part of this is through education and here companies like ourselves must be pro-active in engaging with the design community to impart a broader product knowledge.

Finally, the responsibility also lies with the consumer. Just like more and more people inform themselves of the ethics of what they eat or what car they buy, they should also think about how they furnish their homes.

We’ll end this article with an unashamedly mid-century quotation from Charles Eames himself, taken from Herman Miller’s Design Q+A.

Q: What designs would tend toward ephemeral or towards permanence?

Eames: The good stuff is permanent, the bad stuff goes away. (1959)

Welcome to our World!

November 2016 marks our 15th year in business.

Following 10 years at Riverside Studios, Leeds, we’ve undertaken a reboot of our working showroom to highlight current and emerging trends in workplace design as well as showcasing some products that, quite simply, we like too much not to show! Launched at our CoWo15 Reboot event last Thursday, the new showroom can now be officially revealed. So, if you were unable to attend the event last week; this is us. Welcome to our World!

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Our reception area now features a selection of leather classics from Vitra, Knoll Studio and Walter Knoll, showcasing designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, Eero Saarinen and Preben Fabricius and Jørgen Kastholm. Piero Lissoni’s luxurious Avio sofa system by Knoll Studio provides the central statement piece.

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From KI, the EC4 bench system keys into the current biophilic design trend and features solid oak splayed legs and a matching laminate edge detail to give a softer and more naturalistic look. In common with other KI systems it incorporates a sturdy metal understructure with a comprehensive cable management trough. Intended as an agile work/meeting base we’ve completed the bench with CMD’s Inca power/charger unit. Inca has been designed with communal working areas and meeting rooms in mind. Four usable faces allow users easy access to power and USB charging regardless of where they are positioned around the table.

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Sit-stand workstations are increasingly a requirement rather than a luxury and more systems are entering the market to suit a variety of budgets. We’re showcasing Vitra’s Tyde system by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, in our opinion one of the better back-to-back systems with its clever cable management solution and accessories.

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Also from Vitra and again by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec is the Alcove Cabin. The Alcove Cabin provides a secluded space, enclosed on all sides and accessible through a single opening. It provides visual and acoustic privacy for small meetings at the table and power connections and lighting allow it to serve as a fully-fledged workspace. Alcove was the original high back sofa concept; copied many times it has sparked a small revolution in workplace meeting areas developing into the agile working ethos.

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The agile working theme continues into our new breakout space with the ADD modular sofa and table and Kipu stools from lapalma. ADD’s slimline aesthetic belies its strong structure. The area is nicely screened by the Howe Spaghetti wall providing a psychological barrier that is open enough to invite you into the space and yet also provides a modicum of privacy.

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Our task chair selection includes the latest ‘sitting machines’ from Herman Miller, including Mirra 2, Sayl and Embody along with the fantastic new Keyn side chair. Intelligent seating offers include Wilkhahn IN, Boss Trinetic and Nomique Axia.

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Finally our Knoll Studio collection showcases designs from Eero Saarinen, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Harry Bertoia, including the rebooted and inexpensive Bertoia side chair with plastic shell for indoor or outdoor use.

If there’s anything you’d like to see just drop us a line to arrange a visit or for more details or have a look at our video on our YouTube channel.

Here’s to another 15 years!

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Outdoors Classics

So it’s summer and you’re hooked on classics? Why not extend your taste to the outside? Here’s a few classic designs suitable for outdoor use. Add some style to your office roof terrace, alfresco dining area, garden, patio, balcony or even your shed!

Knoll Studio Bertoia Diamond & Side Chair

Knoll Bertoia

Italian designer Harry Bertoia patented the Bertoia Collection for Knoll in 1952. The classic design features welded steel rods, for the outdoor version coated in Rilsan durable nylon in black or white. The collection features a side chair (below), the classic “Diamond” armchair (above) and the Asymmetric Chaise. Optional leather seat pads are available for the side chair and “Diamond“. For the more budget conscious there is the Bertoia Plastic Side Chair, a new version of the side chair is now available featuring a plastic shell and the “Diamond” chair has recently been price revised. Both represent excellent value for money.

Knoll Bertoia Side Chair

Vitra Eames DKR Wire Chair

Vitra Eames DKR

Designed by Charles & Ray Eames in 1951, Vitra’s classic Eames DKR Wire chair is now available in cream, black or grey powder coated finishes ideally suited for outdoors use. In addition the Bistro Table designed in 2009 by Rowan and Erwan Bouroullec in a solid core laminate version completes the set for the garden environment.

Vitra Panton

Vitra Panton

Conceived by Verner Panton in 1960, the Panton chair was developed for serial production in collaboration with Vitra. It was the first chair to be manufactured completely out of plastic in one single piece, advancing through several production phases before finally being produced as originally conceived – out of durable, dyed-through plastic with a lustrous matte finish since 1999.

Arper Leaf

Arper Leaf

Designed by Lievore Altherr Molina in 2005, the Leaf chair & table range has quickly become a classic. The design is inspired by nature, the chair’s welded rods reminiscent of branches of a tree or leaf veins and the table invoking a pebble. Leaf is available as a sled side chair, lounge chair and chaise in matte powder-coated steel in white, green or moka. A detachable polyurethane cushion is available for indoor and outdoor use. The range of circular and square tables are available in a water-repellent HPL top in grey.

Vitra Tom Vac

Vitra Tom Vac

Designed in 1999 by Ron Arad the elegant plastic shell of Tom Vac offers comfortable seating not only in interior spaces but also in outdoor settings: special additives in the moulded polypropylene shell retard the fading of colours, and the powder-coated finish of the base makes the chair suited for use on the terrace or in the garden. Since the chair can be stacked, it is especially useful in places where large numbers of chairs are required.

Vitra Boroullec Vegetal

Vitra Vegetal

With Vegetal, the Boroullec’s goal was to create a chair that aspired to look like natural vegetation while simultaneously incorporating the necessary strength, stability and comfort. The flat, branch-like ribs are asymmetrically intertwined on three levels to form the seat shell, which is shaped as an irregular circle and supported by four legs that appear to sprout from the ground.

Vegetal is available in six colours and is suitable for indoor or outdoor applications and can be stacked up to three chairs high, which permits flexible use in a variety of settings and in large numbers.

Vitra HAL

vitra HAL

With HAL, Jasper Morrison has reinterpreted the multi-functional shell chair and created a versatile family of chairs with a clean contemporary look. The shape of the seat shell provides great freedom of movement in a variety of sitting positions – even sideways or astride the chair. The HAL Tube is suitable for outdoor use and combines a polypropylene shell in a choice of 8 colours and powder-coated base in ivory or basic dark.

Verner Panton Panto Pop & Illumesa

Verpan Panto Pop

The Panto Pop is a stacking lounge chair with a UV-filter for outdoor use available in white or red. Designed by Verner Panton in 1969 the Panto Pop is now exclusively marketed by Verpan. Accompanying Panto Pop is the Illumesa table. Made in white acrylic for outdoor use the table is self-illuminated by a 23W internal light source.

Classics for Children

The tiny tots needn’t miss out on the outdoor fun either as Panto Pop and Illumesa (above) are equally at home with tiny hands and Vitra offer a variety of classics for children. As well as the Panton Junior, there is the Eames Elephant (1945) and Sori Yanagi’s Elephant Stool (1954) which also makes for a handy side table to go with your other classics.

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