Update on the "Arco-gate"
replica furniture furore


Dezeen Wire:
editor of Elle Decoration Michelle Ogundehin has published a second article on the magazine's blog condemning copies of classic furniture, following her scathing attack when it emerged that the UK prime minister's wife purchased a reproduction Arco floor lamp for her home. In the article, Ogundehin clarifies her position and adds comments from licensed manufacturers and retailers including Vitra, Fritz Hansen, Skandium and Aram.

Read the original article here, the new update here and reactions to the debate in our Dezeen Wire story here.

Posted on Wednesday October 5th 2011 at 10:30 am by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Caesar Tjalbo

    Clearly Michelle Ogundehin is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. It's a bit sad she gets a stage to make such a fool of herself.

    Her first mistake is to confuse a copy with an original. She can't have a painting by Picasso because those are originals. She can have a designer chair because those are copies. If Vitra would acquire the rights to sell copies of Picasso paintings, perhaps she'd understand.

    A chair designed by Charles and Ray Eames is a chair designed by Charles and Ray Eames. However, it may have been made by Vitra but it may also have been made by someone who doesn't have a license to manufacture them.

    That brings forward her second mistake: to call an unlicensed copy a "fake". If you buy a watch which says "Rolex" but isn't made by Rolex, it's a fake-Rolex. If it says "made by Flos" but it isn't, it's a fake. If it merely looks like an Egg by Arne Jacobsen but doesn't say it is, it's no fake. Or, you'd have to consider those Eggs made by Fritz Hansen fakes too since they weren't made by Jacobsen.

    Her third mistake is to suggest there are unethical reason for the lower price and that that's relevant for the discussion. An unlicensed copy is unfair because the manufacturer doesn't pay for a license but the way it's manufactured doesn't have anything to do with it.

    If I manufacture my Ipods in accordance to the strictest health and safety regulations and by assuring my workers with a decent labour situation, it doesn't change the fact that my production is still illegal because of 'piracy'. Apple on the other hand does have the rights to make Ipods and how they do it (google "foxconn suicide") is irrelevant for that permission.

    Is a "knock off" a knock off if you can't tell the difference between a replica and an "authorised original product"?

    Her fourth failure is even hilarious. To Mrs. Ogundehin it's apparently acceptable to 'fake' a design 70 years after the death of the designer but not 20 years after the death of the designer. She does not explain why 70 years does sufficient justice other than by comparing it to music. I understand: authorized copy of chair by Charles and Ray Eames = bad, copy of chair by Charles Rennie Mackintosh = good.

    She also fails to grasp that this pseudo-monopoly may be the reason why authorized copies of design furniture (those are replicas too) are so expensive and that it creates a market for "knock-offs". No critical thinking here on the question whether we really need "to protect designers and their heirs". And those manufacturers of design furniture "who we here at ELLE Decoration so heartily support", I might add.

    The article by Michelle Ogundehin is indeed "elitist". It values brand over design, license over art. It's an understandable piece if you're a manufacturer or retailer of authorized designs but not if you're a lover of designs and would like to own a classic for your interior.

    • Mark Culbertson

      Well said.