Dezeen Magazine

Amazon celebrates Charles Eames' birthday with pinboard of knockoffs

Online retail giant Amazon is celebrating the birthday of legendary designer Charles Eames with a pinboard that collects together replicas of his designs sold on the site.

Amazon's roundup – titled Happy Birthday Charles Eames – is part of its Pinterest-style Beautiful Things stream, which features groupings of products curated by Amazon's product team.

Clicking on the minimal square images on the pinboard takes visitors through to Amazon's sales pages for products including replicas of the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, Molded Plastic Chairs and Hang it all coat rack.

The replica designs are being sold for between £30 and £350 ($45 and $499), well below the prices for authorised versions.

Amazon has published a curated board of replica Eames designs to mark the birthday of Charles Eames

For example, the Eames Lounge Chair – an iconic design with black leather upholstery and a bent plywood seat, backrest and arms – is advertised on Amazon's board for £350 ($499).

An official version produced by Swiss design brand Vitra - which is authorised to make and sell Eames products in Europe and the Middle East - is currently for sale online via British retailer John Lewis for between £3900 and £5050.

Herman Miller, which holds the US licence for Eames products, offers the same chair together with its matching ottoman for $4935.

Also included in the Amazon collection are original items like Taschen's Eames coffee table book and a DVD collection of the Eames' pioneering short films.

Charles Eames would have been 109 today. He was born on June 17, 1907, and died on 21 August, 1978. Together with his wife, Ray, he created some of the most well-known designs of the 20th century.

The designers' works are also some of the most widely replicated. Earlier this month, Dezeen reported that discount supermarket chain Aldi was selling pairs of replica DSW Eames Plastic Chairs for £39.99 – a fraction of the £339 it costs to buy a single authorised version by Vitra.

In that instance, the similarity between the designs was flagged on social media, with furniture designer Rupert Blanchard sharing images of the Aldi version of the chairs from one of its stores in London.

Blanchard's image was accompanied by the comment: "@AldiUK is selling #fake #Eames #eiffel chairs, not cool Aldi, not cool."

Supermarket chain Aldi has been selling pairs of replica Eames chairs for £39.99 – a fraction of the £399 an authorised version costs

Oliver Wainwright, architecture and design critic at the Guardian newspaper, then defended Aldi on Twitter. "Isn't this exactly what Charles Eames would have wanted?" he tweeted. "The licensing model that sees Eames designs elevated to luxury collectibles goes utterly against everything they stood for."

The Eameses aspired to make design more accessible through their work, saying: "We wanted to make the best for the most for the least."

The debate over replica furniture has been heating up as the UK prepares for new copyright legislation to come into effect this summer. This will repeal section 52 of the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988, extending the copyright period to 70 years from the designer's death.

The change is a result of 2013 reforms to bring UK copyright law in line with the European Union, which has longer-lasting protections for artistic works.

The World of Charles and Ray Eames exhibition at the Barbican
Furniture by the Eames', who were the subject of a major retrospective exhibition last year at London's Barbican Centre, are among the most copied examples of 20th century design

Charles and Ray Eames' grandson Eames Demetrios, who runs the Eames Office set up by his grandparents in Los Angeles, told Dezeen last year that developments in the music industry were partly to blame for the proliferation of designer furniture replicas.

"If you had to ask your grandfather in 1950 to make a copy of a chair he would have said 'okay but it'll take me a week'," he said. "Now if you asked someone, the image in their mind of copying is to drag a file from one side of the desktop to another. They think of everything as cloneable."