Designer’s plastic chairs vs replica’s, crime or cheap style?
I have been blogging for a year now, usually keeping quite safe, well if blogging about all type of pastels in rented space we can call safe 😉 Today, I wanted to touch a subject that has been quite bothering me for a while now. I want to talk about replica furniture. As you know I am an interior designer, and I do share values and respect toward other designer works, whether interior or product designers. I know myself how hard is to create something, and keep it unique. I also know how easy for others is to ‘steal ideas’ or let’s call it ‘’borrow’. I think this subject may me be quite controversial and I want to talk about negatives and positives about it. (Picture on left – Cult Furniture summer edition)
I want to focus today only on plastic chairs, like well known Vitra Eames Eiffel chair, Philippe Starck Ghost or Bubble chair by Eero Arnie. Just so the blog finish at some point and I won’t go over 20 000 words and bore you to death;) but also I find that these has been the most re-produced as replica’s furniture. Why? I also will find an answer to that.
Firstly, all 3 chair types despite being designed by 3 different designers, and with totally 3 different independent, quirky and unique styles: there is one very important thing in common! Nearly in all interior inspirations around the internet like Pinterest, Instagram etc. you can find these iconing chairs! I have looked into all designs and their history a little closer. I wanted to understand myself while particularly these has been reproduced so many times as replicas!
The main thing, that ties all these 3 are made from polycarbonate or acrylic which we call simply plastic. This moulded chairs has various shapes from organic Bubble to classic Louis XV chair looks. Polycarbonate or acrylic plastic sheets you can buy for example at the Simply Plastics. Plastic is well known for being a cheaper material to produce furniture that is waterproof, long lasting and comes in various size, shapes comparing to the wood where there have been loads of limitations. Most university students usually explore by their projects by buying acrylic or polycarbonate sheets and try to be inventive! There is literally unlimited opportunities and designed than can be created!
Let’s start with the one design that is the most reproduced, the Eames Eiffel chair designed by Charles Eames. He designed the chair for the International Low-Cost Furniture Competition held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, where the chair was awarded the second prize. He collaborated and explored the design while worked with the workshops of John Wills and Zenith, which the last one produced first fibreglass chairs, which is also known as thermosetting plastic. Over the years, Eames kept developing the chair adding colours and partnered with Herman Miller who finally produced and continued making furniture for Vitra with his wife Ray Eames. It now the chair cost around £285
Stunning room designed by Kelly Hoppenwith Bubble Chair
Next up the older sister, Bubble chair designed by Eero Aarnio in 1968 in Finland. Most designers will remember the iconic room designed by Kelly Hoppen, this is where I first time heard of bubble chair myself. It was not only a surprise to me by also to the designer himself to discover the chair purpose by hanging from the ceiling on a chain. This organic form was created on Aarnio desire to create a bubble chair that floats made out of invisible material. He used acrylic to achieve the clear and untouched finish. Well, he did it! The bubble chair was a continuation of his previous iconic design, the Ball Chair. Currently, the chair cost £5,000
The youngest of the iconic chairs is the Philippe Starck Ghost chair. The French designer known in the UK as well for the BBC show Design for life has designed his chair based on the classic Louis XVI chair design, adding his modern twist by using clear polycarbonate combining a swift feminine touch in this geometrical form of his clear nearly invisible chair! He introduced his chair at the International Furniture Fair in Milan in 2002 and since then Louis Ghost even has his own miniature children versions called Lou Lou Ghost. Cost around £237
So, the intention of this designers chairs was to create a ‘’Good design’’ but low-cost furniture made out of plastic which is resistant to any shock, scratches and waterproof. How can £5000 bubble chair can be ‘’affordable’’ though? Myself, being a recent graduate of interior design who invested in future ..ekhm (thrown loads of money for university) I can’t no way afford to buy chairs costing £285 each! I admire good design, I respect designers but I think personally think this isn’t affordable design. Materials like polycarbonate or acrylic, despite being called not very eco, actually last years and years so even a cheap replica chair will last for many years! Unless really screwed up replica! I can’t afford design! Not yet! People won’t spend their salary on seating, selling their soul, eat nothing for a week so they can have a designer tag. Personally, I think, again all the designers create their inventions, especially Eiffel chair to be a low-cost furniture, how nearly £300 can be a low cost, while this is half a monthly rent of room these days! Mr Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” despite I am not a massive fan of this quote but in this case, I understand why replica’s fled the online stores. People want to have great furniture and everyone want their home to look beautiful. If there is a possibility to make it look that little more like from an expensive catalogue page, they will throw their value’s behind the door and open them for something that make them feel little better. I am standing in between of both, the rich and the poor. As a designer myself, I respect it massively and I know how important is design. Saying that, I am also aware that big companies know exactly who their target market is and who they want their designer to buy and there is nowhere in where I stand. They want their designs to be admired, dreamed of and on poeple’s wish lists. Well, replica’s furniture companies made the lists achievable instead. Fact!
Great designers and people who believe in design…they can afford good design! Sometimes I read articles by some important people in the design world, sharing their disgust over replica’s stores, while sharing their own expensive homes on design magazine pages. Replicas are for people who can’t afford but want the design. Since we live in a world of having to have to rent, not being able to afford much, then replica’s designs will be in this world, despite if being a criminal offence in buying, selling or reproducing! Tough prices, tough world!
* Post in collaboration with SimplyPlastics but opinion in this article is entirely my own, #sorrnotsorry