Knocking off our resources, one cheap copy at a time

Not massively impressed at the call to buy knock offs of design classics that I read today on a local design blog page. But then I wouldn’t be would I? I spend a lot of time trying to demonstrate the value and quality inherent in ‘original’ expensive products and, having been to many production facilities (both for high end and low end manufacturing) I have a good understanding of some of the elements that make up a high price. Yes, there is a certain amount of cachet which holds the price above that of mass produced items – but I set that aside. For me, it’s about the initial costs that go into a product’s R&D; someone has to do all that from scratch, not just copy it. Shouldn’t they be rewarded for it? Then there’s the labour costs, leather, lovingly sewn by properly waged and skilled employees working in clean-air environments. Wood that’s more expensive because it’s FSC / sustainable rather than finding the cheapest forests to destroy. Steel that has the right mix of alloys in, rather than the cheapest mixes which means the steel will degrade in 10 years time instead of lasting a century. Now, you might not want your product to last a century, but we sell (for example) the Bonacina Hanging Egg Chair (shown left) – a classic design that’s been around for over 50 years and is as lauded today as it was then. There are a host of copies. But do the copies sell at Design Auctions? Can you send your copy back to the factory in Italy if a weave snaps and have it repaired for free, for life? There is a huge pride in these design classics and if you buy one, you buy well. Our parents and grandparents knew the value of buying less, but well. It would do us all good to buy fewer products (thus saving our resources) and have them last as long as possible (thus saving our resources). I still have a little Chanel suit that my grandmother bought in the 1960s. She wasn’t wealthy, but bought a few good timeless pieces and made them last.The quality and cut means it looks as good today as it did then. Can’t we all just slow down a little, and spare a thought for the amount of materials and conditions of labour required to produce millions of cheap rip off products? I’m not suggesting that good design should remain the preserve of those who can afford it. Good design can also be original and resourceful. There will always be people who can afford more expensive things than the average wage earner(otherwise I wouldn’t be in business!) but why can’t we all enjoy original design without lusting after what we can’t afford? Why not think about buying a piece of fabulous design that’s current and that you consider may become a classic. How much more trendsetting could you get? There’s an oft quoted afrikaans expression that somehow resonates – goedkoop is duurkoop…and that may apply to our planet’s future as much as to our wallets.

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