Eero Aarnio is one of Finland’s most widely copied designers. There are hundreds of companies pushing replicas to the market every day. In China, one company can produce as many Ball Chairs in one day as Eero Aarnio Originals produces in Finland in one year. These factories are proud of their ability and skills to copy. While styled similarly, fake products often fail to deliver solutions comparable to an original design. Counterfeiters are focused on mass production of items that look adequate but do not fulfill high quality standards. Production is aimed to deliver results as cheap and fast as possible. Whereas an original design is all about functionality, aesthetics and high-quality materials, replicas inevitably lack to possess these characteristics.
“No matter how well a copy is made, it is still stealing”, Eero says. Designing a piece of furniture might take years of work. Shape is merely one aspect of the design. Before any initiatives are taken towards actually producing the first prototype, there is usually a long period of processing creativity and emotions within a designer’s inner world. Economically, this can mean years of unpaid time. The journey from an idea to an actual product is a long one. After the product is finalized, considerable investments are needed, for example to promotion and sales before the designer receives any compensation.
The copying of design products is a business that impacts not only the designer, but all parties involved in the manufacturing and distribution chain. Hence, economic losses do not lie only with the brand itself, but fall onto suppliers, manufacturers, shipping and insurance companies, and everyone else involved in the entire life cycle of the product. The designer is only one part of the chain. That is to say, stealing is taking away from everyone involved in the production.
Often, consumers are not fully aware of the buying decision’s impact. Sometimes when buying a replica, one does not even know that the piece of furniture in question is in fact a copy of an original design. A replica might at first look completely the same, only considerably cheaper. Price of an unauthorized copy indicates plenty about the materials used in production. A replica is always of poorer quality than the original product. Furthermore, the origin of a fake product often remains unknown. Organized crime and bad working conditions, including child labor, can’t be explicitly ruled out. Contributing to an overall unethical market results to replicas bearing eternal shame throughout their short life cycle.
An original classic is forever authentic and designed to last the test of time. The manufacturer of an original is established, the sales network and retailers are legitimate, hence, consumers can rely on the information provided by all parties. All Eero Aarnio Originals products including the Ball, Bubble, Pastil and Pony can be identified by unique ID-labels to ensure the origin and verify authenticity. In addition, these items are delivered with a separate certificate of authenticity, signed by the designer himself.
Thinking about all the Eero Aarnio replicas in the world, Eero himself will rather focus on what he is about to design next. To him it appears as a form of flattery in today’s world. If his designs would not interest anyone, they wouldn’t be copied either. “My own interest lies on taking steps to stay ahead of the game”, Eero says. In today’s world, protecting intellectual property has never been harder for furniture designers. Moreover, there is only so much we can do to prevent the manufacturing and distribution of replicas. At the end of the day, the consumer always has a right to acknowledge only high-quality design.