i+D - January/February 2018 - 38

One of a Kind - By Diana Mosher

On the Front Lines

Seeing and Touching

Along with obvious measures like prohibiting photos at trade shows,
qualified manufacturers are getting ahead of the counterfeiters by
broadcasting their own reputations as innovative companies that produce
authentic and original design. Kafka is marketing and sales manager at the
new Canadian iteration of ARCHITECT@WORK, a 15-year-old European
juried trade show that requires all its exhibitors to be vetted and approved
by a judging panel of architects and interior designers.

When consumers don't know who produced the piece they love, their online
searches can lead to misleading images and/or text posted by the copycats,
who have figured out the terminology that will enable them to come up first
in the search. "Some counterfeiters have used photos of the Emeco factory
and quotes from designers like Philippe Starck, from our website," says
Buchbinder. They have copied the story of the Emeco Navy Chair made for
U.S. Navy war ships in 1944. These counterfeiters misrepresent the source
and purposely cause confusion and deceive the public.

Another organization combatting knockoffs is Be Original Americas,
a 501(c)6 nonprofit committed to informing, educating, and influencing
manufacturers, design professionals, and individuals on the economic,
ethical, and environmental value of authentic design-all while preserving
and investing in its future. "So many fine companies are being knocked off
and the designer/architect/consumer never realizes the impact. They don't
think about the conditions under which many of the products are being
made, or the hazardous materials found in some," says Beth Dickstein,
founder and CEO of public relations and marketing firm bde, who co-founded
Be Original Americas in July 2012 with David Rosenkvist (formerly of
Republic of Fritz Hansen; now with Louis Poulsen).
Along with Emeco and others, Design Within Reach is a charter member
of Be Original Americas. According to Edelman, buying knockoffs hinders
the future of design, because new products are expensive to create. It's the
success of original designs that funds their research and development.
"Be Original Americas is a wonderful platform that has forged this relationship
amongst design brands and leaders," says Karolina Dabo, marketing manager
North America, Republic of Fritz Hansen, also a Be Original Americas charter
member. "Together, we are stronger and able to fight copies."
Be Original Americas spreads its message through accredited CEU courses
and has presented talks to groups, as well as at schools and retail member
locations. "When consumers say they can't afford the original, we ask how
long did the fake last-it usually comes out that it's been replaced multiple
times, because they loved the piece but it never lasted," explains Dickstein.
"Sometimes, toxic materials are used and you'd never know it," says
Johnston. "I think the issue of knockoffs is both a practical one and a moral
one," she adds. "Clients may not care about the latter, but when you lay
out the practical reasons one by one, you have more of a chance of getting
through to them."

"It's a frustrating situation for everyone: the designers, the producers of
authentic goods, and especially the consumers," agrees Edelman. "I always
tell people to ask a lot of questions and purchase only from trusted retailers."
Since actually seeing, touching, and being part of the upholstery process
in a live in-store demonstration is still much more valuable than images
or videos, Ligne Roset brought its master craftsman and 30-year veteran
Daniel Berthaud to the United States from France for a four-city tour.
"The authentic demonstration for our iconic Togo collection has been
instrumental in educating our customers about the artisanship included
in every piece of furniture they purchase," says Simone Vingerhoets,
executive vice president, Roset USA Corporation.
Republic of Fritz Hansen also has flown in its master upholsterer from
Denmark to demonstrate handcraftsmanship on design classics, like the
Egg and Swan chairs. According to Dabo, "Seeing a piece of classic design
handmade before your eyes really changes your perspective."
Lawyers get involved when it's difficult to tell the difference between
"inspired by" and a clear cut copycat. "The latter, in my opinion, are the
greatest offenders," remarks Kolstad. "The original design is not modified,
but is a straight up rip-off." Others are detectible only by internal construction
and quality. The investment reveals itself over time as the inevitable
conclusion is disposable furniture.
"It's become more egregious and shameless recently," observes Johnston,
who has seen disreputable manufacturers even shoot their product photos
using similar backgrounds as the original. If it seems too good to be true,
she warns, then there has to be a catch.

"One of the big steps we're taking against the counterfeit market is
through education. As a design brand, it's our job to tell our story to help
people understand the thoughtfulness and quality that goes into designing
and manufacturing our products. We're proud charter members of
Be Original Americas, and have been delighted to host students as part
of their fellowship program," notes Sam Grawe, global brand director for
Herman Miller and president of Be Original Americas.
"We're also working with agents at U.S. Customs and Border Protection
to educate them on our products so they know how to spot knockoffs when
inspecting incoming shipments of goods," adds Grawe. "So far, they've
confiscated $10 million-plus in counterfeit products over the last year."


i+D - January/February 2018

Counterfeiters misrepresent
the source and purposely
cause confusion and deceive
the public.


i+D - January/February 2018

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