Knockoffs, Because "The Client Can't Afford the Real Thing"


Take a minute to think about this: what is the best project you’ve ever made or seen? That restaurant or bar, that amazing home, workspace or retail store. The one project that you are most proud of and is featured all over your website, or the one you saved on Instagram for inspiration.

Now imagine you’re relaxing one Sunday morning, coffee in hand, browsing your favorite design magazine and there it is. Yup, there’s a bar being featured that is exactly the same as the one that you designed for your client, or exactly the same as the project by your favorite designer. The exact same floor plan, the same flooring, the paint, the seating, the tables, every single light fixture as far as the eye can see. It is an exact replica of what you created and it is already the most popular bar in the country. A raving success.

“Wow! How dare they! Those were my ideas. I spent weeks working on that concept. What kind of a person would do that?” thinks the original designer.

And so it goes. The client can’t afford to pay an interior designer, so they hired someone to copy the ideas in a fraction of the time, at a fraction of the cost.

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Now, imagine you are a designer working with a client and they can’t afford that real Eames shell chair, Noguchi table, Saarinen table. They like the look of a Tom Dixon Beat Light and the Moooi Random light fixture, but it just isn’t in the budget. What do you do? I’m going to suggest that you steer them towards something that is both unique and affordable, but not a blatant knockoff of something that they are not authorized to reproduce. There is an endless selection of amazing products that are affordable, well-made and designed by talented people who would love to have your business.

The Gabriel Ross motto is “Always Authentic”, a phrase we made our own several years ago when we made the conscious decision to support original design and the manufacturers who represent original designers. We have stood by this ethos for many years. We are now a very proud supporting member of Be Original Americas. As a company that cares about original design – down to our motto – joining a cause like Be Original Americas is a clear way for us to show our support.

Am I worried about competitors who sell knockoffs? No. Why? In general, you don’t covet something and then decide to buy a knockoff of something else. Often people buying knockoffs have no idea what it is that they’re buying. It is possibly recognizable to them, but they have no idea of the story that goes along with it. They know nothing of the designer, the design process, the material selection, the hours of prototyping, the changing of little details to make it just right. As a retailer, we have the opportunity to educate and show the consumer the value of original design. In the long run, they could become a new customer because of this.


Why is it that when it comes to furniture, lighting and Louis Vuitton purses, we seem to turn a blind eye? We have moved beyond a time when downloading music without paying was viewed by many as being ok. I look forward to a time when we view furniture, lighting and other design items the same way.

This is why I implore my colleagues in the design business to stop supporting the industry that knocks off designs that they are not authorized to produce and, in the name of profit, reduces them to the lowest common denominator which is price. These pieces have no value from the moment they enter your client’s home. They’re nothing more than poor imitations of designs that should make you feel something. You are not helping your clients, and you are doing yourselves and your clients a disservice by supporting this practice.

I have crossed paths over the last few years with talented, up-and-coming industrial designers and every one of them would love to have their ideas produced and sold to the masses. You don’t have to look far to find amazing pieces that cost the same as your knockoff chair.

These products already exist, and if you support the companies that support this next generation of designers, then maybe one day that cool chair that you got an amazing deal on might just become a collectible.

Gabriel Ross began over 25 years ago and is now a recognized name for providing consumers in North America access to brands representing original and authentic design. Learn more about them here