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From Fakes to Originals: Be Original Americas

April 5, 2018

It’s easy to get knock-offs of the industry’s favorite brands and products, but there are many reasons why you want to go original.

Editor-in-Chief Kadie Yale had the privilege of sitting down with several members of Be Original Americas in our first video interview series on interior design mavericks. Watch what it takes to be truly original, and enjoy the original article preserved beneath.

John Edelman, President

Henning Von Gerstenberg Rosted, CEO Americas Fritz Hansen

Sandy Chilewich, Chilewich Founder & Creative Director

Ben Wintner, Managing Principal at Michael Graves Architecture & Design

Anthony Lebron, Brand Manager of Cappellini

Original Article: 4/5/2018

The design industry has been in conversations recently about the importance of original design. While technology and international trade has led to many great innovations, with it has come an increase in counterfeit goods—many times copied from the originals so closely that it can be difficult to tell the two apart. 

The arguments for counterfeits will always exist even for those who recognize they aren’t purchasing original pieces. Organizations like Be Original Americas are trying to get the word out on the importance of original design but at times they’re met with apathy or the belief that counterfeits are a victimless crime.

However, with U.S. Customs reporting $15.1 million in seized goods in 2017—a 260-percent increase from 2016—it’s obvious that overseas copies are hurting American brands.

On April 3, 2018, interiors+sources met with nine leaders in the design industry, from dealers like Design Within Reach to manufacturers such as Fritz Hansen and designer-specifiers from Michael Graves Architecture & Design and Gensler. Rather than painting a picture of design’s elite on top of a mountain of success hell-bent on protecting their copyrights, a pattern emerged illustrating the industry’s concern about counterfeits and what buying original can accomplish. 

Buying Original Protects Architects and Interior Designers

Clients trust the goods their designers specify will not only look great but will also hold up over time. Counterfeit goods, often made with sub-par materials or manufacturing processes, don’t come with warranties or guarantees that they can withstand normal wear and tear over the products lifetime. While saving money on copies can look great for the initial budget, fixing or replacing can add up over time. And cheap goods don’t make anyone look good—from the end user to the manufacturer.


One aspect of sustainability that is becoming more prevalent these days: keeping goods from landfills. Original products are made to stand the test of time, whether in durability or in style, making them less likely to end up in the trash.

Supporting Makers

Designers and manufacturers are proud of how their offerings are made and who designs them, so major brands will often look for artisans to create pieces for them. Every piece of original design has a story behind it and the money that goes toward brands that are proud of their history and legacy goes back to the industry supporting, finding, and producing goods by local makers.

What’s more: Factory jobs overseas aren’t considered blue-collar; there’s a lot of pride in trade jobs. Products manufactured by brand names contribute to the livelihoods of workers, many of whom have been with their employers for decades.

Designers are Passionate About Their Histories

In the same way there is pride in owning an original Eames lounge chair, brands are proud of their legacies and work to preserve them. Supporting original designs means supporting the histories that created the brands we know and love today. 

Design Solutions

So how does one fit original designs into slim budgets, particularly for clients who want the same style and aesthetic of the original? There are few points to consider:

Identify the Design Intent

Understanding what attracts your client to the product in the first place can open the doors to options that are a better fit for their budget. Is it the prestige of owning a piece by that designer? (Who doesn’t want their own personal Eames?) Is it the look of bent wood and leather? Or maybe they want to mix several designs seamlessly. Understanding the needs of your client can give you extra room to find more suitable solutions.

Support Local

Since the recession, the makers’ movement has been growing. Oftentimes these artisan businesses are single-owner operations with pieces made lovingly by hand. It can be difficult to find local designers, but media such as Instagram or even i+s’ own bi-weekly Maker Monday series can help you find more affordable one-of-a-kind products.

Find Contemporary Alternatives

Even though there’s nothing like an original that will stand the test of time, there are many contemporary collections provided by the same manufacturers or similar aesthetics being created in original ways to fit a lower price point. 

About the Author

Kadie Yale | Former Editor-in-Chief

Kadie Yale holds a BA in Industrial Design from San Francisco State University and a MA in Decorative Art History and Theory from Parsons the New School. In her role as editor-in-chief from 2015-2018, she led the interiors+sources team in creating relevant content that touches on sustainability, universal design, science, and the role of design in society.

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