If you can't afford the real deal, is it ever okay to buy a "replica" of something?
Aldi, the Germany-based discount supermarket chain, is in a little hot water for selling a molded plastic chair that looks very much like the iconic Eames chair. The Eiffel Chair, as Aldi is calling them, is being sold online (currently sold out) as a pair for just £39.99, or approximately $58. That is a steal (perhaps even literally?) compared to the $438 base price of the DSW Molded Plastic Dowel-Leg Side Chair Charles and Ray Eames designed for Herman Miller in 1950, available for purchase at Design Within Reach.
The similarity between the two designs was first called out on Twitter by furniture designer Rupert Blanchard, but Aldi responded to Dezeen saying that their chairs do not infringe on any design rights.
The Guardian architecture and design critic Oliver Wainwright defended Aldi, tweeting "[Isn't] this exactly what Charles Eames would have wanted?" He continued, "[The] licensing model that sees Eames designs elevated to luxury collectibles goes utterly against everything they stood for," implying that the designers would have wanted their designs to be available to the masses.
"We wanted to make the best for the most for the least."— Olly Wainwright (@ollywainwright) June 1, 2016
So isn't this exactly what Charles Eames would have wanted? https://t.co/fzkRzmZE2o
A $60 chair would most likely vary widely in quality and craftsmanship from a $400 chair, and the two versions would most likely be competing for two very different consumers. And legally speaking, according to Dezeen, it is legal for Aldi under current UK law to sell replicas of famous design pieces, as copyright law only covers industrial designs for 25 years after they are first marketed. (New copyright law is set to come into effect this summer, however, which would protect the Eames chair.)
Still, even if it is perfectly legal for Aldi to sell this chair, should it? And would you buy it?