Tips & Tricks to Spot a Knockoff


Behind the scenes Leland International’s factory

There’s no doubt about it: Original design is the best option.  Not only does an authentic, original product keep its value, but it is more durable and ages with beauty.

Want to be sure you’re buying the real thing? Spotting knockoffs in the marketplace may be tricky, but it’s an important step. After all, what might look convincing could very likely be manufactured using inferior or even hazardous materials and processes.

Here are a few tips and tricks for spotting knockoffs in the marketplace:

– Check the price against that of approved dealers. All brands have recommended retail prices (often the MSRP, MAP, or RRP), and the price of a knockoff will often be startling lower. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

– Contact the original brand to confirm if a dealer is authorized.  The best way to guarantee an original is to purchase it from a vetted retailer.

– Compare photos of an authentic product on-spot with the potential knockoff.  Details such as the curved, smooth bends shown below on Emeco’s Navy Chair, are a tell tale sign.  Here, the original product on right shows a smooth bend, as a result of a unique series of heat treatments.

Emeco Side by Side

– Compare product specs and measurements. A knockoff may look similar, but will vary in size, materials, and process.

– Look for signs of quality construction everywhere, even in the places hidden from view.

– Is there a manufacturer’s stamp, a serial number, or a designer’s signature? Not all products have these identifying marks, but many do.

– Review the shipping and payment options. Many fake sites operating from China offer Western Union, DHL, or other options that almost no US dealer will offer.

– Trust your instincts. Typically a knockoff does not have the same integrity and will feel obviously cheap. If it’s a piece you’re familiar with, a knockoff might have slightly off dimensions, be made with cheap materials, or look strange.

Many thanks to Design Within ReachEmeco, Cerno, and Tom Dixon for these helpful tips.  

What are your tricks to spotting a knockoff?  Tell us in the comments below, tweet us, or let us know on Facebook.

Profiling the Masters: Arne Jacobsen

Arne Jacobsen Portrait

Did you know Arne Jacobsen trained as a mason before studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts in Copenhagen? There, he was influenced by the work of Le Corbusier, Gunnar Asplund, and Mies van der Rohe. Functionality and craftsmanship were key.

According to Design Within Reach, Jacobsen bought a plywood chair designed by Charles Eames and installed it in his own studio as inspiration. While Jacobsen’s famous relationship with Fritz Hansen began back in 1934, it was 1952 that started a domino of successes, such as the Ant Chair:

the Ant Chair

the Series 7:

Series 7 Chair

the Egg:

the Egg Chair

the Swan:

the Swan Chair

As a designer, Jacobsen prototyped for everything from furniture to textiles to silverware. He was an architect too, where work includes the Bellavista housing estate and fully integrated works like the SAS Air Terminal and the Royal Hotel Copenhagen.


Image via Vancouver Art Gallery

For the Royal Hotel, Jacobsen designed every detail – from the site-specific furniture, the Swan and the Egg, to lighting, cutlery, and even ashtrays.

Arne Jacobsen collection

Room 606 in the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen

His designs, now considered iconic, contribute to Jacobsen’s position as a revered part of design history. Not only is he a part of national Danish heritage, but a formative figure in the way we regard Scandinavian design today. With clean, sculptural lines and an emphasis on functionality and thus durability, Jacobsen’s designs remain as relevant today as ever.

Which of Jacobsen’s design is your favorite?


Five Ways You Can Help the Cause

Manufacturing  010

If you had to guess, what would you say the value of counterfeit goods in 2015 might be?

$200 million?
$200 billion?
Hint: it’s probably higher than you think.

According to the International Chamber of Commerce it’s $1.7 Trillion1

Yep, that’s real U.S. dollars, and a hefty increase up from $650 billion back in 2008.

With Be Original Americas, we’re working to protect the history of design and the future of innovation.  Here’s the good news: You’re invited to join us to inform, educate and influence the public on the value of original design. Together we can campaign to establish a set of industry standards that incentivize innovation and encourage investment in the future of design.  Go ahead – Join the movement, be original.

Here are five ways you can join the cause and ignite a movement:

Pledge Your Support:  Join us at just the right level – From student followers to architecture firms to museum members, you can select your level of support for this important cause.

Follow us:  Keep up with the latest on our social channels – Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. From new innovations in the design world to exciting events to fascinating design history, there’s something for everyone.

Report a Knockoff:  Spot a knockoff? We’re currently compiling a database of deceptive copies in the marketplace, called NOT ORIGINAL. Contact us with any examples of original designs that are being copied and sold here.

Subscribe to the newsletter:  Learn about upcoming events and opportunities via our newsletter. Just let us know you’d like to subscribe in the contact form here.

Get Educated:  Follow Be Original news for more to come, including a how-to on spotting knockoffs, the best ways to get involved, and how to make a difference.

Stay tuned – We’ll be announcing new events in 2015 soon and look forward to seeing you there.

1. Source: CNN Money,



June 2014: Be Original Americas at Modern Atlanta

Modern Atlanta came alive – truly – in another standing-room-only event at the Ligne Roset showroom in Atlanta.   With provocative questioning by Susan Szenasy, Publisher and Editor in Chief, Metropolis, the panel of Antoine Roset, EVP, Roset USA Corp., Paolo Cravedi, Managing Director, Alessi and Thom Williams, CEO, ASD, the panel discussed how risks and creativity need to keep “pushing the envelope” and how design education is lacking in teaching the history and ethics for design students.  When queried on “doesn’t authentic design costs more”, the panel cited “pre-owned” and also to buy original design from the mass merchants and young talent – just not the copies!  

Lastly, an audience member said:  ”Buy what something IS not what it PRETENDS TO BE!”

May 2014: Be Original Americas at WantedDesign


WantedDesign NYC hosted a standing-room-only crowd of design professionals and consumers as Amanda Dameron, Editor in Chief of DWELL lead a lively discussion about knock offs and their effect on the environment, our economic well-being, and ethically with Felix Burrichter, Editor & Founder, PIN-UP Magazine, Mark Schurman, Director of Corporate Communications, Herman Miller, Bonnie MacKay, Retailer Consultant, Nasir Kassamali, Co-Founder of Luminaire, and Paolo Cravedi, Managing Director, Alessi


From the cost to create the molds for original design to the risks the authentic manufacturers take in creating original design, the conversation was lively and spirited.  Thank you to all who attended.

April 2014: Be Original Americas at RAPT Studio

Almost 100 design professionals and manufacturers attended the Northern California IIDA chapter event at RAPT Studios in San Francisco as Pilar Viladas, former Design Editor, T Style Magazine, discussed the difficulties design firms face in keeping the specification on the original design with Collin Burry, Design Principal at Gensler (SF), Simone Vingerhoets, EVP, Artek USA and Johanna Grawunder, designer.    

Material innovation is critical and it was suggested that brands use a “nutrition type label” as they do in food, so consumers know what they are buying.   Grawunder said buying copies is like buying “fake art”.  The Q&A was plentiful and powerful.