Thursday, May 08, 2008

Paging Mervyn King

You were probably thinking that this country's incipient economic slowdown has been caused by things like the US sub-prime mortgage bubble bursting, the rising price of oil, the rising price of food, the rising price of water*, the abolition of the 10p tax rate and the sudden reluctance of banking institutions to lend anyone - even each other - any money at all.

Well, more fool you, because according to Elle Decoration editor Michelle Ogundehin, all this is a nonsensical fabrication made up by 'statisticians'.

'I hear people aren't shopping as much,' laments Ogundehin in this month's editorial**, as word of our new-found parsimoniousness wafts on a gentle zephyr into her luxury modernist retreat in one of Cloud Cuckoo Land's better postcodes.

But Michelle isn't buying all that depressing economics guff. What's really causing British consumers to tighten their purse strings, she believes, is their inability to find really good, authentic designer furniture.

Never mind the price of a pint of milk, the fact that the market is now flooded - simply flooded, darling! - with fake copies of Mies van der Rohe's 'Barcelona' chair is causing British shoppers great distress, to the extent that we literally don't want to go shopping until the nasty fakers stop 'devaluing the meaning of good design'.

Alistair Darling, know thine enemy.

But don't worry, people of Britain! Michelle has a cunning plan to restart the flagging economy and get us all shopping again. All we need to do is go to the 10 Downing Street website and sign a petition demanding that fake designer furniture be outlawed.

'After all, without authenticity there can be no quality, no meaning and ultimately no value,' she warns. And no megabucks for her furniture-designer friends either, presumably.

(While you're there, you may like to sign something that's ACTUALLY WORTHWHILE. Like this one, perhaps.)

* My monthly water bill went up from £112 to £134 last month. How can this even be possible?

** I wanted to link to this, but sadly Elle Deco has no online presence. UPDATE: But wait! I can copy it here we go, the economic wisdom of the Oracle of Kings Reach Tower IN FULL:

'Authenticity is the word ringing in my ears this month. I hear people aren't shopping as much and statisticians have put it down to the fragile state of the economy. I don't think it's just that. I think there's simply not enough good stuff out there. Consumers, you and me, aren't stupid. We don't buy things we don't like, that we think are overpriced or badly made, whether that's homes, furniture or dresses.

But, of more concern, on the design front, cheap is coming increasingly in the form of knock-off versions of classic pieces. These fakes are invariably produced using lesser quality materials, often in sub-standard factory conditions and with little consideration for human rights***. As such they devalue the meaning of good design at every level.

And yet it was recently brought to my attention that it's legal in the UK to manufacture and/or supply such copies just 30 years after the issue of the original design, as opposed to a minimum of 70 years after the death of the designer, as it is in Germany or Switzerland.

Fakes flood the UK market because we don't have sufficient laws to prevent them. We effectively promote plagiarism! What can you do? Simple. Join the campaign to have the law changed by adding your name to the e-petition lodged on the official 10 Downing Street website.

ELLE Decoration has an absolute editorial policy of never knowingly endorsing copies of iconic designs. After all, without authenticity there can be no quality, no meaning and ultimately no value, whatever price you paid. Add your name at'

*** You will note that protecting the human rights of people working in these supposed designer knock-off sweatshops does not turn out to be La Ogundehin's primary concern...


Tim Footman said...

I've never taken Elle seriously since they launched a range of menswear called Elle Homme. Which, however you translate it - Girlyman? Ladyboy? Shemale? - does rather take metrosexuality to the next level and beyond.

Jayne said...

** I really wish I could link to this, but sadly Elle Deco has no online presence. At all.

And people say the internet lets all the riffraff in...

ScroobiousScrivener said...

Without protecting designer labels there can be no meaning? Seriously? Lordy.

patroclus said...

Tim: I suppose the literal translation would be 'She Man', which does sound rather like a niche magazine for trans-sexuals. Albeit trans-sexuals with fabulous secret powers.

Jayne: That's probably it - the Elle Deco editorial staff don't want to be accidentally rubbing up against the kind of riff-raff who buy fake Ron Arad lamps.

Scroobious: Truly these are dark times for humankind.

Annie said...

I once went for interview at an Elle Deco-type magazine, it gave me conflicting feelings. On the one hand, I dearly wanted to see inside the rich people's houses and ogle their designer furniture on the flimsy pretext of setting up for photos - on the other I felt that the rich homeowners (and the magazine staff) should be first up against the wall come the revolution.

patroclus said...

Annie: You could always have brought the system down from the inside! While taking home your fair share of goody bags from the Ideal Home show, obviously.

That's exactly how I feel about watching Property Ladder, too. I couldn't give a toss about the smug greedy tossers doing the renovating, I just want to see what nice things they do to the houses.

Geoff said...

"We don't buy things we don't like, that we think are overpriced or badly made, whether that's homes, furniture or dresses."

If they don't think their homes are overpriced just how much money have they got?

Anonymous said...

Since the spring of '77, when my bum was literally as smooth as a baby's bum, I have been waiting for the moment when I could legally rip of a Mies van der Rohe chair.

At 31, my time has come - bwahahahahaha!

Hannah said...

Gosh. Some people have really serious problems, don't they?

Ruodnane said...

While there are much more serious problems in the world, bad or fake design is still one of them! When it starts being a bigger killer than people eating poisonous leaves or somesuch - that is when people will truly care. The whole too much money & not enough taste conundrum should be fixed to reward starving bloggers and punish the wealthy stupid.

I spent a year of my scholarship on a (real) Barcelona chair, very worth it. At parties the science kids always head straight for it. Books might've been more use, mind.

patroclus said...

Geoff: An authentic Barcelona chair will apparently set you back £3,100. For a chair. That's how much money these people have got. But apparently we'd all rather buy those than go to IKEA.

TDT: doing so you will destroy all meaning! Think of it! Like being trapped forever in one of Alain Robbe-Grillet's nouveaux romans! Do you really want that on your conscience?

Hannah: You're suggesting that the difficulty of finding really good, authentic designer furniture isn't one of the major ills besetting modern society?

Smat said...

Mr Smat (the financial guru round these parts) snorted wine everywhere when I asked him his thoughts about this theory. Thank god we only have cheap non-designer sofas.

Marsha said...

Hilarious post!
It does create a bit of conflict though, this weighing up of beautiful objects against the toss-pottery of their owners. I watch Property Ladder and Grand designs with similar feelings to yours, I think. Incidentally, Kevin McCloud was in Pseuds' Corner this week spouting some nonsense about how he had felt sullied by his "cheap" diningroom chairs and the blessed relief he had felt when he replaced them with Ercol ones.
Et tu Kevin? Tsk.

LC said...

*opens mouth, raises finger in a "well if you ask me" gesture, thinks better of it, opens another beer and goes back to bed*

Valerie said...

It's kind of a relief to know there are such silly people everywhere -- not just in the U.S.

Anyway, if you're going to buy pints of milk instead of furniture (and what if the milk is fake?) maybe you should by MILK furniture instead. I'm quite sure it's not a copy.

Tim Footman said...

I'm more worried about Wyndham. He seems to have done one again.

patroclus said...

Smat: I thought Mr Smat might have something to say on the matter.

Marsha: Ha, that Kevin McCloud thing is great. Incidentally I think that our old friend Caroline Phillips is probably the very epitome of tosspots-owning-lovely-things.

LC: You're drinking beer in bed now? Things must be bad. Or good. One or the other.

Valerie: Welcome back! I'd better not show that MILK desk to Mr BC, he'll only want one.

Tim: I see what you mean. Oh dear. Still, Wyndham's a novelist now, I think blog-related temperamentalism is part of the job description.

Anonymous said...

Hang on... your monthly water bill is £134? As in £1608 a year?

Where do you live, Centreparks?

patroclus said...

Anon: I know! It's higher than the council tax! Someone at South West Water must be lording it up at our expense.

mary said...

I think that all these poor rich folks in designer this and that must shudder at the thought of us 'ordinary' folks in our tat.