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Furniture Pieces from Taobao Are Knock-Offs: True or False?

The truth behind designer and Taobao furniture, revealed.

While there are many homeowners who swear by Taobao furniture, others don’t hesitate to reject these pieces, saying that they’re unoriginal and replicas of designer furniture.

Is the latter a common view? Judging from the responses from our recent Instagram story, we think so. But whether these views are facts or misconceptions still remains to be seen, so for greater insight, we turned to Terence Choo from P5 Studio and Leon Luo from Free Space Intent.

Disclaimer: This article is purely for educational purposes to clarify commonly held beliefs about designer and Taobao furniture. It is in no way intended to demean any stores mentioned.

1. “Taobao sells copies of original furniture.”

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Terence (T): Yes, I believe so. And you can tell the difference, because in terms of shape and aesthetics, mass-produced furniture is slightly bulkier, and the finishing on the edges and joints are not as smooth as the designer pieces.

Leon (L): Places like Taobao have a reputation for selling copy or knock-offs, and I do agree that replica pieces that are marketed as “designer” are harmful to the market.

For pieces marketed as affordable and mass-produced furniture, but have some similarities to designer furniture, it is less clear-cut. In the design world, there’s a difference between being inspired by an iconic design and copying it wholesale.

2. “A lot of ‘designer furniture’ is from Taobao.”

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L: If you’re talking about the designing aspect, from what I understand, most furniture stores have their own in-house designers to design the furniture pieces.

T: On the contrary, designer furniture pieces are manufactured from licensed and warranted factories that have the manpower and machinery expertise to produce furniture that are more durable and long-lasting. They are made by people who have spent years perfecting their craft to create these pieces.

3. “Designer furniture is the sweat & blood of an artist, while online stores provide more affordable options.”

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T: Definitely. As mentioned earlier, designer furniture is produced in licensed factories by people who have taken years to hone their skills as compared to mass-produced furniture.

And while I do agree that furniture from platforms like Taobao are more affordable, some may be made in sweatshops, so that’s something to also consider.

L: Going back to the approach and concept of design, I think Taobao sellers tend to favour ease of production to bring down costs for the masses to earn quick bucks.

For renowned designers, they favour craftsmanship and the latest technology to create new looks, and that’s why they’re much more expensive.

Should I buy furniture from Taobao that claims to be a “designer” piece?

Our take? It’s best not to. Taobao is an online marketplace where anyone can set up a shop, so it can be extremely difficult to verify a seller’s credibility. Buying your furniture directly from a designer store allows you to test it out in person, ensures you’re getting the real deal, and usually comes with a warranty to safeguard your investment.

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