Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

The Foo Dogs Tipping Point


Posted by Becky | View all posts by Becky
7 Comments » | Published in Design Drinking Games, Design Trends  |  7 Comments

p_r445_pip_st_f07_070619155101_pip_hero.jpgHello! I love getting back from vacation and getting a ton of fun mail – my Charley Harper book and my Feed Bag finally arrived from Amazon, and I had a stack of fun catalogs to look through. As I perused West Elm, which I do like, one item jumped out at me – a Foo Dog Pillow. Really? I know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but sometimes the imitation is shameless – clearly someone over there is reading Jonathan Adler’s Guide to Anti-Depressive Living, and Foo Dogs have gone from drinking game fodder to over the tipping point. In fact, it looks like they have officially jumped the shark. In addition, there was a chunky foo dog figurine and a tripod lamp that looked a lot like Adler’s:

Jonathan Adler Ventana Lamp:


West Elm Adjustable Metal Floor Lamp:


An Adler-designed Room (note the Foo Dogs):


Check out the new West Elm “Groovy Foo Dog” – the Foo Dog is an Adler favorite, and the shape attempts to emulate his menagerie pottery. They even swiped Adler’s vocabulary with the “groovy”:

The Adler Bull Bank:


The West Elm Groovy Foo Dog (he has the same puffed up chest and an Adler-esque shape):


Finally, an Adler re-released C. Jere sculpture (Adler was advocating these in design long before he scored the rights to re-release them):


West Elm’s C. Jere-ish wall sculptures:


I know there is a big difference between and out and out copy and an inspired knockoff of a style, but wow! What do you think about it? As I said, I like West Elm, I buy from them a lot, and I feel like I find a lot of great products there at a reasonable price, but this kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth. For you, where is the line between imitation and totally swiping? Obviously there is a legal line, but where is the line between being psyched about finding a great inspired piece and finding yourself completely turned off by imitation?

By the way, this isn’t meant to attack a fellow furniture retailer with malice, in fact, if there are any issues that bug you about Design Public, we would sincerely like to hear them – customers are a very important source of opinion and inspiration and the reason we started this blog in the first place was as a forum to share opinions.

all images linked to original sources at west elm and jonathan adler.

About Becky:
Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!

About Becky

has written 1620 post in this blog.

Hi, I'm Becky. I live in Atlanta. Besides acting as the Editorial Director here on Hatch, you can find me talking design over at Houzz. Make me happy — leave a comment!



  1. Chris says:

    August 1st, 2007 at 5:32 am (#)

    As far as these examples go, I would call it inspiration. Let’s face it, Jonathan Adler did not produce the first Foo Dog either. You can say he rediscovered them, re-purposed them for the modern home, but it is not a design knock off. For that hit up Craigslist and look for an Eames lounger for under $1500 or a Arco lamp with slight smaller marble base for $600, that would be totally swiping.

    I find difficultly putting a price on a name rather than quality of materials, build, etc… How can someone produce the same product for 25% of the cost of the original? Why are mark ups so crazy? I guess b/c people will pay for exclusivity and on the same token there is someone making a “faithful reproduction” for the rest of us.

  2. Becky says:

    August 1st, 2007 at 5:57 am (#)

    Interesting. I should clarify – I don’t think of Foo Dogs as something Adler invented, but that statue is such a rip off of his pottery style – the curvy shape, the name “groovy.”

    Someone can produce something for 25% less than the original often because they use inferior materials and they have it made in the cheapest country possible. Mass production is always way cheaper – Target is a good example of this – they get such a discount on the massive quantities of ingredients they order due to volume. A lot of fine desinger pieces are handmade.

    To me, that C.Jere sculpture is definitely my definition of knockoff (remember, there being a big difference between knockoff and fake). Of course, these kinds of knockoffs existed back when they were first released as well. The W.E. wire chair is definitely what I would call a Bertoia knockoff as well.

    Thanks for your input! I’m always glad when there can be interesting discussion.


  3. SFLAG says:

    August 3rd, 2007 at 7:12 am (#)

    How interesting to learn that Foo are becoming Fab. I have a pair of brass foo dogs protecting my home’s entrance, which have been through three houses now. Everything old is…

  4. Becky says:

    August 5th, 2007 at 9:26 pm (#)

    Have they brought you good luck?

    I saw the West Elm version in person today. I had spent most of my tax-free weekend holiday money at Sam Flax, but it was in the ‘hood, and I thought there was a sale and was sucked in. The Foo Dog pillow and the statue were unimpressive, though I loved their log side tables (they were sold out, $199)!


  5. Eejay says:

    August 8th, 2007 at 12:01 am (#)

    Most everyone has a problem with illegal knockoffs, but I don’t think we’re talking about that.I own
    both licensed and otherwise pieces of Saarinen, Bertoia, Eames, LeCorbusier, etc. and find them
    equally beautiful and functional. The West Elm sculptures put me in mind of George Nelson’s clock
    rather than the C.Jere piece. They are cheerful and whimsical, whereas the C.Jere is important and
    maybe a little pompous, still beautiful. As far as foo dogs, well, I’ve been using them in my
    designs for years and I know of a whole nation that has displayed them for centuries.

  6. Becky says:

    August 8th, 2007 at 7:16 am (#)

    Hi Eejay, thanks for chiming in! Yes, we all hate illegal fakes. Technically I say “fake” for a total ripoff of the same shape and or pretend tag (like fake Louis Vuitton bag from China), and “knockoff” for pieces that are very closely inspired pieces (like a bag in Louis’ colors with other letters in the logo print), but that’s coming from my experience of selling high end brands on eBay.

    I had not even thought of the George Nelson clock, that is very true in terms of shape, whereas the materials are Jere-y! Yes, foo dogs have been around forever, but I just feel like this sculpture in it’s shape and whimsy is VERY Adler-esque. Is there a history to foo dogs – do they bring good luck or something? Their faces kind of scare me :)! Personally, I prefer Gram’s Staffordshire dogs, in a kitschy way.

    Eejay, are you an interior designer? I’d love to talk with you further and see your work!


  7. Hatch: The Design Public ® Blog » Blog Archive » POP Goes The Table… says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 4:08 pm (#)

    […] girl.” It’s Hollywood Regency gone way WAY WAY WAY awry Jill. There are turquoise foo dogs EVERYWHERE, not to mention mirrors, crystals, lacquer, harlequin prints, python walls, elephants, […]

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