Never tell Kenneth Cobonpue the odds. In college, the would-be celebrated Filipino designer applied at the University of the Philippines’ Fine Arts department, but was rejected because “I didn’t draw well enough.”
Fast forward years later and the same college that rejected Cobonpue had invited him to give the commencement speech.
But that’s not where the story ends. In Maroon 5’s 2011 music video of “Never Gonna Leave This Bed,” Adam Levine is seen with his ex beau getting cozy on Cobonpue’s Voyage bed, the same bed that Brad Pitt had ordered for his own home.
The iconic Yoda chair was the talk of the town in 2015 when former President Barack Obama and his counterparts used it during the welcome reception of the Asia-Pacific Economic Summit in Manila.
Out of bamboo and carbon fiber, Cobonpue fashioned the Phoenix, the world’s first biodegradable car. The car that mimics the single-spine leaf was smack center of Salone del Mobile in Milan, and went on to grace the cover of “Post-Petroleum Design” by George Elvin and has even made its rounds in Belgium as part of an ad. He made that car because he refused to be put on a corner, on the third-floor booth by the restroom.
“My designs go out all over the world, there are some in Las Vegas, Greece, they’re in Costa Rica, Paris, Italy… now it’s time to go to a galaxy far far away,” Cobonpue said as the crowd at Hall D of AsiaPOP Comicon cheered.
The Walt Disney Company had commissioned the Cebuano artist half a year ago to make a Star Wars-inspired collection and it was the first time that the public had laid eyes on the collaboration, at the annual geek gathering in SMX Convention Center, Pasay City, July 29.
“The first time they approached me they said they don’t need me to do reproduction of what you see on the sets. (They said) we want you to interpret ‘Star Wars’ from the lens of Filipino design,” the multi-awarded designer said.
Of course, “Star Wars” is everywhere: a C-3PO tape dispenser, Christian Louboutin sky-high heels as nod to the women of “The Last Jedi” and a Chewbacca Crocs clogs with faux fur insoles (cringe!).
Sure, the amount of available Star Wars furniture is unimaginable, but the level of craftsmanship in Cobonpue’s collection is simply out of this world.
The TIE Fighter spacecraft symbolic of the Imperial fleet is recreated as Imperial Wings armchair. Cobonpue used weaving techniques (a common element in his designs) to create the panels that flank the sphere. Instead of an enclosed sphere is a comfortable cushion seat in the middle.
Cobonpue joked that the Vader easy armchair is a creation born out of his dark side. The Darth Vader-inspired piece is like a roomy business-class seat with a wooden table that swings out.
Empire Moon lamp is based on the dark side’s super weapon that, up close, one can see scale models of Tie Fighters and X-Wing Starfighters.
Emperor Palpatine, aka the Sith lord Darth Sidious destroyer of the Jedi order, also gets a chair to his name.
“Sidious is a chair that’s like a long tall cloak,” Cobonpue said. Darth Sidious’ devious eyes are recreated through the stitching on the back rest. The crowd literally gasped upon seeing the detail.
But not all things are dark, such as the Little Jedi light composed of tiny Jedi masters that illuminate.
“This light is the symbol of hope, and the details are composed of handmade wire figures that are dipped in fiber and hand painted. They Jedis are holding lightsabers, there’s a red figure there symbolizing the one who turned into the dark side.”
Fans of the lovable Chewbacca will also rejoice with the fuzzy chair that is a nod to the wookiee warrior.
Cobonpue told Super that the “Star Wars” collection will be formally launched on Aug. 30. It is the first of a long line of collaboration with the franchise.
Flanked by the 501st Legion, Cobonpue said: “These designs really have a lot of meaning to me. I have a special connection to them. These are not just my usual designs and I am not your usual designer. No, I am their father.”