The Force awakens in Kenneth Cobonpue’s ‘Star Wars’ pieces

Cobonpue had his pick of Disney movies and brands for this collaboration — and he chose the movie that sent his childhood imagination flying across a galaxy

far, far away.

Designer Kenneth Cobonpue was a young boy in Cebu when he watched Star Wars in the late ’70s with his friends.

When Darth Vader told a lieutenant, “I find your lack of faith disturbing” and strangled him with his mind, and when Princess Leia said, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope”— this galaxy far, far away would invade the earth and become a continuing part of its popular culture.

“I was amazed at the whole world of Star Wars — this fantasy movie that had the ability to draw you in,” says Kenneth. “That’s what I’ve been doing with all my designs, to transport you into my world. People keep asking me, what’s your inspiration, how did you think about this? All my designs are an extension of my childhood. Every piece is an invitation to be a kid again with me.”

Forty-one years after the first Star Wars, Kenneth would find that world of light sabers and the power of the force lighting up his workshop.

Last year, Disney contacted the local office to get in touch with Kenneth for a design collaboration. Kenneth had the pick of Disney movies and brands and he chose Star Wars “because it transcends generations.”

“At first, I said, you don’t need me for this because I don’t make replicas of machines and Star Wars fans will only buy something if there’s the face of Darth Vader on it — I don’t do that. They said, ‘No, no, no. We want you to interpret through the lens of a Filipino designer.’”

On Wednesday, Kenneth unveiled five Star Wars pieces in his showroom at The Residences at Greenbelt — three armchairs, a rocking stool and a hanging lamp — and a range of small abstracted figures in wood as a gift collection.

In the six months that it took him to design the collection, the first silhouette that came to him was the Imperial Wings armchair, inspired by the Galactic Empire fleet of Tie fighters. When he saw these fast and agile starfighters streaking across the movie screen for the first time, Kenneth was amazed.

“I’ve always wanted to sit in one as a kid, to be strapped to it and flying so fast. That was the first thing I drew for the collection.”

The result is an unmistakable look of a Cobopue X Star Wars — a true representation of Kenneth’s design aesthetic and materials (this one, polyethylene) and the shape of a Star Wars icon.   

“We wanted to incorporate the essence of each Star Wars character into the designs while staying true to our aesthetic and process of creating them by hand. Finding the balance was a bit of a challenge, but it was also a lot of fun.”

The Vader armchair is shaped like Darth Vader’s helmet and features a foldable swivel table for a laptop and a weave canopy.

“It’s like a cocoon or a business class seat,” says Kenneth.

His Sidious armchair has a raised backrest to resemble a hood and its legs’ edges are slightly curved forward. The Lord Sith is outlined in the black cushion.

Chewie is a rocking stool inspired by Chewbacca, the Wookie that’s Hans Solo’s co-pilot on the Millennium Falcon. The stool is covered with microfiber strips wrapped with a fabric belt to represent Chewie’s ammo belt. 

So, where are the light sabers in the collection? Kenneth treats this biggest of Star Wars icons subtly and puts it where it belongs — in a hanging lamp. Called Little Jedi, the drop lamp features Jedi knights holding light sabers that are the light’s source. “The one red figurine symbolizes a Sith Lord that the Jedis are battling against,” he says. “The appeal of the movies throughout the generations has always been the fight between good and evil.”   

Kenneth adds that a number of Star Wars fans had already contacted him even before the launch — and there’s a huge interest abroad. “But they’re only available in the Philippines for now.”

Would he like to see his pieces in a Star Wars movie in the future? He smiles and says, “That would be great. But I’ll also be very happy to see them in the Disney headquarters.”

Kenneth Cobonpue’s showroom is located at The Residences at Greenbelt. For inquiries, email sales@kennethcobonpue.com.

Visit the author’s travel blog at www.findingmyway.net. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @iamtanyalara.