The lunchboxes and T-shirts from licensing the Star Wars brand have proven to be even bigger than the films themselves, creating $32 billion in revenue since the ’70s, compared to roughly $10 billion made by the movies (all adjusted for inflation). But for all the Star Wars memorabilia available–you can literally by a Star Wars-edition Nissan Rogue these days–there’s still a missing category: high-end furniture.
Now, Disney and Lucas Films have tapped Filipino designer Kenneth Cobonpue to create a line of Star Wars furniture aimed at design-minded adults. Cobonpue has run a furniture design practice for two decades, and has been named Designer of the Year at Maison & Objet, a prestigious French furniture convention. He’s known for creating delicate-looking, handwoven chairs and recliners–structures that float on airy lattices. You wouldn’t look at the work and see sci-fi, Star Wars, or anything of the sort.
When Cobonpue received the open-ended brief from Disney Asia, he was daunted, and even a little nervous. After all, Star Wars memorabilia is some kitschy stuff, and Cobonpue is a respected designer.
“I was incredibly excited by the project, but also a bit daunted by the prospect of pushback if the furniture wasn’t a literal translation,” says Cobonpue. ” I wasn’t sure how to marry my design philosophy and language with that of the Star Wars franchise, but I decided to view it simply as a design challenge…I knew I needed to incorporate the various shapes and motifs from the world of Star Wars sufficiently enough to make them recognizable, but to also stop short of being too literal. Finding that balance proved to be the project’s biggest challenge for me.”
Cobonpue opted not to change his style for Star Wars—in fact, the weaving you see in his Tie Fighter and Darth Vader chairs is more or less identical to that in his current collections. Instead, he looked for moments to make nods to fans. His Chewie rocking stool is a shaggy brown piece of upholstery that would fit right in at any modern furniture show (texture is very in right now!). But only when you look closer do you spot a reference to the bandolier Chewbacca wears. Even Cobonpue’s most overt piece, his Tie Fighter chair, just looks like a woven hexagon from the side. Only from a 45-degree angle do you make out the full spaceship shape. (Cobonpue adds that he was already pretty experienced at making Tie Fighter furniture, given that he’d built Tie Fighters out of his pillows often as a kid.)
The pieces range from $1,345 to $2,800, which just goes to show that Star Wars mania has transcended all the way from geeky film franchise to the unstoppable ruler of the licensing universe. I can’t help but wonder if, in some alternate reality, Charles and Ray Eames could have crafted stormtrooper chairs for Disney. Actually, in a white shell, their lounge chair and ottoman would be pretty sharp.