When Thai designer Bhanu Inkawat, founder and executive creative director or fashion brand Greyhound Original, received an email from Ikea Sweden that proposed a collaboration in 2017, he dismissed the email as spam. “Because why would a global furniture brand like Ikea collaborate with a Thai fashion brand like us?” he recalls.
After three emails, he decided to check with Ikea Thailand and realised that the invitation was legit. What followed was a rigorous, two-year product development that has yielded a limited collection Sammankoppla.
Launched in Singapore this month, the collection comprises homewares and accessories inspired by Thai street style. Retailing from $1.90 (a zip pouch) to $129 (a shelving unit), the collection has been designed to be affordable, multi-functional and adaptable.
“Thai street style is ‘anything goes’, and nothing goes to waste,” says Bhanu, citing plastic bottle upcycled into lampshades as an example, which made it into the final collection as the Sammankoppla LED Multi-Use Lighting.
The collection includes rugs and bags made with woven PET waste, shelving units inspired by scaffolding and a literal jacket for chairs, a wink to Greyhound Original’s fashion root. We asked Bhanu to share more.
What’s your definition of Thai Street Style? How did you translate this into Ikea furniture via Greyhound Original’s fashion brand lens?
Greyhound Original is all about basic with a twist. We love mixing art and creativity into something ordinary to make it more pleasurable. So for this collaboration we Ikea, we wanted to create something that is Thai at heart, without being too traditional, so we looked into what’s happening in Thai streets.
Thai street style is ‘anything goes’, and nothing goes to waste. We don’t throw away broken things, we repurpose them, adapt them and make them work. One of the key points in Ikea’s design brief was sustainability, and I think this sends a beautiful message in today’s throwaway culture.
You have a chair with a broken leg? Replace that broken leg with an upside-down bucket. You have empty plastic bottles? Why not reuse them as lampshades?
You also see these scaffoldings in Thai Streets, which we use for building construction and a platform for people and equipment, so why not design shelves based on that?
We did incorporate some traditional Thai motifs, but we did it sparingly to fit our urban lifestyle today.
You can find these motifs on the edge of the table, on the tableware and on the pouches and bags, which are some of Ikea’s beloved bestseller.
We’ve also created a jacket for chairs, because why not? We’re a fashion brand and, as I said, we love adding twists to basic things.
How do you think Thai Street Style fits into Singaporean homes? Or homes in other parts of the world?
One of the key points in Ikea’s design brief was tackling small-space living. These items fit small homes, and some of them are multipurpose to cater to our lifestyle.
There is a culture of floor living in Thailand – we sit on the floor, we sleep on the floor, we work on the floor. This is common in Asia, including Singapore, but it is a novel idea in the West. It is exciting to introduce this culture to the rest of the world.
The Sammankoppla flatwoven rugs are designed for this. They were inspired by traditional Thai woven straw mats. The Ikea versions are made using recycled bottles and straws.
The triangular cushion was also inspired by traditional handwoven Thai cushion.
The traditional design has eleven handmade parts, which Ikea has been able to simplify and translate to mass production. This cushion is filled with cotton that’s grown using less water.
Which item in the collection was the hardest to develop?
The chair cover. It is a jacket for chairs, because why not? You drape your jacket on your chair all the time. Greyhound Original is a fashion brand, so we thought, jacket for chairs, why not?
It must be able to fit most chairs, so we had to come up with a totally new pattern for the design. There is a zipper running the length of its side so you can zip your chair in, making it warmer and softer. It also has pockets to store gadgets like remote control and charger of mobile phone.
What’s your hope for this collection in a world brought to a pause by the pandemic?
We’re spending more time at home, so obviously we want to make it more enjoyable. Dress up your chair, have shelves that remind you of the streetside scaffolding, and lamps from plastic bottles – we want these items to bring smiles to your home.