When Thai designer Bhanu Inkawat, founder and executive creative director of fashion brand Greyhound Original, received an e-mail from Ikea Sweden proposing a collaboration in 2017, he dismissed it as spam. “My first thought was why would a global furniture brand like Ikea collaborate with a Thai fashion brand like us?” After three e-mails, he decided to check with Ikea Thailand and discovered that the invitation was legit. What followed was a rigorous, two-year product development that yielded a limited, bestselling collection christened Sammankoppla. Comprising homeware and accessories inspired by Thai ORIGINALstreet style, the collection was designed to be affordable, multifunctional and adaptable. The items retail from $1.90 (a zip pouch) to $129 (a shelving unit inspired by scaffolding). There are also rugs and bags made with woven PET waste, and a jacket for chairs – a wink to Greyhound Original’s fashion roots. It launched here in August and was warmly received by shoppers, who cleaned out some items in just two weeks. We asked Bhanu to elaborate.
HOW DID GREYHOUND ORIGINAL TRANSLATE THAI STREET STYLE INTO IKEA FURNITURE?
Greyhound Original is all about basics with a twist. We love mixing art and creativity, and making ordinary things more pleasurable.
For this collaboration with Ikea, we wanted to create something that was Thai at heart but not too traditional, so we looked into what was happening with Thai street style, which is very anything goes – and nothing goes to waste. We don’t throw away broken things, we repurpose them, adapt them and make them work again. One of the key points in Ikea’s design brief was sustainability, and this sends a beautiful message to today’s throwaway culture.
You have a chair with a broken leg? Replace that leg with an upside-down bucket. You have empty plastic bottles? Why not reuse them as lampshades? You also see scaffolding in Thai Streets, so why not design shelves based on that?
We incorporated some traditional Thai motifs, but did so sparingly to fit our urban lifestyle today. You can find these motifs on the edge of a Sammankoppla table, on tableware and on the pouches and bags, which have become some of Ikea’s beloved bestsellers.
We’ve also created a jacket for chairs – because, well, 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 SINGAPORE HOMES AND OTHERS IN THE WORLD?
Another key point in Ikea’s design brief was tackling small-space living. These items fit small homes. Some are even multipurpose. In Thailand, we have a floor living culture. We sit on the floor, we sleep on the floor and we work on it, too. This is common in many parts of 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 to introduce the concept of floor living. They were inspired by IKEAtraditional Thai woven straw mats. The Ikea versions are made using recycled bottles and straws.
The triangular cushion was also inspired by the traditional Thai handwoven cushion, which has 11 handmade parts. Ikea has been able to simplify and translate this for mass production. The Sammankoppla version is filled with cotton that’s grown using less water.
WHICH ITEM IN THE COLLECTION WAS THE HARDEST TO DEVELOP?
The Sammankoppla Chair Cover. Well, why not? You drape your jacket on a 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 new pattern. 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 for gadgets like a remote control and a mobile phone charger.
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 streets, and lamps from plastic bottles. We want these items to bring smiles to your home.
Sammankoppla is a limited collection, sold at Ikea Alexandra and Tampines, as well as at www.ikea.com/sg/en. It is available while stocks last.
"YOU HAVE A CHAIR WITH A BROKEN LEG? REPLACE THAT LEG WITH AN UPSIDE-DOWN BUCKET. YOU HAVE EMPTY PLASTIC BOTTLES? WHY NOT REUSE THEMAS LAMPSHADES?”
BHANU INKAWAT, FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF GREYHOUND ORIGINAL
text ASIH JENIE photos COURTESY OF IKEA