The iconic Peacock chair was popularized through album covers during the late 1960s. Due to the chair’s ability to withstand heat in the West, it was used as a photography prop and eventually became a design piece for the bohemian interior aesthetic. However, many overlook the fact the Peacock chair has a vibrant history that dates back all the way to American colonization in the Philippines. The Peacock chair gained popularity in America, and as a result its origins gradually faded away. Now, Filipino artists are reclaiming the Peacock chair and finding ways to breathe life into the culture and backstory of this intricate craft.
For example, take New-York based artist Cheyenne Concepcion who is redesigning the Peacock chair in a way that showcases its history in her Reclaim collection. Reclaim debuted in 2022, featuring 4 re-imagined pieces of the Peacock chair constructed in a modern way to bring it into the contemporary world. Since Cheyenne grew up in California, known for being the largest provider of steel, Concepcion wanted to incorporate steel into her pieces —and the Peacock chairs in her Reclaim collection were no exception—as a way to also showcase her Californian upbringing. Concepcion took the term “weave” to a whole new meaning by weaving not just the raw materials as it was traditionally done, but two different materials all together by integrating the steel. She created a fusion between traditional and modern. According to Concepcion, it was more than just designing Peacock chairs to retell forgotten history. The chairs were not just some forgotten trade, but a symbol of the Filipino identity.
It wasn’t only Cheyenne Concepcion making efforts to revive the true meaning of the Peacock chair. In 2016, Manila FAME hosted a special event called “ICON: Peacock Chair Redux” featuring nine Filipino designers’ renditions of the famous chair. Leeroy New, known for being Lady Gaga’s costume designer for her music video “Marry The Night,” partnered with MCCA Industrial Corporation, known for producing wrought-iron and glass-blowing decorative furniture and accessories. New “integrated jewel-like glass inserts onto an undulating metal for MCCA.”
Like Leeroy New, another artist named Kenneth Cobonpue was also one of the designers featured during 2016’s Manila FAME’s ICON: Peacock Chair Redux. However, in 2018, Cobonpue created his own version of the Peacock Easy Chair. His version is a mixture of traditional and modern with the “blue and green rattan woven on a metal frame.” His rendition still maintains the classic “sweeping, majestic high back” while mimicking a peacock feather. The chair was described as “a modern take on the traditional wicker chair of the same name.” Cobonpue’s modern version of a peacock chair won him an “IIDA/HD Product Design Competition Award” in 2018.
What was once considered a photographic prop and a product of American colonization, is now a relic of rich history. Artists such as Cheyenne Concepcion, Leeroy New, and Kenneth Cobonpue aim to keep the forgotten history of the Peacock chair alive through their reimaginings of the chair. It’s a way to honor the roots—to know where we are going by knowing where we have been.
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