5,218 Padawans attempted to design the best Star Wars t-shirts for Japanese fashion brand Uniqlo, but only 16 proved their worth, to be selected to join the Jedi (Design) Council.
And one of them is 38-year-old Singaporean Joseph Koh, whose love Return of the Jedi, or rather, the lovable Ewoks, won him a spot in the brand’s 2015 UT Grand Prix Competition.
His prize? Seeing his jungle-themed, Ewoks-inspired Star Wars design being mass produced and sold in Uniqlo stores across Asia. The 23 available Uniqlo t-shirt designs are currently on sale in Uniqlo stores.
Geek Culture spoke with the art director, who works in the advertising industry, about finding success, and having his shirt be worn by the legion of Star Wars fans around the world. The Temasek Polytechnic graduate, who majored in Visual Communication, even shared some of his other designs that did not make the final cut.
(Personally, the team here actually prefers some of his other, non-winning designs, but then again, none of us want all of them to be made into t-shirts. Let’s face it. Being Star Wars fans can get pretty expensive, even if Uniqlo has pretty low prices.)
1. Is this Uniqlo shirt the first design of yours that has been produced for the mass market?
Yes is it. This is if you don’t take into account the T-Shirts I’ve designed for my clients while I was working in advertising.
2. Could you run us through this design for the shirt. How did you find out about this design submission, and how many did you submit?
UTGP is a well known and popular competition and news of it was reposted and shared on many design sites and blogs.
3. Tell us a bit about your winning design. I see a hint of SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) camo in it. What prompted you to do the camouflage foundation? What was the inspiration behind your design?
I’ve always been a fan of Bathing Ape designs and the camouflage pattern in general. Knowing that Nigo was appointed the creative director of UT back in 2013 just made me think I should do a tribute/homage to that.
4. Why did you pick the Ewoks? (Is that Wicket?)
I was only 1 when the first Star Wars came out and still very young when The Empire Strikes Back was released. I was 7 when Return Of The Jedi was released and that’s when I realised the difference between an Ewok and a furry bear.
Since Ewoks are always underrated, I figured one of my designs should have them. Plus Ewoks live in the Forest moon of Endor. So it just made perfect sense to combine Ewoks and the Camo print.
5.Why not a wookie? Or a white, furry Tauntaun?
I did submit designs for them but the Ewok one was chosen as the winner!
6. What is your favourite design that DID NOT make it to store? Can you share your original design so that the audience can see the difference between that and the final one?
It would be the one with most of the vintage SW action figures. A design where childhood fun was expressed on a single tee shirt. (check out the rest of his design submissions at the bottom of this post)
8. Are you a fan of Uniqlo? Tell us what you like about the brand?
Yes and no, simply because you always end up shopping and buying more stuff than you really need!
9. Of all the winning designs, which one is your favourite?
To me, every winning design is a favourite of mine. All are inspirational and unique in its own way.
10. Which one is the designed that you wish you came up with?
A Grand Prix design as it comes with the tour!
11. The rest is based on your love for Star Wars. Could you tell us your first experience with Star Wars and what you love about the franchise.
Amazing how the franchise can withstand time and galaxy.
12. How BIG of a Star Wars fan are you?
Big is relative and subjective. Let’s just say I can remember stuff from ROTJ but I’ll struggle to remember what happened in Iron Man.
13. Is Return of the Jedi your favourite movie?
Yes, because I was old enough by then to really understand the storyline.
14. Who shot first?
15. How does it feel to have your winning design on store shelves? (Why?)
It feels like I’ve just won the lottery!
16. If you could be a Star Wars character for a day, who would you be? (Why?)
Anyone but Jar Jar Binks because my friends nicknamed me so.
17. Blaster or lightsaber? (Why?)
Blaster, just shoot and get it over and done with.
18. Jedi or Sith? (Why?)
Sith, the dark side is always more mysterious and fun.
For the full range of designs, check out this post. Men’s designs are priced at S$24.90, while Kids’ ones will retail at S$14.90.
Here are the rest of the design submissions by Joseph Koh that didn’t make the cut: