Brandon Schoolhouse was six years old when he first spotted a Darth Vader action figure at a Glendale Galleria toy store. The four-inch Vader ignited a Star Wars obsession that would span decades and lead to a collection that included a Jedi lunch box and Chewbacca bedsheets. It also inspired the name of Schoolhouse’s jewelry company, Han Cholo, launched in 2002, and one of his lines of weighty stainless steel and sterling silver pieces. “I guess I gravitated toward Star Wars when I was a kid because we didn’t have computers or video games,” he says. “We had action figures and our imagination.” Then Ewan McGregor wore a Han Cholo “Blaster” belt buckle on the cover of Esquire in 2005, and Lucasfilm took note and issued Schoolhouse a cease and desist letter.
This year, in a turn of fortune, Lucasfilm and its new parent company, Disney, granted Schoolhouse the coveted Star Wars licensing rights. The negotiations started when Schoolhouse, who had designed jewelry for Disney, discovered that some of his former colleagues were now at DreamWorks, another Disney branch. They volunteered their help, and after a few rounds of phone tag, the deal was set. Not only could Schoolhouse, now 43, legally craft jewelry based on the six existing Star Wars films, but he was asked to create pieces tied to the release of the highly anticipated seventh film this December. Schoolhouse says he’s sticking to the classics: lightsaber cuffs, Stormtrooper rings, R2-D2 pendants. “As an adult, I realize how much the films informed my aesthetic,” he says, “and how they opened me up to the idea that anything was possible.”