Takeo was born on March 20, 1948 in Yunohama, Yamagata prefecture in Japan, and moved to Tokyo when he was 4 years old. He visited the United States for the first time when he was 17, traveling to California, New York and Seattle, while attending design vocational school in Japan for two years. He graduated from Nippon Designers School and attended ArtCenter in Los Angeles before making his way to Hawai'i, where he has been a resident since 1971.
An award-winning designer, he has dressed numerous celebrities, beauty queens and Hawai'i First Ladies, and mentored countless actors and models, including Jason Momoa, Miss America 1992 Carolyn Sapp, international star and ambassador of Hawai'i Aureana Tseu, and Miss International Nadine Tanega Hogan. He was nominated several times as Hawai'i's Manufacturer of the Year, and was a recipient of the prestigious Governor's Designer of the Year award.
He and his lifetime partner Eric Chandler founded 2Couture in Honolulu, a design and special events company. They were the creative minds behind various large productions, including stage design for Hawai'i Opera Theatre's Madam Butterfly, as well as design work for Ala Moana Center, Louis Vuitton, Liberty House, Shirokiya, and ad campaigns for Shiseido and Japan National Railways.
They also were major figures in Hawai'i's pageant industry and produced many fashion shows for various local community organizations, including the Japanese Women's Society and Associated Chinese University Women. In 2008, they were honored with the Legacy Award from the Music Foundation of Hawai'i, which recognizes the most influential people in their fields in Hawai'i. They also received proclamations citing their achievements from Governors George Ariyoshi, John Waihee and Ben Cayetano.
Takeo also served as art director for Duty Free Hawaii for many years, was an accomplished painter, and even worked as a Japanese dialogue coach and actor for several TV shows, including Baywatch Hawaii, My Wife and Kids, North Shore and ER.
Throughout his illustrious career, Takeo enjoyed working with up-and-coming talent and made it a point to give back to the island fashion community. In 2006, he co-founded FACE of Nu'uanu, which became Honolulu's first Fashion Week. More than 10,000 people showed up to the inaugural event, which took place in Chinatown and provided an opportunity for emerging designers and models to showcase their talents on a red carpet runway.
In 2014, he and Eric moved to Washington state for a few years, and then to Hilo. He returned to Honolulu in 2019, surrounded by friends and loved ones. Takeo had a keen eye for detail, and was known for his kind and compassionate heart. He appreciated both the finer things in life, and the simple. You'd often find him and Eric at Like Like Drive Inn, which became their "after-party" spot following the many fundraisers, luncheons, fashions shows and galas they supported. More recently, Takeo loved meeting up with friends at Tango Contemporary Cafe in Kakaako, where he'd sit under the cabana enjoying his club sandwich and coffee, with his precious Pomeranian, Chibi, by his side.
He is survived by his brother Masao Kobayashi and sister Kimiko Kobayashi in Japan.
A drive-by celebration of life will take place on Saturday, March 20
(Takeo's birthday) from 3 to 5 p.m. at the porte cochere
fronting Tango Contemporary Cafe at 1288 Ala Moana Blvd.,
followed by a spreading of ashes on March 21 at 7 a.m. off Kaimana Beach.
Memorial contributions can be made to Friends of
Eric Chandler and Takeo Kobayashi at any First Hawaiian Bank branch.
Those who knew Takeo and Eric are invited to share photos,
memories and messages on the 'Friends of Eric + Takeo' Facebook page at