The couple behind Notting Hill’s Native & Co are bringing traditional Eastern craftsmanship into the future for London Design Festival 2015
It’s almost a year since independent homeware and lifestyle shop, Native & Co quietly opened on Kensington Park Road, and already the fledgling business has a design studio too, as this September sees the launch of their own furniture collection at the London Design Festival. And as if that wasn’t enough, the two will also be curating an exhibition of Japanese carpentry in the Notting Hill store as part of the event.
Set up by two product designers, Taiwan born Sharon Jo-Yun Hung and British-Japanese Chris Yoshiro Green, Native & Co specialise in craft- based homeware with a pure and simple aesthetic. Items are sourced from small, independent suppliers in Japan and Taiwan, and chosen for their honest materials and understated style. ‘It was important for us that the shop and the products would be humble and subtle,’ explains Chris. ‘In Japan there is a culture of anonymous design, for the product to be appreciated for what it is rather than the brand. Taiwan also has a rich heritage of traditional craft and we wanted to increase awareness of that.’
The couple met at Chelsea College of Art before they both embarked on a Product Design degree at Central Saint Martins. ‘We both loved the craftsmanship involved in making furniture and homewares, whether it’s woodturning, weaving or hand-beating metal,’ says Sharon. ‘I had always wanted to have my own business, and after uni Chris was keen to be involved in a start up, so it made sense for us to set up something together. It’s easy to work with someone you studied with, as we know each other’s strengths.’
The name Native & Co was chosen as it fits with their ethos for the brand, with regard to the products they source and those they now design in-house too. ‘We wanted a London-based company with an approachable and understandable name,’ says Chris. ‘This one stuck as it encompasses our values of sourcing simple, traditionally-crafted products made from natural materials; items that are not artificially enhanced but left as pure and untreated as possible.’
Location was important to the pair too and rather than predictably choosing the East End for their design-led shop, they opted for Notting Hill. ‘There are already a lot of design shops in East London,’ says Sharon. ‘This area feels more family-oriented and we like that we know our local customers. Lots of them buy gifts here and we are able to offer advice if they ask for it. They follow us on Instagram and drop in to say hi.’
Customers can expect to find Japanese porcelain kitchenware from the Arita region, which combines 400-year-old porcelain techniques with contemporary design, so pieces are stylish, stackable and suitable for a modern kitchen. There’s a sturdy Nambu cast iron kettle, a re-interpretation of a historical piece that works as well as a teapot (in Japan it’s believed to be a source of good health and to enrich the flavour of tea); as well as gorgeous craftsman-style heavy cotton canvas aprons with beautiful leather straps, and many other simple items fit for the 21st Century home and lifestyle.
While the aim was to start with a carefully- curated shop and eventually design their own furniture and interior accessories, the collection and design studio has happily come about a little sooner than Sharon and Chris anticipated. ‘Chris designed the furniture and fittings for the shop,’ explains Sharon. ‘Then customers started to ask for the prices. One lady wanted our display bench and some chairs, so the shop was empty for a little while. We realised there was a already demand, so Chris has designed a new furniture collection.’
The collection will consist of a maple dining table, bench, chairs and stool. There’s a big emphasis on natural materials, with timber carefully chosen for its practical properties, as much as its beauty. ‘We’re planning a range of chopping and serve-boards too,’ says Chris. ‘So we’re looking at different types of cedar, as a contrast to the maple, walnut and other timbers we have here and also for its anti-bacterial and mould resistant qualities.’ It’s all as refreshingly far from bling as you can get, and with all the visual ‘noise’ of modern life, there is something very soothing about the simplicity of the products on offer here.
‘We like this look but we’re not dictating a lifestyle,’ says Chris. ‘Our own home is a mixture of Ercol furniture, yellow Staub cookware and items from the shop. The craft element is there but it’s quite eclectic.’
See Native & Co’s new furniture collection during the London Design Festival at Design Junction, The College, 12 Southampton Row, WC1A, 24-27 September thedesignjunction.co.uk. There will also be an exhibition of Japanese carpentry at Native & Co, 116 Kensington Park Road, Notting Hill, W11 2PW, 020 7243 0418; nativeandco.com