Here, the founders of Notting Hill store Native & Co talk craftsmanship, finding beauty in simplicity and mixing Oriental and British craft.
Quiet. Pure. Thoughtful. Words that perfectly capture the ethos of local Notting Hill favourite Native & Co’s precise homeware collection. Drawing on their Taiwanese and Japanese heritages, founders Sharon Jo-Yun Hung and Chris Yoshiro-Green work closely with traditional craftsmen in eastern Asia to curate a collection of handmade products that stay true to their origins.
In a world where purchasing power has been supercharged by the internet, it’s easy to get caught up in home decor that makes bold statements and adds panache to our interiors. Sharon and Chris remind us that there is moving beauty in simplicity. “Our design aesthetics for Native & Co has always been seeking ‘quietness’ in objects around us, meaning the design is reserved, simple and natural, blending with the interior and background seamlessly to create harmony in the designs for the home,” Sharon explains.
At the core of their business is the long-lasting relationships they build with artisans. Their products are fashioned with meaning and always with a purpose in mind. “We have worked closely with some craftsman in developing products which are more suitable for use in the western lifestyle while keeping things traditionally made”, Sharon said. Recently, they have taken their inspiration a step further, launching their own product line.
Walking us through their journey, from how they met to how they source their homeware, Sharon lets us in on how Native & Co has found the perfect balance between vibrant Western aesthetics and more reserved East Asian philosophies.
You both studied product design at Central Saint Martins. When did you first fall in love with the subject?
Chris has a family background in architecture. Since he was a child, he’s always been obsessed with building things using Lego. He finds the small details in shape and forms interesting in comparison to the grand structure of architecture. This is when he realised product design was right for him. For me, with a family background in business, I’ve always found myself being more drawn to art and design as opposed to business. Chris and I met during our foundation year for product design and this is how we later on decided to work together as a team as we share similar tastes and interests in designs for the home.
Your products are reflective of your Japanese and Taiwanese heritages and you visit both countries regularly to curate your collection. What regions have inspired you the most?
Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan, it has so much to offer in its craft community. For instance, Japan’s oldest incense maker, who supplied the tea house that used to serve the imperial family, lives in Kyoto. You can also find a variety of traditional trades such as the world’s oldest tin caddy makers and metal weavers. These generations of craftsmen from different fields all come together as one community in Kyoto. Kyoto has much more to offer in comparison to other regions in Japan, which tend to focus on one particular craft. Kyoto’s community of craftsmen continue to inspire each other through collaborations and working with designers to modernise their creations.
Each piece you display is beautifully handmade by experienced artisans and you take the time to personally build relationships with each of them. Can you tell us more about the process of how you find and choose the artisans that you work with?
Throughout the years working at Native & Co, we have come across many craftsmen, workshops and specialist makers across all kinds of trades. We have a strong bond with our network of young craftsmen — some are the third generation, some are fifth-generation, inheriting the family tradition from their fathers and grandfathers. The ones we admire often have open minds and are open to suggestions to modernise their creations to make them adaptable for contemporary living.
Do you have a similar minimalist aesthetic to Native & Co. at home?
Our home is a more modern and comfier version of Native & Co. A mixture of modern and vintage design with objects we collected throughout the years travelling across Japan and Taiwan. Some of these objects never made it to the shop; they are beautiful but may not work for the shop as a product for sale so we tend to keep them in our personal collection.
Many of your products use natural materials, such as wood and bamboo. Is sustainability a key consideration to you and how do you try to be as sustainable as possible?
What we are trying to do at Native & Co is to let the users of these objects become more conscious about the materials and resources which are used behind each product. Native & Co helps its customers to build a relationship or connection through the object that is being used or placed in their home by forming a deeper understanding of the local material and native location of the craft from which it originates.
Your products are intended to blend into their surroundings. Do you have any advice for people looking to incorporate a simpler, minimalist aesthetic into their interior design?
The advice we would give to people is to stand back and look at the bigger picture rather than isolating the objects on their own. At the end of the day, you want everything inside your home to blend seamlessly, therefore it is important to look at it as a whole rather than focusing on individual objects themselves. We also recommend setting a tone of material and colour finishes that will work throughout your home and consider the mood and atmosphere you are trying to communicate.