Friends of Sunspel: Native & Co

Sharon and Chris – co-founders of Native & Co – kindly invited us to their store for the latest instalment of our Friends of Sunspel series. Over a cup of green tea, we chatted about the subtle differences between simplicity and purity, the importance of finding the right materials, and the benefits of investing in a good pair of pyjamas.

After graduating from Central Saint Martins, Sharon Jo-Yun Hung and Chris Yoshiro Green opened shop on London’s Kensington Park Road. The idea was to curate the best in Japanese and Taiwanese homewares while developing their own range of beautifully crafted furniture. Located just a hop, skip and a jump from our newly opened store, we can vouch that it’s virtually impossible to leave Native & Co empty-handed.

Native and Co 3 copy

Chris: We did a lot of projects at CSM that involved Japanese design or Taiwanese craft – Sharon is Taiwanese and I’m half Japanese. We noticed that Taiwanese products, especially traditional local crafts, are not really represented in the UK. As a nation, Japan has a very good brand of good design, good craft. At a governmental level, it has a structured approach to craft; some regions are particularly good for porcelain, some for knives, and there will be a kind of regional competition that actually helps craftspeople to get work and get exposure. That doesn’t really exist in Taiwan.

Although you can get some Japanese products in the UK, they aren’t necessarily presented in what we would consider to be the right context, and there’s never really the full range, so we kind of felt like there was an opportunity to really curate something and bring both Japanese and Taiwanese crafts together.

Native and Co 2 copy
Sharon: Taiwanese and Japanese design make a good combination. Taiwan has its own style, but because of its history, it’s quite influenced by Japan in terms of aesthetics. In terms of craft and design, there is also a lot of influence from Chinese culture and aborigine tribes, so it’s really a big mix. A lot of Japanese craft has been contemporised to fit with a modern lifestyle. It could be a very traditional thing, but it’s been redesigned to make it easier to use in everyday life. In Taiwan, the crafts haven’t been applied to new products in this way, so I think designers in Taiwan probably have more of an opportunity to actually do something new.

Sharon: We were planning on running the space as a studio and a store, but when the shop opened we actually got quite distracted from the studio side of things. In the future, we are looking to focus a bit more on designing our Native & Co homewares and furniture.

Chris: We try and do pretty much everything ourselves: all the photography, all the editing, the graphic design, everything. We’re not exceptionally good at photography and graphic design, but we want to know everything inside out and we want to learn from it. It just means that things are quite slow paced.

Sharon: A lot of our products are very simple, with a functional design, but what’s really special about them is the materials.

Chris: The design of the product isn’t attention seeking, it isn’t saying ‘look at me, look at me, look at me,’ so when we’re speaking to our customers, we like to talk about the materials because it adds to its value and adds to its provenance.

Chris: For us, when things are made in England, there’s an assurance of quality.

Sharon: I particularly like clothes made in the UK because I think there is so much attention to detail and they feel much more durable. Also, I hate to think that my clothes come from a country that abuses the labour. The clothes that we wear to work have to be functional but at the same time, very simple pieces that don’t attract too much attention away from the products in our shop. When I work from our studio at home, most of the time I wear Sunspel Pyjamas because they go well with everything. I’ve got the pyjama pants and I can just pop on a sweatshirt and know that I can answer the door without looking like I’ve just got out of bed.

Chris: We very much work around the idea of purity. I think ‘pure’ is a good word for Sunspel too. ‘Simple’ can seem like a bit of a derogatory term, but I think purity and the idea of things being done the way they should be, or the right way, or in a pragmatic way is a good way to describe it.

 

For impeccably crafted furniture and homewares, visit Native & Co at 116 Kensington Park Road or online at nativeandco.com.