London's Hidden Gems: Japanese minimalism
A London-based independent lifestyle shop specialising in Japanese and Taiwanese homewares
At 6 pm on a Friday afternoon, I rushed out of the crowded Notting Hill Tube Station and ran toward Native & Co. After 10mins, I suddenly found myself alone in a quiet street surrounded by elegant Victorian apartments with nice gardens. “Is it right? I did not know that Notting Hill has a such a quiet side.” I thought to myself and took out my phone to check the direction. Google map told me that I was actually on the right path, and the shop was just another 7–8 mins ahead. “The surroundings indeed work well with the understated style of the shop, but it is hard for travellers to accidently run into this place. You kind of need a pointer”
Sharon and Chris, founders of Native & Co and product designer themselves, greeted me at the shop and suggested us to move to a local pub to do the interview, as they were closing the till.
I took a quick look around — everything was exactly as it should be– simple and clear, reflecting a Japanese minimalism style. I quickly found my favourite object — a large rice clay pot, with an extremely sturdy texture and a nicely smooth finish, which reminded me of my grandma’s delicious slow cooking dishes. I asked Sharon what her favourite item is. It was clearly a tricky one as if I were asking her to name her golden child. After a long pause, she finally pointed to a mosquito coil container, and explained to me that it is a perfect example of the combination of the traditional craftsmanship and functional design
We then settled in a nearby pub, and over a glass of wine, Sharon talked about their unique way of selecting products. “We go to Japan twice a year, and visit different regions to source their local expertise. For example, the north of Japan is famous for wood working” Sharon said, “and we only work with small local workshops and makers.” The products are made in traditional way, but have been re-designed for everyday life. Therefore, they are not for gallery or museum display, which can only be appreciated from a distance.
I asked them about an article on their website. The article is about Kanna — a Japanese carpentry tool for wood making. “It is not really a product that you are selling, so why do you put the story of the workshop on your website?” “It is not just about the product, but also the culture.” Sharon explained, “Kanna represents the history and techniques used in traditional Japanese carpentry.”
Being product designers themselves, Sharon told me that they would like to spend some time designing their own products that can fit within the existing range in the future, which I am very much looking forward to.
Finally, I finished the interview by asking their favourite places in Japan. The first time two founders showed a big difference — Chris chose Tokyo without any hesitation, but Sharon was more on my side, opting for Kyoto, for its traditional culture.
Photographs by Native & Co, words by Zhu, Silent Blooms Team