Design & Culture / 文化, Taipei / 來台北玩
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Select Shop Native & Co Brings Taiwanese Design to London

In the process of creating the Taipei edition of Spottly Insider Magazine, I interviewed creative Musee Wu, founder of A&M, a creative agency in Taiwan that’s worked on some impressive projects, including country-wide visual merchandising for Hermès and a 2012 Taipei feature on Wallpaper*.

During the course of our interview, I kept pushing her to talk about wisdom she had been able  to bring into Taiwan from her education abroad. All my questions were aimed in a (being candid here) artlessly condescending way, that suggested that Taiwanese were inferior creatives that needed the blessed assistance from Asian-Americans that had grown up overseas. Musee gently-but-firmly corrected my thinking:

“I feel that it’s not so much about bringing outside concepts and knowledge in, but pushing Taiwanese talent outside of Taiwan. It’s a tiny island, and at times I feel that it’s quite isolated from the global creative conversation. I want to feature Taiwanese artists – that’s a key part of our vision and ideology. There are so many creative and talented people who are immensely talented. It’s not an issue of lacking raw talent, but knowing how to present yourself on a international platform…it’s a sort of cultural knowledge. For example, if you want to exhibit in a major art center like Berlin, how do you communicate your needs, what you want to get done and the message you want to get out? A young Taiwanese creative may do really amazing work, but lack the knowledge to answer these questions.”

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Although there are reams more to write about this particular issue, recent coverage of London select shop Native & Co has piqued my interest in how Taiwanese creativity is being showcased and marketed overseas. Founded by a duo from Central Saint Martins (Sharon Jo-Yun Hung is Taiwanese,Chris Yoshiro Green is half-British half-Japanese), Native & Co is “an independent homeware shop based in Notting Hill London, offering tableware, kitchenware, textiles and accessories – [specialising] in high quality, crafted home products sourced from Japan and Taiwan.”

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Kathy of Tricky Taipei (who is probably my favorite Taiwan blogger at the moment) reached out for an interview with Native & Co, with some fascinating take-aways:

On sourcing Taiwanese design: 

“We work with small suppliers…and specialist workshops. For instance, makers that excel at one particularly skill, such as casting iron, hand sewing leather or hand-beating brass…Taiwanese makers are often wary…of having their products abroad. They sometimes either need convincing or are just not set up for trading overseas.”

On introducing products as “Taiwanese”: 

“Taiwanese products are generally harder to sell than their Japanese equivalent. We believe this is because there is little awareness for Taiwanese craft or design in the UK [personal note: Not only the UK, but on an international scale]…In comparison to Japan, Taiwan is at the moment less well-established as a design or craft centre. However, it is beginning to emerge as it forms a more concise national design identity. Taiwan is a unique centre for aboriginal tribes and their region specific craft. (Bamboo ware, straw weaving, and ink dyeing, to mention a few.) Taiwanese craft has great potential and one of our goals as a shop/design studio is to promote Taiwan as a nation of high quality craft and good taste.”

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Having been around the Taiwanese design circuit, I immediately recognized some brands stocked in Native & Co’s beautifully designed online store, such as leather-worker Greenroom and Bu Wu. In addition to Japanese and Taiwanese wares, Native & Co also stocks a selection of Swedish and Dutch products. Japanese elegance, the signature utilitarian beauty of Swedish design, presented in a monochrome palette: essentially a minimalist’s dream. Wanted to share a few of my favorite Taiwanese designs:

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Leather Strap Purse: Green Room is a leather specialist maker based in Taipei, Taiwan. They are experts at choosing the right leather and shaping it by hand.”

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Bentwood Bento Lunch Boxes (with Holder): Made in Tainan 台南, Taiwan.

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Seat Cushion (Sunrise): This geometric pattern cushion is designed by textile brand Bu Wu from Taiwan.

Shop the Native & Co site here. Stay updated on new arrivals  via the Native & Co Facebook. 

2 Comments

  1. Awww, thanks for sharing this post! Musee’s insight about Taiwanese creatives is spot on. It’s so important to know your story and have a point of view. Very few young Taiwanese designers are well-prepared, and sometimes it’s as simple as being able to communicate in English.

    • Stephanie Hsu says

      Right? And Musee and I talked more about her future plans, which I’ll eventually bring up on another post – to be this kind of middleman between Taiwanese creatives and the global community. It’s definitely in my mission – and I see yours as well 🙂 to showcase Taiwan design to the world.

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