Native Union’s first product, Clic is a wooden case made of a slice of bright-coloured plastic inlaid into its surface. It was inspired by tables showcased at the London Design Week in 2012. Recognising the brimming with marble at a Parisian design fair called Maison & Objet a year after, Native Union began to prototype cases and other charging products.
Unfortunately, using natural materials presents Native Union with a number of technical challenges. There are foibles to each type of metal, wood, and stone, and because tech products like keyboards and mobiles are costly and continuously being used, consumers set higher standards for these goods. For instance, they look for lightweight and shatter-proof Marble cases that do not interfere with signal and reception, which calls for a notoriously dense limestone that chips easily. When Native Union first approached stonemasons with the proposed idea, they experienced immense scepticism. The solution they eventually came upon involved slicing the marble extremely finely and layering it with fibreglass to reinforce it.
The tendency for wood to expand and contract due to different levels of humidity is a fundamental challenge faced by all tech businesses and is especially the case for Native Union given their base in Hong Kong. To prevent warping, Native Union implements a specially developed varnish to bake, slice, and coat its wood. The results are a big hit, but nothing comes easy. It has been a steep learning curve for Native Union and its head of design, Fabien Naudry who sighs “For us, it’s a nightmare. It would be so much easier to do it in plastic.”
The Clic Marble Cases for iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus are now available at WOAW.