Whether surfing, interior design or tech, Igor Duc has never been one to shy away from channeling his interests and manifesting them into something tangible for the world to see. With ambition comes hurdles, but Igor has been able to successfully tie together not just one, but two of his passions – tech and considered design – to create a brand with aims of empowering others to live with the same gumption.
Here, he shares his insights on sustaining creativity, Native Union’s birth story, and how he wants to make his mark.
Tell us a bit about your career and what you do.
I’m quite lucky to have been able to identify my interests at such a young age. When I was a teenager in Paris, I would buy three magazines religiously every month: Surf Session, Électronique Pratique and Architectural Digest. I knew since then that I wanted to build my career around one of these interests. So, straight out of business school at the young age of 23, I created a designer furniture brand. My dream was to bring beautifully crafted pieces into homes everywhere.
But the arrival of the first iPhone in 2007 completely changed my life. I was glued to it instantly and quickly realized that this device was going to transform the way we live.
That same year, I met my business partner, John Brunner, in a co-working space in Hong Kong. Sharing a passion for good design and quality products, we wanted to challenge the perception that tech accessories are purely functional and dull. Together, we created Native Union.
"I believe passion can only be sustained in a highly creative environment, so that’s what I encourage (and enjoy) most at Native Union."
What motivated you to transition from furniture to tech?
When I first started my furniture brand, I was extremely young, passionate, but above all, very inexperienced. I was overly ambitious. It seems obvious now, but the harsh reality is that creating and shipping fragile products halfway across the world comes with a lot of obstacles that I wasn’t equipped to solve.
I became frustrated with what I could achieve and knew I was hitting a brick wall; I had to move on to something new. The revolution of the iPhone really came at the perfect time for me. I’ve always had a great affinity for tech, and the absence of refined accessories for it meant I could combine two of my passions, giving rise to our brand quite naturally.
What’s something that would surprise people about your work?
I like to refer to my work as an ‘imagination workshop’, and I’m still just as passionate about it as I was on the very day we came up with the idea. Quoting Einstein, ‘Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere’. I believe passion can only be sustained in a highly creative environment, so that’s what I encourage (and enjoy) most at Native Union.
"Some days you have clarity in your mind and ideas on how to shape the future come easily, and other days it’s just a black cloud – and that’s okay."
How do you stay inspired?
My team is one of my greatest sources of inspiration. We come from all over the world and are incredibly diverse, which plays a big role in fostering a creative atmosphere and culture of boundless ideation.
However, there are certainly some slow days in the office when inspiration doesn’t flow as well. It’s like your body when you’re running: sometimes you find a rhythm and can go on and on, but other times it just gives in. Creativity is the same. Some days you have clarity in your mind and ideas on how to shape the future come easily, and other days it’s just a black cloud – and that’s okay.
Do you have any morning and evening rituals?
Rituals are for people with a routine life, no? That’s the excuse I’m giving myself anyway. I’m very impressed by people who are able to stick to strict rituals. For me, each day feels so different that I find it almost impossible.
Still, I do try to wake up around 6:40am and head to the roof for a bit of natural sunlight. It used to be my morning gym session, became a stretch session and is now a wake-up session. Clearly, I’m not as much of a morning person as I’d like to be, but it’s important for me to get some fresh air before picking up my phone.
In the evenings, I try to get home by 9pm to read to my kids and kiss them good night. Then I’ll eat quickly and get back online to catch up with my US team as they’re waking up. By 11:30pm, all my electronics are down and I have 10 - 15 minutes of ‘cool down time’ (dim lights, no noise) to prep for 7 hours of sleep.
Igor's Everyday Essentials
1. Key Cable in Cosmos : Always with me so I can recharge in cars, airplanes... wherever there’s a USB port. It’s also just a beautiful keychain I’m proud to carry around.
2. Vans Shoes : I’m very faithful to brands I believe in. Since my first at 6 years old, I now probably own close to 20 pairs – the best value for money.
3. Bamboo T-shirts : The most comfortable shirts, super lightweight and soft. I stock up every summer at the street market in the South of France.
4. MacBook Pro : I’d rather be without shoes, than without this. It’s the control center of both my personal & professional life.
5. Muji Notebook & Pen : The non-tech version of my laptop. I still prefer writing & doodling when putting ideas together, so I always keep these in my Stow Sleeve.
6. Filson 24-Hour Tin Cloth Briefcase : Another essential I’m very loyal to; an ideal fit for my personal style & lifestyle. The pockets are my key to staying organized.
Can you share the best advice you’ve received?
“Be curious, observe the world around you and pay attention to the details.”
My dad used to repeat this over and over to me growing up. I didn’t understand the reasoning behind it at the time but the value of being observant is now clear. Over the years, I realized that being curious leads to becoming self-aware, improving as people and of course, nurturing creativity. I think it’s even more powerful in our current world where people are inseparable from their screens.
How do you want to make your mark?
The notion of making your mark in the world is always at the top of my mind. Aside from caring for my family, I hope to be able to convey our mission at Native Union to the world. Today, people may think that we’re simply making beautiful tech accessories.
But our ambition is really to empower the modern lifestyle and give people the confidence to pursue their own passions. If I’m able to touch people’s lives this way, I’ll be truly content.