In a light-filled loft above the Grind and Squeeze coffee shop in I’On, 12 creatives are at work with a Zen-like focus. Magazine covers hang from clipboards at the front entrance: Oprah, Forbes, Kiplinger and many others, all praising this small Mount Pleasant company. You may not have heard of Andrew and Leigh Ann Green, but if you are an Apple user, you should, and you will. The Greens and their small team at Twelve South are responsible for designing and producing some of the most beautiful, well-designed and popular Apple accessories in the world.
Before the Greens created Twelve South in 2009, if Mac users wanted to protect or better use their Apple products, they were stuck with accessories originally designed for PCs. For Apple devotees, this was not a gap; this was a vacuum—and something of an abomination. Apple users believe that your creative tools should not only be easy to use but beautiful in a way that honors your highest aspirations. It’s this belief in form and function, a creative’s version of Truth and Beauty, which drives otherwise sane people to camp on sidewalks outside Apple stores. The Greens recognized the gap between Apple products and Apple accessories and began designing Apple-centric accessories with the same dedication to detail that Apple employs. To get their first three accessories into production, they used their kids’ college funds, then launched what would become an acclaimed global business from the guestroom of their I’On home.
When the Greens tell the story, they make it sound like a lark, but the pair actually has a formidable skill set—a career in the New York fashion industry (hers) and mobile technology marketing (his). When the couple decided to have children, they moved from New York City to Nashville where Andrew Green worked for Griffin Technology. “That’s when I first learned you could have an idea, sketch it on a napkin and send it off to have it made,” he says. The Greens then moved to Charleston when he was offered a job with Digital Lifestyle Outfitters. This experience with mobile accessories, combined with a love of Apple design philosophy, was the impetus to fill in where Apple leaves off.
For example, the new 12-inch MacBook Air is ultraportable but has no USB port, so you can’t use it to charge your iPhone. The Greens came up with the PlugBug, a 2.1-amp USB wall charger that piggybacks onto the MacBook power adapter so you can charge your MacBook and iPad or iPhone at the same time using one wall outlet. Twelve South’s wildly popular BookBook is a lightweight leather case for MacBooks, iPads and iPhones that looks like a beautiful antique book and was inspired by Charleston’s history. Their HiRise line is a family of adjustable stands for Macs that was inspired by visiting Apple. “We noticed Apple employees had their MacBooks elevated on phonebooks or reams of paper,” Green says. “We designed a stand that looks integrated, not like an afterthought.”
New to their product line is a thoughtfully designed HiRise stand for the new Apple watch. It features the ability to easily use the watch when it’s charging on the stand and to quickly remove the charging disk for travel, and it has a soft padded leather landing pad that eliminates the need to fasten the watch around the stand.
“Apple is the primary innovation engine for the world we live in. We do what we do out of a passion for their products,” Green says. Accessories by Twelve South are now sold all over the world, including at Apple stores, on Amazon, and through their website: twelvesouth.com.
Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer in Charleston.