Aerende, an online shop selling hand-crafted products for the home, was founded in 2016 by former travel editor Emily Mathieson. Motivated by her passion for beautiful, high-quality home accessories, that are both ethically sourced and locally made, inspired Emily to create Aerende. The brand is a unique concept that offers considerate, socially valuable shopping that doesn’t compromise on quality or style. All the products Emily sources for Aerende are made in the UK by people facing social challenges who are unable to access or maintain conventional employment. Winner of the Appear Here ‘Spaces for Ideas’ competition, to identify and support the retail ideas of the future, Aerende has a pop-up shop at 7 Park Street, London. The pop-up shop runs from 24th October to 5th November and offers a series of workshops and talks, as well as the beautiful Aerende products. More information here.
Is there a story behind the name Aerende? The word Aerende means ‘care’ in Olde English – it was chosen to reflect our commitment to heritage skills and British-made items, as well as to our considerate business practices and interest in slow living.
What are your best selling items? All of our items are designed in a timeless, modern-rustic style. Best-selling items include our elm chopping board, made by people recovering from mental health illnesses in Scotland, and our stoneware coffee cup and saucer made by adults with learning disabilities in Gloucestershire.
Where are your products sourced & made? Everything we sell is made in the UK, mostly out of natural or organic materials and using historic techniques. We work with a variety of crafting charities and organisations to provide opportunities for their makers by showcasing their work on a carefully curated and elegant site that challenges stigma as well as raising self-esteem. The reason for working only with British craftspeople is partly to minimise the environmental impact of shipping materials and products around the world but also to allow us to develop really personal relationships with our suppliers. In most cases products are shipped bearing a tag that states the name of the person who made it. We know that customers love this sense of personal connection.
What are the challenges selling online compared to a physical store? Getting feedback from customers is harder online than in the flesh. And really getting across the individuality, texture and feel of our homewares can be hard to do with just photos and words.
What are the advantages? The flexibility of being able to look after my children while running the shop simply wouldn’t be possible with a bricks and mortar space. Running the two alongside each other enables me to get valuable perspective on both. Being able to build a brand without the financial pressure of rent and rates is liberating, and telling stories and the ethos of the brand (which is fundamental to its existence) can be easier with an online platform.
Who are your customers? Anyone who cares about their homes and the world and who is happy to pay a little extra or spend a little more time to seek out products with meaning and integrity.
Aerende founder Emily Mathieson photographed by Anna + Tam
Who inspires you? Anita Roddick for her approach to business; William Morris and John Ruskin for their ideology, artisans with the patience and skill to be able to create something beautiful with their hands, often in difficult circumstances.
What inspires you? People with a passion for making a difference; Danish design; history; literature; and Shaker attitudes towards beauty in simplicity.
Before I was a shopkeeper, I…. was a travel editor and journalist (and still am sometimes).
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? To know when to draw a line between work and life. With ethical business in particular, it’s important to remember that no one benefits if the business doesn’t thrive and it can’t thrive if the founder is over-worked or stressed. Taking time out to decompress or reasses is vital. Oh, and cash flow is everything. I’m still getting to grips with that particular lesson.
What task do you like to delegate? Accounting. It’s the only the thing the control freak in me can bear to pass over. But I’m trying to get better at asking for help.
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? That the world is full of people who do care, not just about how they spend money but about supporting independent business owners. The community of support I have discovered has been truly heartwarming.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Have a unique selling point. The market is saturated these days so you need to find a niche that someone isn’t already in.
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? Livia Firth or Emma Watson. I’d like to get the big names who are pushing for more sustainability and accountability in fashion to raise awareness about the need for interiors to be ethical too.
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be..? A florist or, in my wilder dreams, a professional on Strictly Come Dancing.
What is your perfect day off? Waking up early, reading the paper cover to cover, going for a long walk, drinking coffee and eating cinnamon buns, my children managing to avoid arguing and ending up on the sofa watching a film with a glass of Chapel Down Rosé. Increasingly it’s the small things that make me happy.
Do you have a favorite neighborhood coffee shop? It’s Charlie’s in St Albans, where I live (about 20 minutes outside London). Her beans and milk are sourced with incredible integrity but, more importantly, her coffees taste amazing. The shop is tiny but has loads of personality thanks to all the handmade lightshades and counters, plus her heart is big and her smiles are infectious.
I wish I could.. be part of a movement in which consumers realise their power to change the world for the better.
On the Future of Retail
“Like many things in life it seems to becoming more polarized – between the big-name faceless high street stores and the indie retailers trying to create an alternative. The result, I think, is in a wider network of conscious consumers who are turning away from big-name retailers. I see people around me becoming more interested in provenance so I hope that purveyors who stand for quality and personality will continue to find recognition and success. As a result, I think retail itself will become more experiential – it’s not enough just to sell something but you need to make the customer feel something too.”
Photography by Anna + Tam | Pop-up shop photographs courtesy of Aerende at Appear Here