The first thing that grabbed us about Aerende is the calm, cool, quiet vibe that just looking at the collection evokes. Once you've taken a deeper breath and felt your body release just a touch more than usual, you're then perfectly set up to understand their fantastic mission statement:
"Timeless craft homewares, handmade in the UK by people facing social challenges"
Emily Mathieson has created a business that not only delivers high on our aesthetics and desirability index, Aerende also delivers more of our key values than we thought was possible for a single brand. We were so passionate about bringing them in to the Plum & Belle family for their amazing work around community engagement, that is exemplary, and the fact that so many others of our values are achieved are just so many more cherries on a rather exceptional cake. I'm not embarrassed to say that I got a little emotional when Emily said yes to us. This is yet another significant step forward on Plum & Belle's journey towards achieving our goals.
We're first launching with Aerende's lovely scented collection of candles and soaps. Once lockdown restrictions are eased and Emily is allowed to reengage with more of her makers, we'll build up a bigger offer of their beautiful products.
Aerende and our key values:
Tell us about you, your career background and your business
For most of my career I’ve worked in travel and lifestyle publishing (including as commissioning editor of Condé Nast Traveller and travel editor at The Guardian and Red). I loved my job but was finding it hard to manage alongside my family’s needs and felt increasingly uneasy about the environmental and social impact of my work so I started thinking about ways to balance a desire to make a difference with a love of life’s finer things. I mulled over charity and voluntary work but in the end felt I wanted to start something from scratch, so that I could run a business I could really feel proud of and whose impact I could see and feel, as well as integrating the kind of integrity that I didn’t see in other retailers. As interiors have always been a passion, the idea to combine the two resulted in Aerende. The idea has always been to challenge stigma, create opportunity and show consumers that you can shop and do good at the same time. Also, at the time (back in 2015 when the idea started), there was a growing awareness among conscious consumers around ethical fashion and food and I spotted a gap in the market for a truly ethical British interiors brand. I wanted to be at the forefront of that movement and to act as a benchmark for good business. Now, of course, these issues are, rightly, top of the retail agenda.
How and when did Aerende begin?
The idea for Aerende really came to fruition when I bought an amazing wicker basket, made by people with learning disabilities, at a craft fair near my home in St Albans in Summer 2015. They explained that they had only sold one that day and I knew that if they could reach a wider audience the baskets would sell really well, raising the makers’ self-esteem and increasing revenue for the charity that supports and teaches these meaningful activities. I spoke to a number of other charities and organisations who felt passionate about the benefits of their creative work but lacked the skills or inclination to create a brand and sell online in a more organised and aspirational way. So began the Aerende journey. The combination of our makers’ amazing techniques and products and my enthusiasm for telling their stories has come to fruition in the store you see today.
I’m a big believer in the idea that spending money is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in and that business can be a great driving force behind social change. Social enterprises such as Aerende are a showcase for a new kind of model that uses capitalism to solve some of the problems it creates and recognising that business can be a huge force for good, not just in the way a company is run but in how it can influence consumers to think more deeply about their purchasing habits.
In case you want to know about the name: Aerende (pronounced air-en-day) is an Olde English word that means care or message. These are brand values not just from a marketing perspective but because I genuinely believe in them and wanted them to be enshrined in our name as well as our products.
What are the top five things about your business that make your heart sing?
How it combines beauty, utility and integrity with social purpose and sustainability.
What are the key sustainable and ethical elements of Aerende?
Handmaking, local manufacturing, natural materials plus minimising packaging and looking at how ethics run behind the visible parts of the business (eg, with banking. electricity suppliers and so on).
Do you have a signature product, something that really sums up what your brand is about?
All of our scents are designed to remind people of British landscapes, as well as utilising the therapeutic benefits of essential oil scents. I love Maed for its freshness of the geranium with the soothing familiarity of lavender - both good for healing, too.
What about Plum & Belle feels like it has particular synergy with your brand?
Sense of humanity and personality with a focus on companies that are using business for good.
What are your future aims for your business?
To be able to operate as a secure and fully fledged business while generating enough revenue for our partner makers that they don’t have to worry about their operating future and a salary for me that doesn’t conflict with my feminist and ethical principles for what women in business should be paid. For Aerende to become a byword for beautiful products with integrity and purpose and for people to understand the real value (on an environmental and human level) of handmaking. To be the kind of business that others aspire to, because it’s about creating joy and purpose rather than lining someone’s pocket. For everyone to be able to access safe, fair products for their homes. For the interiors sector to become more inclusive and accessible to people that don’t look like me or have my privilege.