What’s so exciting – and unique – about new homeware brand Aerende is the way beauty and ethics are combined in equal measure. We chat with founder, Emily Mathieson, a former travel editor for The Guardian, Condé Nast Traveller and Red. She shares her passion for what she does as well as well as some wise words on achieving goals and finding creativity. I loved discovering more about Emily and what she has created with Aerende. These are products to love in their own right and to feel good about too.
Please describe what you do, and a little bit about your journey
I run Aerende, an interiors brand selling beautiful homewares, all handmade in the UK by people facing social challenges. The name means care or message in olde English – and it reflects everything we do, from our commitment to heritage crafts and the positive power of making, to our caring business practices and commitment to conscious retailing.
I was previously a lifestyle journalist and spotted a gap in the market for a really beautiful interiors brand that also adhered to the highest ethical standards. Aerende combines my interest in stylish, considered interiors with my commitment to treading lightly on the world and trying to make a positive difference.
What’s your favourite way to start the day?
I’m a creature of habit and every day starts the same – with a mug of hot water, lemon and ginger. A chef told me years ago it would help detox my body and stop me getting ill and it has, largely, proved to be true. If I wake up early enough (pre 6am) I try and get a bit of work done before the kids appear. Otherwise I start work after I’ve dropped them at school. It’s handily close and we walk so I can be at my desk before 9am.
What’s your morning routine?
Kids. Shouting. Running to school. Followed by the lovely calm of my kitchen or spare room, depending on what mood I’m in.
What keeps you going through the day?
Because my previous career was totally different, being outside of my comfort zone means there’s an almost endless supply of adrenalin keeping me going. On a more ambitious scale, I really believe in our concept, that shopping can change the world. By offering full transparency about our process and products to cherish, that are locally made and with huge social impact, we not only create things our customers can love forever, but lead them to ask questions about wider shopping habits. It’s a process but breaking the hold of the mass market/high street and its damaging, exploitative, profit-driven behaviour is something that all of the From Britain With Love brands are collectively doing.
What are your top tips for enabling creativity?
I find Instagram an endless source of inspiration. Of course it’s visual, but I also find it a rich resource of creative and unusual business philosophies or world outlooks. As I don’t really have a model on which to base Aerende, it helps to look out how other women, especially locally, are creating the businesses and products they want to see.
What are your simple pleasures and why?
Grinding coffee. I used to think it wasn’t worth the time but now I take it as a valuable break in the day. A chance to think, while I’m not in front of a screen. And to feel like something a bit special is happening in my morning. Which helps me be productive until I start thinking about lunch.
What is your approach to setting and achieving your goals?
I think for anyone working alone accountability is really important. So if I decide to do something I tell people. In person, on Facebook, by email. Once it’s out there you have to stick to it.
What do you like best about where you live?
I live in a small market town called St Albans which, to be honest, is not wildly exciting. But what it does have, especially in our neighbourhood, is an amazing sense of community. I go to yoga in a friend’s kitchen across the road, use neighbours for babysitting and can’t get more than 50 metres without saying hello to someone. The children can play on the street and in summer we all sit outside in my front garden over tea and cake. For me, that’s as close to living the dream as it gets!
Share a real hidden local gem with us
The Skip Garden Café in King’s Cross. It’s a ramshackle collection of buildings formed from waste from the huge building projects in KX over the last decade. They have chickens and serve veggie food and do wonderful parties – I had my 40th there.
Coffee or tea?
Both (depending on time of day)
Early night or night out?
Favourite way to spend an evening?
Strictly and a nice glass of (British) wine
I’m not a huge shopper but when it comes to physical spaces, I love the wow-factor of Liberty in London and small indie boutiques like Caro. Online, there are so many that I like to browse, The Future Kept and Wicker & Weft among them.
Most treasured possession?
Cards made for me by my children. All the gifts my husband has made for me. My wedding ring (which I bought for myself 6 years after actually tying the knot) made by British jeweller Laura Lee (www.lauraleejewellery.com).
Warm and sunny summer afternoon or bright and frosty Winter morning?
I’m a sunny summer girl at heart.
Any hobbies you’d like to share with us?
I’ve just taken up jive dancing and planning to relearn the calligraphy that I loved doing as a child. One day I’d like to dust off the surfboards too.
What are you passionate about right now?
The potential for consumers to make a difference. It’s easy to feel powerless but the way we spend our money is the biggest way to affect social change.
Best local place for rummaging vintage finds?
A 5-minute walk from my house is a brilliant indoor market called the Fleetville Vintage Emporium. We’ve picked up some great bits of furniture there and its collection of old books and records means it always smells (and sounds) amazing. In London and Oxfordshire Lassco is pretty exciting.
Favourite British design icon?
Margaret Howell (above).
What are you most proud of?
Creating a model for business that is uniquely beneficial and finding a way to make it work.
Who are your favourite UK makers and why?
Apart from my own, I really love the textiles of Forest & Found and pottery of Kana London (above) – their products epitomise beauty in imperfection, natural textures and colours and a talent for story telling.
How important is sourcing British/local to you – and why?
It’s absolutely vital. For people to feel connected with their possessions they need to know about them. And the closer to home they are made, the easier that is. From an environmental (and cost) perspective it makes sense for us to use materials that are natural to our environment (willow or elm, for example), not just because it is greener but because it looks and feels nicer too. And working with only British makers allows us to close the production loop, avoid waste and create opportunities at home rather than the possibility of exploiting people abroad.
Best place to unwind/escape to in the British Isles?
The Gower – Llangennith has the perfect longboarding waves. And Bruton in Somerset which is where the lovely Caro shop is (above)…
Best piece of advice you could share?
Find a partner. Making decisions alone is hard and having someone to bounce ideas off or share disappointments with would be nice. And remember that anything worth doing is never going to be easy.
What are you listening to/reading/watching right now?
I’m currently reading How to be a Craftivist by Sarah Corbett – a really inspiring book about the art of gentle protest, and how to inspire people to want to challenge injustice in a really effective way.
What do you think is the secret to being happy?
Perspective, acceptance and just enough resistance.
What are your goals for the future?
For ethical British interiors to become a proper sector of interest and for Aerende to be a byword and benchmark for good practice in that area. I’d also like to work on collaborations with artists and designers I admire, and for more opportunities for disadvantaged makers and craftspeople.
Photography: Anna & Tam
Kana photographs: Ola O Smit
Aerende is listed in the From Britain with Love directory here >>
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