Aerende is an Old English word meaning “care” or “message”. It’s a good choice of name for this new e-homewares store that offers a selection of chic goods with social responsibility. “I have always had a shopkeeping fantasy,” says founder and former travel editor Emily Mathieson, “but I didn’t want to set up something that contributed to what I see are the problems of rampant, thoughtless consumption. The aim of Aerende is to provide opportunity, meaningful activity and revenue to people who can’t access conventional employment, while also challenging stigma by offering a thoughtful and stylish collection of desirable products that stand up on their own.”
And stand up they do. The handcarved elm chopping board (£44), for example, which was made in Edinburgh by people with mental health issues, wouldn’t look out of place in the most design-conscious of kitchens. On the beauty front, the soaps and lotions with scents such as poppy and wild fig (Bather gift set, £42.50)by The Soap Company – the positive luxury arm of the charity Clarity, which employs blind and other disabled people – prove with their minimally monochrome packaging that sound ethics are no bar to chicness.
Aerende is a micro-boutique at present, but Mathieson has curated it well. Alongside failsafe items such as the linen duvet cover (£185), made by disadvantaged women in east London, and the pleasingly textural and graphic chevron cushions (£125), designed and handstitched by members of the prison-based social enterprise Fine Cell Work, are unique, limited edition pieces, such as the Striped Cathedral screen print (£35 unframed). A quiet evocation in pen and ink of a Sunday Eucharist in Hertfordshire, it was drawn by a former designer and father of three who ended up homeless and now lives in the woods in the Home Counties.
Mathieson’s aim is to make Aerende “a benchmark for conscious consumers and a byword for natural, timeless style and responsible business”. She is certainly off to a good start.