Aabelard

By Kate Marsden

Something a little different for you this week – not a greetings card in sight! Aabelard aprons are really pretty special (I’m coveting an apron – never thought I’d say that!) and today we meet the founder Philippa Hayward who tells us all about her business, and why she loves a nice apron...

Tell us a little about you. What do you do?

I’m the founder of Aabelard, a new British-made brand of luxury, customisable, leather and waxed cotton aprons.  I’ve designed them to suit both men and women equally fabulously and to make them enormously robust yet truly comfortable to wear.

I wear an apron ALL the time, so I’ve worked really hard to ensure that Aabelard aprons not only look great but are really able to take whatever your day may throw at them – be that baby food, cake mix or mud.  I’ve put in lots of extra details such as double-stitched pockets and leather-backed rivets to make sure they really work well.  Plus, they come in two different styles, two sizes and five glorious colours.  Handmade in the UK by skilled leather craftsmen, they really are a piece that you can pass on to the next generation.

What does a typical day involve?

I have three children, 2 cats, 9 ducks and a husband who travels a lot, so a typical day involves a lot of making sure I’m organized enough to dedicate four or five hours solely to my business without it causing chaos within the family. 

As an online startup I spend a LOT of time on social media.  I post daily, so photography is now a big part of my life and I post recipes and blogs regularly. I’m trying to create a sense of community around the type of people who wear an Aabelard apron and that strategy seems to be working well.  It’s great because it means that I get to connect with all sorts of people, so another part of my day is spent connecting with customers old and new to learn more about them and their stories.  I’m starting to include them on the site as well.

Plus, I do all the customisation and fulfillment from home too.

Then, its back to the family, homework, after-school clubs etc etc.  Then hopefully some downtime in the evening.

Where do you work? What is your studio space like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?

I work at home at a large desk looking out onto my garden.  It’s lovely, I get to watch the day in all its moods and there’s a fat pheasant whose keeping me entertained at the moment.  

I have to be careful not to disappear into a black hole of work – there are never enough hours to do everything I want to do, so I’m learning to structure my day as I would a ‘normal’ job. 

I’ve got an enormous mood board filled with ideas – I pin new stuff on there everyday. 

My other key workspace is my kitchen.  All the recipes I post are my own so they have to be tested, photographed and written up in what I hope is an entertaining way.

What do you consider to be the main challenges facing designer makers at the moment?

One of the main challenges is a lack of consumer awareness of exactly how labour and time-intensive a handmade item is.  Combine this with the price of raw materials and often things have a high make cost.  Customers are very used to getting things cheaply and sometimes see that as a given.  It seems to me that this disconnect is one of the biggest problems. 

People want something original and beautifully made with love, but they don’t want to pay for it.  This makes a small, artisan producer’s life a constant juggling act.

What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?

I’d like Aabelard to become synonymous with practical luxury; to be one of the go-to names for quality gifting. I have other products I’d like to design to fit into the brand and I’d also like to curate other people’s work under the brand ethic of ‘Useful made beautiful.’ 

I also hope to use Aabelard to show my three sons that their mother is more than just someone who gives great hugs and picks up socks!

Do you have any tips for fellow designer makers/small business owners who are reading this and may be just starting out? 

My advice would be to have a clear idea of what you want out of the business.  If you want to stay small, stay small – you have to love what you do to do it everyday, particularly if you are working by yourself. 

You will work your proverbial behind off anyway but don’t let it take over your life completely.  Schedule the hours you work as much as possible and stick to that.  Have a weekend (at least once in a while).

Trust yourself – you will have moments or great doubt and stress, but if you have faith in your product that will give you the strength to go on.

If you’re feeling stuck – just do one small work-related thing that day.  One small thing will turn into a bigger achievement the next day.

Ask for help and advice.  Friends and family are there for a reason.

Please share any favourite independent shops/galleries and tell us why you like them.

I love Catesby’s in Cambridge – a great selection of classic interior products. 

The Foodie Bugle in Bath is a cornucopia of foodie delights.

I’m in neon heaven in God’s Own Junk Yard in London’s E17; visit their café and wait for your eyes to pop out of your head!

Re-found Objects is one of my favourite sites to browse for a wonderfully colourful selection of finds.

Such&Such the online boutique has a subtle and thoughtful collection of items that make great homeware and lifestyle gifts plus their blogs and magazine are beautiful.

Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?

Yes, I was aware of the message behind the Just A Card campaign and I think it’s vital.  Any sale is a sale and can help keep the small businesses’ self confidence afloat as well as boosting their bank balance.

Where did you hear about the campaign and which Social Media platforms do you use most frequently? What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?

I discovered the campaign on Facebook if I remember correctly.  I use Instagram daily, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and try and put slightly different messages on all sites.