Run by cousins Mark and Paul and so named after their great, great grandfather, Fred Aldous is an homage to family run business. Growing up with the shop, they have both worked there for a good seventeen years around their own university studies in 3D design, meaning that art, design and creativity have run through their blood since childhood. Paul jokes that before they ever received a first pay cheque, they were paid in clay. This immersion in art and craft took them quite naturally to their position as the heads of Fred Aldous for the past ten years, where they have moulded a strong, appealing brand. Now, as the arts and craft scene booms, we meet them at their new Leeds shop and chat about all things craft.
Leeds was a very natural destination choice for their new location given the sad void of haberdasheries and craft shops which have since closed. “As soon as we walked in we could see that is was right for us here”. The heritage space is an amazing site for a company with such a history. They sell a range 27,000 products from 400 different suppliers, eclipsing even massive stores like Ikea, and most supermarkets.
Over the years, customers have helped to curate the stock, offering suggestions of which gaps to fill, meaning that it is very much a shop for the people. A great example is the tattoo shop Oddfellows, where one of their artists popped in for a chat, prompting them to look into stocking a very particular brand and weight of paper pads that he used for sketching. This gives Fred Aldous the essential local, independent edge that will surely make them a hit in Leeds. Even when I visit, and the shop is half littered with new, unopened stock in cardboard boxes, people pop in in a steady stream.
This is also reflected in a few of their own brand products, including paper pads and frames which, instead of featuring sickly stock shots of anonymous nuclear families, the space is utilised to showcase artistic talent, largely sourced from the Manchester collective Outhouse. Currently working closely on their next batch of artists to involve, the pair seem excited about the collaboration, with the view towards developing a regular showcase. Although they certainly have a brand that would set any hip young thing’s heart a-flutter, Fred Aldous are incredibly inclusive and spread the simple philosophy that they stock everything for anyone; as long as they love craft they’re happy. As Paul puts it “We’re steeped in it, making stuff. It means we’re always looking into new stock and things that people are increasingly interested in; We don’t tend to discontinue stuff either” they laugh, which might explain why the stock is so diverse, and so vast!
Their gift range is also a stand out feature, dominating the ground floor of the shop (with the basement dedicated to weird and wonderful crafts). Expanding over the years allowed them to complement the craft-orientated stock with more gift related items, evolving similarly over time by connecting with likeminded brands and designers, ranging from UK based brands like The Printed Peanut’s beautifully illustrated items (making pass the parcel oh-so-cool again) to more international but well-admired design brands; their most recent venture being Danish company Hay whose muted Scandinavian ranges are extremely tempting.
Whatever your interests, the sheer range of stock alone is intriguing enough to justify a visit and who knows, you might even develop a crafty interest you never knew you had.