Inside Aldo’s Massive Montreal Headquarters

Upon arrival at Aldo HQ, we were warned about the “Kool-Aid.” And we immediately came to suspect that it was to blame for everyone’s positive attitude, obviously happy demeanor, and team spirit — and by everyone, we mean the 1,300-member team that currently works out of the head office and distribution center in Montreal.”It’s like a thing,” creative director and VP of marketing, Douglas Bensadoun told us. “I don’t believe for a second that we’re just selling shoes, just like I don’t believe for a second that people work here just for the paycheck.” But sell shoes they do. To industry insiders, Bensadoun is a name that’s readily associated with successful women’s footwear — just take a look at his father, Mr. B. First name: Aldo.Turning the big 4-0 this year, as well as celebrating the opening of a new flagship store in Montreal — a city that fosters creative talent and supplies endless inspiration with it’s rich culture and European charm — Aldo opened the doors of its offices (and sample closets!) to us, for a peek at the amazing workspace behind the mall brand we’ve loved since middle school.We must admit, even after a few hours lost inside the footwear wonderland, it was tough to pinpoint the exact secret to the brand’s success. Could it be the home-away-from-home headquarters, the massive art collection that fills it, and the seasonal garden that surrounds it? Or perhaps it’s the team. Either way, if it really is a special elixir that helps Aldo stay so historically on-point and innovative, then we’ll happily drink up.

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Welcome to Aldo! (Play a game of I Spy and spot the olive tree that Mr. B placed in the middle of the light-filled atrium.)

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Vyara Ndejuru, director of marketing

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What does your typical work day look like?
“My day-to-day consists of a two-pronged role of building strategy and operations. It’s really about making sure that the stores and our teams have the right equipment, have everything that they need to roll out a promotion, to roll out an in-store animation. What do you say to customers when they come in? How do we excite our own store teams? My goal in life is to have our teams know what we’re up to, what we’re doing, how it involves them, how they can participate, and to share my enthusiasm for the brand.”

What’s your favorite thing about this work environment?
“There’s spaces where people can congregate. Right in the middle of our beautiful atrium, there’s the olive tree. So, around the olive tree, there are all these spots where you can sit down and hang out if you want to read a book, read a magazine, chill out, or listen to some music.”

How would you describe your personal style? 
“My approach to personal style is to try and fail often. I think if you don’t have an embarrassing fashion moment, you don’t love fashion.”

What is currently your favorite Aldo product?
“Okay, I’m obsessed with this shoe. The Aldo and Flare collab with Liz Cabral (seen here). I really love it because it is a very, very bold combination of not only color, but texture. Pony hair and patent, not something you see a lot. A blocked heel is not something we do really well with, but it’s sold out.”

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How does the Montreal serve as a source of inspiration for you guys?
“Everyone comes here with a background, and together it makes for a very interesting mix culturally. With men, women, black, white, Asian, gay, straight, Muslim, and Christian people — I think this is one of the most peaceful places I’ve seen. I mean, there are extremes, but I think there are really beautiful values of social justice that Aldo has been inspired by, that have been extracted from the city.” 

What are your favorite Aldo office traditions?
“Honestly, this is going to sound super tacky, but our internal meetings are really quite spectacular. We have one that is called Insight, and the other one is called Imagine, and at those things, what we really do is celebrate our traditions and our cultures. That’s one of the things that I like most about working here.”

What can we expect to see from Aldo in the future that we haven’t seen in these first 40 years? 
“What’s exciting is that 40 years have allowed us to have a great conversation and to share some memories with the people who have seen us grow over the years. Especially for our Canadian fan base, there are so many memories, whether it’s that first job interview, that first kiss, that first date, your second interview, your wedding, your sister’s wedding — so many really, really key moments in your life that are associated with Aldo. We just want to rekindle that relationship and we want to let there to be 40 more years for us to share together and make so many more memories.”

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Kathy Acimovic, senior strategist 

What is your role at Aldo?
“I actually started off at Aldo as the senior PR manager, and then I got really involved in the story-telling of the brand. I kicked off Aldo Rise, which is our collaborations program, and I’ve really dived into that. One of the big things that Mr. B. — our founder — always talks about is fostering everyone’s individual talent. It’s not so much about the positions that are available, but the positions you naturally grow into. I’m fortunate enough to have lived that experience.” 

What do you think is the most unique part of this work environment?
“It’s not a corporate culture at all. It’s a family business, and everyone who works at Aldo is part of the family. Yes, we have meetings and horrible presentations. But sometimes things happen over lunch and all of a sudden, we’re launching a whole new program. Here, everybody is really keen on a challenge and really into trying new things.” 

How would you describe your own personal style? 
“I dress very inappropriately for work. I’m always dressed up. It doesn’t matter if it’s a casual day or not. Anything that’s kind of feminine and girly with a print, I’ll wear.” 

What’s your current favorite Aldo product?
“Right now, because it’s our 40th anniversary, I will be wearing these ruby shoes for the next couple of weekends.”

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Tell us about the first ALDO Rise collab. 
“It was with Julian Louie. They were like, ‘I have this shoe that I want to do, I have this ikat print that I’m using, can you guys do it?’ And we did it. And then it became this Twitter phenomenon where people were like, ‘Aldo, can these please go into production with Julian Louie?’ That was what kicked it off and convinced everyone internally. Then, we turned it into what is today — Aldo Rise. Now we’re working with Preen and Patrik Ervell. We just did an incredible collaboration with Roksanda [Ilincic]. I can’t wait to see what’s next on the roster.” 

What can we expect to see from Aldo in the future that we haven’t seen in these first 40 years? 
“With Aldo Rise, there are always new, exciting designers on the horizon that we’re looking to work with. And I think Aldo, as a brand, is really coming into its own. There are going to be some new special projects with our men’s collection, as well. Mr. B‘s. We’re really excited for the next 10 years, ’til we gear up to celebrate our 50th.”

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Douglas Bensadoun, creative director and VP of marketing 

What does your typical work day look like?
“I’m the creative director and VP of marketing so my daily tasks revolve around one of those two areas or a combination of both. The creative-director part is that every piece of creative that leaves the building or is created in an Aldo environment, I have a hand in. And the marketing determines what channels it’s distributed through, and how heavily we invest in each one of them.” 

What do you think is the most unique part of this work environment?
“The people here live by the company’s values of love, integrity, and respect. There’s like a thing. There is some Kool-Aid. People are into it.” 

Where do you look for inspiration?
“The environment itself is inspiring, but I think the environment is nothing without the people, the creative energy, and the passion that fills it. The reality is, for me, what motivates me is not some world domination of the footwear landscape. It’s not a sales figure; it’s the people that I work with everyday.”

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What are your favorite Aldo office traditions?
“We have a cabin in Vermont. We all go down and spend three days, just cruising around and having fun doing different actives, like we’ll have four different teams have a competition for who makes the best apple pie.” 

As a man, how do you approach the creative direction for a women’s shoes and accessories collection? 
I’m very detail oriented and I have a keen fascination and love for women. And I pay attention. I was able to buy clothes for my girlfriends when I was younger because of it. I like the romance and the story telling that goes along with dressing and styling. I also love the idea that somebody can wear something and it makes her feel a certain way that ultimately affects her behavior. That’s the part that fascinates me most for men and women.” 

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Reanna Evoy, art director (left)

What does your typical work day look like?
“I am the art director for Aldo. A large part of my job is making sure that the brand looks its best, that it’s elevated and consistent. I work on a lot of campaign extensions for Aldo — everything from how it looks in Saudi Arabia to how it looks in stores, here. It’s pretty much everything that has to do with visually making the brand look awesome.” 

What are your favorite office traditions observed at Aldo?
“We have this awesome garden in the back of the office. It’s huge space where we’re all able to plant our tomatoes or strawberries, and during lunch hour in the summertime, we go into the garden — it’s kind of like an enchanted forest area — and we just brainstorm about ideas. It’s a beautiful space to be in.”

What has been one of your favorite projects to date? 
“For the 40th anniversary, we’ve been working with an amazing collaborator, The Commons. They have designed this unbelievable space for the new Aldo flagship opening. That was really fun collaboration, watching how they can take the brand and make it more of an environmental design. It’s so fascinating how you can curate and look at the history of Aldo and learn more about the company as we go.”

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Reanna wears the Patrik Ervell Aldo Rise collaboration heels. Killer, right?

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Each work space is as creative as the team member who works here.

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The design department has boards upon boards upon boards of inspiration shots and sketches of the shoes we’ll be dreaming of next season.

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Things take form in the men’s department.

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olleen Bradish, director of product development, ladies footwear

What does your typical work day look like?
“The day to day is crazy. It’s always that way. We tend to deal with about four different seasons at the same time. We’re looking at sales of what’s in stores right now. We’ve already built our spring collection and then we’re kind of injecting things into spring last minute if we think we’ve missed something or if there’s a last-minute trend we want to throw in.” 

How would you describe your own personal style? 
“I’d say I’m a bit schizophrenic. I love everything. I love it all the time and I love it in excess. I’m constantly evolving and changing and I want to get my hands on everything. I think that when it comes to work though, because I deal with so much product, I do have to be comfortable.” 

What’s the best part of working in this environment?
“The eclectic mix of people. We have so many people from different parts of the world, different personalities. Someone who’s really into anthropology would be all over this place because everybody is just so different and unique, but it just kind of works that way.

“I’d say another great thing about working here is that it’s constantly evolving so you’ll never get bored. I’m the type of person who likes to have my hands in all kinds of different things so this place is like heaven for me because we always have some kind of project going on.”

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What inspires you most, here?
“I think the question is, ‘what doesn’t inspire us?’ I mean we’re looking at blogs and we’re traveling…and I’d say that a lot of the inspiration actually comes from the people who work here. There will be some girls that will come in here wearing some great vintage shoes, or this one girl actually had this vest that she picked up in Peru that had all this really great tapestry on it and I had to beg her: I was like, ‘Okay, let me know any shoe that you want and I will get it for you completely for free if you just give me this vest,’ because we wanted to be able to put that type of treatment onto the footwear. We like those unexpected places to find ideas.”

How do you think Aldo transcends time and speaks to women of different ages? 
“Our goal is to speak to a lot of different people, and we like making fashion accessible. I think it comes from just the culture. Mr. B, himself, even to this day, is really involved with the product and he’s constantly questioning the collection from different angles and he’ll actually ask me questions sometimes— ‘Think about the way you would’ve looked when you were 22 years old and you first started, and now that you’re a professional 30-something woman, how do you look at it?’ So, I think it’s just something that’s just engrained in us. We try to cater to a lot of different people. 

“I think another thing that actually helps us is that we’re based out of Montreal. I think that when you’re in one of the top fashion cities, like New York or London, it’s great because you’re always around the newest and the greatest. But because we’re based here, we get a realistic sense of ‘will people actually wear this?’ or ‘will this appeal to the masses?’ We tend to look at a trend or an idea and say ‘Is this something that you can picture a girl actually walking around the streets of Montreal wearing?'” 

What is currently your favorite Aldo product?
“At the moment, it’s really easy. Probably the sneaker wedges. They’re all so comfortable, and it’s nice when there’s a comfortable trend that’s in fashion.”

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So. Many. Shoes. This sample closet is what dreams are made of.
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Stefan Weisgerber, buyer/product development, men’s accessories 

What does your typical work day look like?
“I’m responsible for the buying and the product development for the men’s accessories. So, when the week starts, you review the last week, you see what the results were. You look into your bestsellers and you see what’s not selling. My role is to develop new product, and to make sure the right merchandise is in the stores at the right time. So, it’s a really cool mix of numbers and also creative. Every day, there’s something different to do. It’s not a typical office job.” 

What do you think is the most unique part of this work environment?
“I call it a campus. We have a beach-volleyball field. There used to be a baseball field out there as well, it’s now parking lots. You can spend your whole day here really. You have the Starbucks downstairs. So, it’s a really nice atmosphere to come to. You’re also surrounded by beautiful art. You have some absolutely incredible paintings here that are worth a lot of money and a lot of people probably don’t even recognize that.”

What are your favorite office traditions observed at Aldo?
“Well, I think my favorite is actually the half-day Fridays during the summertime, to be honest. [laughs] It’s nice to be here, but Montreal has such long winters. Sometimes it starts snowing in November and it goes all the way to April. And when you have the summertime, you really like the summer. So, you go out on a Friday at one o’clock with your colleagues from work, and you go out for a drink, and sometimes you go out to play some golf. It sounds really stupid, but it’s such a nice feeling that the company actually takes care of you. They know that the summers are precious here in Montreal, and when you work here, they give you a little more time to enjoy it somehow.”

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A collection of the many Aldo Fights Aids campaign images.

How would you describe the Aldo man?
“I think our customer is really evolving in the way that he’s getting really on-trend. He’s shopping around. He goes to a lot stores. He’s informed, he’s reading GQ, he’s reading magazines, he’s maybe even on some blogs. I think our customer appreciates honest brands. That’s what we’re trying to do with the product that I’m designing or that I’m developing.” 

What can we expect to see from Aldo in the future that we haven’t seen in the first 40? 
“We’re in 80 countries by the end of the year. That’s pretty crazy to think about, like for a company out of Montreal. We’re privately owned, at the same time. We’re not like a Ralph Lauren, we’re not an H&M, yet, or Zara. But I think the idea is that we will be very, very soon the leading footwear and accessory company in the world. I think it’s pretty incredible to be at the point where you’re still looking to get there.” 

There’s lots of women in this office. What’s it like working in such a female-centric workplace?
“Let’s just say I have a lot of friends who are very jealous of me. It doesn’t really influence my work because I really focus on men’s products. But, I have a lot of friends coming over, joining me for lunch, just to be here for support. [laughs]”

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In the men’s department, the team plays around with some of the colorful details of future collections.

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Jackie Yermus, designer, women’s footwear

What does your typical work day look like?
“I’m a shoe designer. I work with a group of eight people. Day to day, it varies all the time, but our hands are always in multiple seasons. While you’re closing Q2, you’re starting Q3, and maybe you’re confirming Q1B. There’s a lot going on everyday.” 

What’s been your favorite project, to date? 
“I always love working on Aldo Rise. I usually head those projects. Working with the designers, it’s just a nice, fresh experience. Trying to translate these off-the-cuff ideas into commercial, wearable Aldo shoes.” 

What is currently your favorite Aldo product?
“These aren’t in stores yet, but they’re my most favorite upcoming item. These are from the Preen collaboration (seen here). They’re going to be in stores as of March. These are my loves. They’re straight off the runway. As soon as I got the sample, I sent an email to the supplier, ‘Can you just send over an extra pair in 37?'”

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Where do you find your sources of inspiration?
“Working in this building with a thousand Aldo customers is a really nice source of inspiration. We look to the girls that are currently our customers, look at pop culture, and look at where things are going and where that girl is going to be in that year. We really try to make it customer-focused and think about the Aldo girl. And there are different types of Aldo girls so we have to think about all of them. We look to pop culture, art, music, music fests, all that stuff.”

What are your favorite office traditions observed at Aldo?
“This was Mr. B’s kitchen table [Ed note: Though not pictured, this was main wooden table in the middle of the design office.]. He brought it from his house because he said it always brought him good luck, and he wanted product to have good luck because the product makes the store. So, if we’re having a meeting about something…we’re always like, ‘Okay, let’s meet at the kitchen table!'” 

What can we expect to see from Aldo in the future that we haven’t seen in the first 40? 
“More collaborations on the way. Those are really fun to work on. [Also] our London office is just getting started. So, maybe a more international reach.”

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We went bag stalking inside this sample closet. Can you blame us?

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Andrew Vieira, senior product developer-line builder, men’s footwear

What does your typical work day look like?
“My responsibility is men’s product development.  And our day to day role, myself and the team, is basically research and development. We want to know more about our customer.  We want to know more about what’s going on in the world and what affects our customer.” 

Where do you find inspiration?
“I’ve been doing this job for just over 10 years, and 10 years ago, it was just one way. It was very systematical. But a great thing about our customer — and I think the consumer in general today— is sources of inspiration come from everywhere. The web being a big part of our life, we see it in our customer. Today it can be pop culture, it can be musicians that are influencing our customer. It can be current events going on in the world. It could be peace and war. Just because events today can reach everyone so quickly, we feel our customer evolves so much faster today than ever before.” 

What do you think is the most unique part of this work environment?
“From the colors on the walls to the way it’s laid out, I think it’s the atmosphere. It’s the people in the group that make a difference. I’ve always said, in the time I’ve spent working here, it’s incredible how you get the chance to meet so many different people. One is more inspirational than the next. They make your experience that much better.”

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What are your favorite Aldo office traditions?
“We have a few of them. Being the men’s team…you know, boys will be boys.  We are a pretty tight team. The men’s team consists of about 10 individuals between product and buying. In a building where we are the minority, we tend to stick together a lot. The boys always eat lunch with the boys. I don’t know if you could say macho-ism or manliness, but there’s that reuniting of the boys. 
[Also] we are a product-driven team. We receive samples every hour of the day. It’s a really fun experience. We have rules where you wouldn’t open a box of samples until everyone’s around, so we can all partake in the excitement. There’s a rule. You will be banned if you open a box on your own. That’s why I say ‘boys will be boys.’ They seem like rules that only guys would have amongst themselves.” 

How would you describe your own personal style? 
“I’d refer to my own individual style as something classic. Something that can survive through long-going trends. I find myself more inspired by the things that are kind of staple classics in fashion, rather than one-offs.”

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Bensadoun wears the Patrik Ervell Aldo Rise collaboration men’s shoe, a favorite among the men in the office. Here’s to another 40 years, Aldo!

Photographed by 

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