Located in the Cornish town of Nansledan, Love of Lemons blends the old and the new with its curated line-up of vintage gems and sustainable brands. The bricks-and-mortar boutique is a new enterprise, having only opened its doors in November 2021. Flanked by the area’s other indie newbies, it forms part of a new development that’s being spearheaded by the Duchy of Cornwall. Already, its concept is being lapped up by the town’s conscious shoppers who are increasingly favouring local enterprises over corporate giants.
The boutique is the brainchild of former SEN teacher Bex Osman, who has a penchant for vintage clothing and making other people happy. Its concept is an extension of her own personal style, which sees her combining socks and Birkenstocks, for example, with vintage Levi’s and old ‘grandma-style’ cardigans. “I love vintage clothing but wearing it head-to-toe doesn’t always work,” she says. “I like to put modern styling into it to bring old pieces back to life. This is where the idea came from for the boutique.”
Love of Lemons began life online in May 2021, just as the UK was emerging from its third national lockdown. While it initially began selling mostly vintage, the store and website now also stocks around 20 new brands, which are merchandised as stories with new and old pieces sitting alongside. “That’s really key for me as it’s how I create my outfits,” says Osman. Shoppers can find a selection of vintage Italian skirts, knitwear, denim and retro jeans that can be styled with its new tops, blouses, jewellery and outerwear. “It’s a unique curation of pieces that comes from my love of fashion and styling,” she adds.
Having initially studied Fashion Styling and Photography at the London College of Fashion, Osman had a change of heart about her career during a stint traveling around Australia: “I’d specialised in photography and at that time everything had just started to go digital,” she says. “So, when I came back to the UK I decided to re-train in Early Years and went into teaching, eventually working with children with special needs.”
The would-be indie owner found the role incredibly rewarding. However, it was both emotionally and physically draining, too. And after becoming a mum, she eventually found herself reaching burnout. So, when an opportunity came up to work at a new local independent lifestyle store in Cornwall, she seized the chance to go back to her first love. “I began working on the shop floor, but my role developed quickly,” she says. “Soon I was managing the boutique, building its social media presence, doing styling appointments with customers and then going to London on buying trips. It was really exciting as I was able to watch it grow from a start-up into an established business.”
Fast forward to eight years and a pandemic later and Osman found herself wanting to pursue a long-harboured dream of running her own business. “Everything else in my life felt settled and I realised it was very much a case of ‘now or never,’” she says. So last spring, Love of Lemons launched its online shop selling Italian and French vintage pieces. During this time, Osman was also avidly searching for unique brands that would complement her one-off finds as well as tying in with her own conscious ethos. “The sustainable side of the business is so important to me,” she says. “Everyone here in Newquay is really aware of the environment, so whatever Love of Lemons has on sale really needs to reflect that.”
Just five months after its initial launch, the boutique opened its physical store selling vintage picks alongside womenswear and accessories from largely unknown brands with interesting back stories. “I love to discover new designers that no one else has heard of,” she says. “I’ve tried to create my own buying journey, avoiding trade shows and finding suppliers that are small and that most people won’t have heard of.”
The owner has found many of her brands while travelling. Love of Lemons currently stocks lifestyle products from Hossegar-based French brand The Nomad Society, which produces hand-poured candles in small batches. It also carries vegan beauty brand Lucky Cloud, meanwhile, whose range is made by hand in Scotland using plant-based ingredients. Shoppers can also buy compostable and sustainable greetings cards by UK-based brand Lauren Marina and well-priced accessories from Netherlands’ label Monk and Anna, which is run by three creatives.
“I love to discover new designers. I’ve tried to create my own buying journey, avoiding trade shows and finding suppliers that are small and that most people won’t have heard of.”Bex Osman
The first fashion brand to come on board with Love of Lemons was Le Bonne Shop from California, which offers vintage tees, organic cotton basics and socks. The boutique also stocks timeless feminine pieces from Spanish labels Yarse and ese O ese as well as French knitwear – offered at a slightly high price point – from Las Racines du Ciel. Five jeans is also a core brand for the store, while it is also the UK’s only stockist of Byron Bay-based brand Thrills, which offers vintage-inspired styles in recyclable fabrics. Vintage dresses at the boutique start from around £30 while new knitwear made from organic alpaca wool costs up to £160 per piece. “I do try and keep our prices affordable, but we all like a treat now and again so investing in some beautiful key pieces makes sense,” says Osman.
Most recently, Love of Lemons introduced Scottish homewares brand the Tartan Company, which uses recycled garment fabric to slow down landfill. “This is another awesome independent family-run brand,” Osman says. “The concept of using recycled materials sits really well our concept. All the frills for its blankets are also sewn by women, not machinery – a conscious decision so it can employ more people for its production.” Next season, Swedish footwear brand Lotta Clogs will also arrive at the boutique, with Osman bringing in authentic handmade clogs made from ethical Swedish Alder and vegetable-tanned nubuck leather.
But Love of Lemon’s biggest USP is its selection of vintage pieces, which Osman handpicks herself to create a truly unique line-up. The owner visits vintage wholesalers in London at least once each month, riffling through huge bins of clothes to find the perfect pieces. “I find it so exciting, and I know exactly what I’m looking for,” she says. “I feel my way through the bins, using my hands to pick out the pieces I like the feel of before pulling them out to look at them visually. I can tell straightaway if they will sit well with the rest of the shop – and I only ever buy pieces I love and would wear myself.”
While Love of Lemons does stock some branded vintage when available such as Burberry macs and Converse trainers, Osman says she usually prefers to choose garments based on their own merits: “With unbranded vintage you get a lot more detailing and craftmanship,” she says. “Some things have even been handmade, with really gorgeous cuts and darts and pleats in beautiful places. Attention to detail is really what I’m looking for.”
But while buying is clearly a real passion for the boutique owner, she says her biggest sense of achievement comes from seeing her customers fall in love with her choices. And for this reason, Osman decided to open her physical shop in November instead of selling exclusively online: “I have an invested relationship with all my vintage pieces so selling them gives me so much joy,” she says. “Sometimes people are so excited that they walk out wearing their vintage items – it’s so lovely to be able to share the love I have for those pieces.”
The physical boutique also allows Osman to spend time styling her customers – something she felt she wasn’t able to replicate properly online: “I like to see people and understand their shape and personality,” she says. “Clothes can give build a person’s confidence and self-esteem – I can tell if they’re happy or not as soon as they’ve put something on. My main aim to make sure every person leaves the shop feeling happy.”
As a new boutique entering another uncertain new year, Love of Lemons may have a difficult period ahead. But with a strong ethos and USP, shoppers are already buying into its concept – and that looks set to continue. So, for Osman, 2022 will be about strengthening what’s already in place and growing her business organically. “I’m not going to rush, I’m going to go with the flow and listen to my customers,” she says. “It’s early days, but customers are really enjoying what’s on offer. I want to make sure I stay true to my original ethos and focus on the road ahead instead of looking at what everyone else is doing. I don’t want to do anything that could dilute my dream.”