Mrs Peel herself tells Mark Kebble what inspired the creation of Lemonpeel London and why it’s all about Hertfordshire
You had a successful career in book publishing – but during that time, were you thinking about doing your own thing in fashion?
Absolutely not! I could never have imagined I’d be working in fashion. But, I’ve always loved clothes and have always had a clear sense of my own style.
Pre-Lemonpeel London, you were involved in two other start-ups I believe. What were they?
Yes, I had a handmade jewellery business for a while, YaYa Designs, but I couldn’t make the costs work on that one. My bespoke pieces took literally hours to create using semi-precious stones and sterling silver and sadly, not enough people were prepared to pay the prices and I just couldn’t make any money. Five years ago I started, and still run, a luxury leather and waxed cotton apron business called Aabelard (aabelard.co.uk). I learnt a lot from that in terms of designing my own product, sourcing the very best quality materials and, of course, running an online business. I think anyone with an entrepreneurial bent will get that fact that some start-ups work and some don’t. The important thing is you can learn just as much about business from your failures as your successes.
What inspired you to get Lemonpeel London off the ground?
I started thinking about Lemonpeel last summer during lockdown. My three boys were largely self-sufficient and I wanted to try and achieve something positive out of the difficulties of the pandemic. I wanted to have something to show from all those hours that we all had to spend at home. Once the idea of t-shirts came into my mind, I simply couldn’t shake it. I was obsessed, making lists and drawings literally all the time.
It’s also important to me that my three boys see me not just as their mum, but as someone who can take an idea and create a business from it. I hope it gives them a different perspective on potential careers and the confidence to try things for themselves later in life; plus, it’s vital they understand what women are capable of!
Why the name?
I was looking for something clean, fresh and vibrant. I love the name Lemonpeel London – it rolls off the tongue, plus it’s easy to remember. The name led to a great logo and, most importantly, it meant I could become Mrs Peel and fans of the brand could be Lemonpeelers. Mrs Peel is central to the brand and allows me to speak directly to customers via Instagram and Facebook. I’ve tried to create a magazine-type feel on my social media and I/Mrs Peel do regular try-ons and styling suggestions. Hopefully, it gives people a reason to come back to Lemonpeel instead of just showing boring old pictures of t-shirts all the time. It all fits into my idea of creating a tribe of Lemonpeel fans who return to the brand looking for new, quirky designs.
And why did you want to focus on t-shirts?
I chose t-shirts because they can be a staple of every woman’s wardrobe. T-shirts have an aura of cool about them, a touch of rock and roll and I think they’re super versatile. I try and create designs that can go from day to night and from casual to smart depending how you choose to style them. If you want to style your tee with jeans and trainers fine, but equally, I think some of the designs look amazing with an women’s tux for example or a skirt and sequin jacket. I wanted to create a library of tees so that you can pull out a design that suits your mood that day.
Lemonpeel London is sustainable through and through. Why is that important to you?
I cannot stand waste, especially wasted clothing. The idea of clothes made in sweatshops from cheap materials that will not break down, but simply sit in landfill is abhorrent to me. As is deadstock. It’s just wrong.
Lemonpeel is a slow fashion brand – I print only in very small quantities using sustainably sourced materials and vegan ink. It’s one of the core values of the brand. To me, it seems like a win win. It’s better for the planet and, if you have a Lemonpeel t-shirt, you know that you’re wearing a top-quality product, at an affordable price – plus, because my print runs are intentionally so small, there’s a degree of exclusivity too.
How are your t-shirts produced?
I buy sustainably produced 100% organic t-shirts where I can trace the production process from crop growth to garment manufacture. Every step of the way, the garments are globally certificated to ensure that the environmental impact is minimised, and that worker’s rights and wages are protected. I then print in the UK using a small eco-ethical printer. Everything else is done by me – all the packing and posting is done from my home.
I love how fun the t-shirt designs are. Where do your ideas come from?
If you ever spent more than a few hours with me, you’d know that I’m constantly looking around for inspiration and taking pictures of colour combinations or things that I might be able to use in a design. I have lists of words and phrases on my phone that I constantly add to. One of my favourite designs, Evil Eyes, was inspired by a holiday in Greece and one of the upcoming autumn designs is inspired by graffiti. One of the joys of coming up with ideas for my own designs is that I don’t have to stick to any rules! I don’t have to create ‘a collection’, I can do what I want and hopefully people will like it. My aim is to create fun, stylish designs with great colour combinations, t-shirts for grown-ups that women will want to wear on repeat.
What’s the latest launch?
Make Lemonade is the latest tee. It was inspired by creating Lemonpeel itself – turning the negatives of lockdown into a massive positive for me personally. Lemonpeel has given me incredible focus and shown me just how driven I can be. I’m a 56-year old mum of three, but I still managed to pull off setting up a business during lockdown and that makes me very proud. Lemonpeel is my lemonade. I hope the message behind the tee resonates with others who’ve turned around the negatives in their own lives.
Finally, how long have you lived in Bishop’s Stortford and what do you love about the area?
I moved to the area from London in 2005 and I’ve never looked back. I love being able to tramp around fields and Hatfield Forest, yet still be so close to London and Cambridge. I was brought up in the countryside and really missed horizons in London. Another big bonus is how friendly and welcoming everyone is – I’m well and truly settled with an army of friends. I’m a proper Hertfordshire fan!