THE ORIGINAL FRUITCAKES
Happy Monday everyone!! Here is the first of my weekly instalments of ‘Happy Monday’, my fun little project where I photograph and write about people’s stories, places, and things that make me and (hopefully) you happy!! Thank you to all those who have shown interest, and I certainly aspire to bring a smile to all your faces every Monday!
When walking around Plymouth’s Barbican, it is easy to lose yourself in the myriad of little shops, stalls and bars, all enticing you in with their vast variety of wares. From handmade trinkets, to fudge in every flavour imaginable, there isn’t much you can’t find in these historic streets.
It was on one such stroll that I found myself in an Aladdin’s cave of vintage dresses, antique treasures and fine fabrics. I had discovered… The Original Fruitcakes. Upon talking to Poppy, the creative, bubbly and ‘a bit weird’ (her words!), owner and founder of this magical vintage store, I knew that my first story of happiness should be about here. Without further ado, here is the story of her ‘quirky, welcoming and unique’ shop, The Original Fruitcakes. The name is based on the uniqueness of the items, the original style of all those who enter, and a nod towards everyone being ‘a little bit weird’. Truly a place where everyone is welcome.
"I really love how Plymouth is a little bit of the underdog, there’s a lot of possibilities here."
Poppy Yeomans, 28 (29 in a few days time!), grew up in Cornwall. Her mum noticed her creativity early on, and encouraged Poppy to do a foundation degree at Arts University Plymouth (previously Plymouth College of Art, but I shall now shorten it to AUP) in Fashion and Textiles. Poppy dabbled in three different degrees - Textiles Design in Falmouth for a year, Costume for Film and Theatre in Bournemouth (Poppy tells me this was such a fantastic course), and finished up in AUP in Fashion Design. She clearly has an eye for all things creative! After graduating, she spent some time out doing various hospitality jobs, and a six-month tour of South-East Asia. Poppy then decided to take a Masters degree in Entrepreneurship at AUP - unfortunately timed with the beginning of the global pandemic, so she decided (understandably) that it was best not to continue the degree since she wouldn’t be getting the most out of it with the university being closed. However, this minor setback would be a catalyst that enabled her to make her visions come to light, and eventually open the shop that I set foot in.
“I’m such a social person that selling online didn’t give me everything that I wanted… ”
Poppy moved to Plymouth when she was 21 and never intended to stay so long, but after falling in love with the ‘creative and resilient’ people of the city, she found she struggled to leave. “I really love how Plymouth is a little bit of the underdog, there’s a lot of possibilities here.” A sentiment I think all those who have been to and lived in Plymouth can agree on!
For Poppy, collecting and selling vintage clothes is an incredibly important part of her life; prior to her real life shop, The Original Fruitcakes was solely an online store. The journey from online to in-person began around eight years ago, when Poppy wanted more than anything to help our world. Seeing how many clothes are produced in unsafe work environments, by people being exploited for their labour, for industries that overproduce, only for the items to end up in landfill, is not something that is in any form ‘sustainable’. Which is why promoting sustainability, upcycling and working with the clothes we already have is all part of The Original Fruitcakes’s vision. Poppy finds her stock through various means, including well-founded contacts, people coming into her store to donate vintage items, and rescuing clothes from charity shops that can’t be sold.
“I fully went online during Covid”, Poppy tells me, but struggling with the facelessness of online selling made her realise her next steps - “I’m such a social person that selling online didn’t give me everything that I wanted… After covid I was really wanting community, and people, and being a part of something, and I knew it was in Plymouth, I just needed the courage to jump.” And what a jump she made. Moving into her first shop on Mutley Plain in November 2021, Poppy began to see that people were interested, and so in January she moved her shop into The House that Jack Built down on the Barbican, then moving again a few months later into a larger space within the same building. Three moves in 6 months! Now that’s dedication for you!
As the world moves and evolves, so will The Original Fruitcakes - and to keep the cogs turning, Poppy is moving on to her next endeavour. She is currently fixing up a van to allow her to take her store on tour, starting with the UK for small pop-up shops, and after seeing how that goes, travelling Europe. Keeping her shop in Plymouth as the flagship, she would always have a base to sell from, especially after stocking it with finds from her travels.
“We have such a creative space with AUP and a lot of talent coming through Plymouth"
Her ultimate goal is to “open up a shopping arcade space to challenge Drake’s Circus” for creatives, independent stores and those who want to showcase their work. “We have such a creative space with AUP and a lot of talent coming through Plymouth, but a lot of things jobwise doesn’t hold them here, [so] they go elsewhere.” Poppy wants somewhere that allows creatives to set up permanent or temporary stores within the heart of Plymouth. In her vision, she sees a downstairs space that would potentially host a yoga studio, an events area for local bands to perform, with space outside for food vendors - “A Creative Hub, holding creative people and giving them a space that they can use… Affordable, well managed and well marketed.”
“creating a space where everybody is welcome, where it doesn’t matter who you are, what you identify as - you are welcome here"
Asking Poppy what her three main motivations are, she tells me they are “number one, offering individual items, opposing the highstreet brands”, number two “Sustainability, we have so many existing items already,” and three “creating a space where everybody is welcome, where it doesn’t matter who you are, what you identify as - you are welcome here, and can find something for everybody.” This is key in how Poppy stocks her shop - offering clothes for everyone, in all sizes, sourcing incredible garments in plus sizes, petite sizes, with styles for masculine, feminine and neutral.
It’s a feel-good environment, where you could spend hours rifling through the rails and still find something new the next time round. As a very avid lover of fashion, vintage clothing and anything unique, this shop well and truly makes me happy, but what makes Poppy happy?
“So many things!! In regards to the shop, when someone goes ‘Oh wow’, and when they find something they love, it’s the look on their face of how it’s made their day. But outside of the shop, I’m quite simple. I absolutely love dog walks with my dog Nova, and swimming in the sea, and cooking outdoors, wild cooking.” Can’t argue with those!
Well, that was my experience in this real wonderland. I feel incredibly privileged to be a fully fledged fruitcake, having not been able to resist a number of stunning garments from Poppy’s shop, and I hope you too will visit her and become an Original Fruitcake yourself!
Thank you so much, Poppy for letting me talk to you and allowing me to photograph your shop, and Nova too!
And to everyone reading, I wish you a very Happy Monday.