How Floristry Became a Fashion Business

, — In , flowers are not just for Valentine’s Day – they’re for please, thank you and, quite simply, for life. Fashion’s affinity for floristry became larger than life when for Raf Simons’ debut show for in 2012, he famously commissioned Belgian florist Mark Colle to bedeck the walls of a 16th arrondissement hôtel particulier with thick beds of flowers, each room a different colour and variety. Overnight, the “flower wall” trend was born and would become a popular request for Instagram-friendly weddings and industry events. Perhaps contrastingly, the pre-collection appointments for Céline are notoriously Instagram-unfriendly (taking photos of the clothes in the showroom is banned) but photos of the range of succulents, hothouse foliage and fougère ferns are permitted, and as a result they quickly proliferate on social media into décor phenomena — the French brand ignited a craze for cheese plants and palm leaves after including them in Juergen Teller-lensed campaigns.

It’s clear that fashion has always had a love of floristry. Christian Dior would name his designs after flowers from his beloved Granville garden and Roy Halston would spend six-figure sums on white orchids at the height of his career. Now, the higher end of floristry is becoming an increasingly fashion-like . Social media and fashion moments ignite horticultural trends; in turn, some fashion folk are creating floristry businesses that are disrupting the market with international, tech-savvy services, while others are seizing the opportunity in more traditional operations.

“Have you ever seen more flowers exchanged than in fashion?” asks Whitney Bromberg Hawkings, the former senior vice president of communications at Tom Ford, who co-founded in 2015. In her previous job, Bromberg Hawkings would be sending flowers on behalf of Ford and receiving bouquets for the designer from the great and good, both of which were always bunches of single-stem flowers. Her big idea came when she realised that there was no digital service that offered consistency and a simplified, slick approach to sending flowers. “I was buying my clothes on Net-a-Porter and my groceries on Ocado and I couldn’t buy flowers online, so I would have to go to Covent Garden Market in the morning or order from a florist and then you never know what you’re going to get.”

“There’s never been an international flower brand,” adds Bromberg Hawkings, who closed an oversubscribed $1.94 million seed-plus funding round earlier this year and named former Net-a-Porter chief executive Mark Sebba as non-executive chairman and investor (other investors included fashion fairy godmothers Dame Natalie Massenet, Carmen Busquets, Eiesha Bharti Pasricha and Tania Fares). With a negative-capital business (the stock is ordered on-demand from suppliers in Holland with a 48-hour turnaround) Flowerbx could become “the Uber of flower delivery,” according to Busquets.

Bromberg Hawkings certainly has plans for global expansion, with a launch in France this autumn. “The second we nail that and have gotten the concept through in different markets, we can leverage the relationships we have in Holland,” she says. “You go to Prada in Los Angeles, Tokyo or Shanghai and you get the same tissue paper and smell of the product. What we’re offering is consistency of experience, which you just don’t have right now.”

If Flowerbx aims to be the Net-a-Porter of floristry — its branded vans with handsome drivers are quickly becoming a presence in London, just as Net-a-Porter’s black vans once did – then there are also plenty of other independent spirits who want to keep individualistic flair alive. At the most recent show at Paris Couture Week, white gypsophila (also known as baby’s breath) and bird of paradise flowers were turned into boas, crowns and striking adornments by florist Joseph Free, who creates bespoke arrangements for clients. “I work out of my place and it’s not a flower shop,” says Free, who is based in Los Angeles and began working with the Mulleavy sisters two seasons ago on flowers and jewellery. “I do personal orders for people and work on films and with an artist called Willem de Rooji, and it’s special and expensive – it’s not just a $150 bouquet of flowers a guy is getting for his girlfriend or surfaces covered in white flowers at a wedding.”

Melissa Alexander, a former fashion stylist and model agent, set up JamJar Flowers eight years ago, and has built a business based on her love of natural blooms and rustic glass containers. “Flowers and fashion seem effortlessly entwined; the perfect fit; an obvious match,” says Alexander, who adds that social media has been instrumental in her business’s success as she never advertised it. “Global brands of florists sound alien to me — flowers seem to me to have to be made with passion.” Although Alexander is hesitant about florists becoming increasingly similar to global fashion brands, she does acknowledge that they are becoming more trend-led.

Read more at Business of Fashion

 

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Source: The Business of Fashion

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