Brooklyn Blooms! Meet a New Generation of Floral Designers

Sharing their exuberant creations on Instagram, three young companies blossom into influential creators

Pollard studied painting and her inspiration ranges from Dutch to Japanese (Photo by Mikkel Paige Photography/Courtesy of Sachi Rose)

With bountiful, garden-style arrangements that strike a balance between being curated and looking like a cornucopia, a new generation of Brooklyn-based floral designers have been gracing the editorials of high-end glossies and becoming Instagram sensations. With Mother’s Day right around the corner–May 13, don’t forget–we offer a look at the artistry of three distinctive floral designers who told us the sources of their inspiration.

“Bountiful, Luxurious”

How can you make a wedding bouquet last forever? With succulents! For Sachiko Rose Pollard, owner of Sachi Rose Floral Design Co. and the official floral designer for The Wing, it’s a great way of turning something perishable into something enduring. “What’s nice about them is that, with succulents in bouquets, [you] can take the succulent, stick it in dirt and it will grow,” she told The Bridge. “You can have a garden from your wedding.”

Pollard started off as a fine artist: she got a degree in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but after graduation she had a reality check: “When you go to art school, then you become a waitress.” After briefly considering working for art galleries—not her thing: she is a creator, first and foremost—she moved back to her home state of California and started working at a high-end flower shop in Los Angeles. What started as an in-between gig, sweeping floors and helping customers, gradually evolved into store management and design duties. “I did not have any experience. It was trial and error, and there were a lot of errors,” she recalls.

After migrating to New York City, she was working for a Tribeca-based flower boutique when the owner decided to close down the store. With the owner’s support, Pollard recruited enough of the shop’s clients to start her own business, now situated in the South Slope. “The artistic and social part—getting the clients—comes naturally to me,” she says. “The business side doesn’t.”

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Says Pollard: “Some fashion clients–trendsetters–started to take a turn where it’s a little more fantastical” (Photo courtesy of Sachi Rose)

She credits most of her success with clients to word of mouth and Instagram, “which is amazing,” she says, “because it’s free. Just having the hashtags #nycflorist #bkflowers helps people find you.” The fact that Instagram feeds are now more curated helps keep the message focused. Pollard remembers the days when Instagram was a hodgepodge of analog filters where she would indiscriminately post photos of her budding business alongside close-ups of her cat.

In some sense, the evolution of Instagram mirrors a gradual shift of the floral-design aesthetic. Rustic, DIY-looking arrangements are no longer as popular as they used to be. “Now it’s more bountiful, luxurious. It’s a balance between being luxurious while still being natural,” says Pollard, who is inspired by Dutch masters and the unusual elements found in Japanese ikebana style.“Some fashion clients–trendsetters–started to take a turn where it’s a little more fantastical, using things such as dyed orchids. Some orchids dyed hot pink would have been ugly ten years ago, but people now are using them as a new medium.”

If Pollard were to point out a (relatively small) challenge in her business, it would be the relative difficulty, with some clients, in appreciating the cost of boutique floral arrangements. “It’s hard, because you want the client, but you also need to manage expectations. A lot of times, their eyes are bigger than their wallet,” she explains. Since it’s a job that deals with highly perishable materials, it’s also a time-sensitive endeavor. “If someone’s budget does not agree with their own expectations, and I am not the right florist for them, then I will direct them to someone who is a little bit newer or can do something on a smaller scale.”

Pollard is currently trying to expand her business by venturing into candle making. “A couple of years ago, I got myself a candle-making kit. I am getting more into it and, hopefully, will make a couple of candles to sell for my brand.” She is tinkering with a “Brooklyn Signature Candle,” something smoky and a little masculine (tobacco, leather, rose). “It’s not quite perfected yet. I do think it smells good. Then I smell other candles and I think, ‘Oh, they smell better.'” No candle before its time.

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Cameron not only designs, but teaches how it’s done in classes at her shop (Photos courtesy of Stems Brooklyn)

“I Love Texture and Movement”

Normally, you would not expect a floral designer to include Coney Island and graffiti among their inspirations, but for Suzanna Cameron, owner of Stems Brooklyn in Prospect Heights, that’s exactly the case.

In the case of Coney Island, it’s the way a roller coaster twists and turns. “How can I mimic that look or feel in an arrangement?” she would ask herself. As for graffiti, it’s usually a color combination that piques her interest. “I literally showed a piece of a graffiti art to a client and was, ‘This is the color palette we’re gonna use.'”

Cameron caught the floral-design bug in 2011 when a friend of hers asked for a helping hand in her flower shop ahead of the busy Thanksgiving holidays. Only a day of work made her fall in love with the profession. What intrigued her was the shop’s selection of eclectic wildflowers and whimsical arrangements. A flower called the Pincushion, in particular, caught her attention. “It was a way I could be creative and be working with my hands,” she says, with a whiff of wonder still in her voice.

In 2013, she took over a Ditmas Park floral-design business, rechristened it, and moved it last summer to Vanderbilt Avenue, where it shares space with Juniper, a yoga studio. Just as you can learn to perfect the crow pose at that address, you can take classes and workshops in floral design. “Part of our mission is to make flowers accessible,” says Cameron. “Teaching workshops is a great way to bring our customers to experience them, and also to create something beautiful and flex their creativity.”

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An Instagram-worthy creation from Cameron’s Stems Brooklyn

Cameron’s aesthetic is ever-evolving, but gravitates toward botanical and tropical motifs, with a hint of coral reef and anemone. (Cameron is a scuba diver.) “I use a lot of colors, and wildflower bouquets are our specialties,” she said. “Our bouquets are very lush. I love texture and movement.”

What’s trendy now? Cameron has noticed a tendency among some designers to move away from lush-garden arrangements toward a cleaner, more geometric aesthetic. “What I am seeing now is almost about cubism—geometric shapes for vessels and a clean aesthetic, a lot more of a plastic look.” Back in style: Anthuriums, carnations, Baby’s Breath.

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Being in a place like Brooklyn is a source of inspiration for Cameron. “As a florist, there’s no other place I could imagine being that could inspire me so much,” she says, especially because Brooklyn is a creative milieu where flower usage extends beyond floral design: “Botanicals, textiles, perfumes, healing powers–in Brooklyn specifically, there’s so much energy behind the floral industry.”

Despite having a brick-and-mortar store, Cameron echoes her colleagues in crediting Instagram as a factor in her success, along with sites like WeddingWire. “Instagram has changed the floral industry. Now all the designers post their work, and we influence each other in every possible way. We can experiment and the consumers see it happen,” she said. It’s almost over-stimulating. “If I were a bride approaching the floral industry, I’d think there are so many options now. It must be challenging.”

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Artistry at work at the Buds of Brooklyn studio (Photos courtesy of Buds of Brooklyn)

“We Could Do This”

If you follow Brooklyn-based events and happenings, you may have spotted a widely-shared picture consisting of an ethereal cloud entirely made of baby’s breath for an event hosted at the Green Building last November.

The creative minds behind it are the women of Buds of Brooklyn, a floral-design studio helmed by Nicole Cannon and Connie Tolan. The two of them were working as fashion designers for a label specializing in knitwear and cold-weather accessories. “Our company gave us money for education, so we decided to take flower-arranging classes,” Cannon told The Bridge. “We fell in love with it. We were [saying], ‘We could do this.’  We were taught very classic design and we both thought that we could do something better than we were being taught.”

In fact, they decided to go in the opposite direction: rather than pursuing tight and organized designs, they went for an aesthetic that is garden-inspired and natural. They have a predilection for roses and ranunculus flowers.

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Imagine getting one of these bouquets! They start at $175

Their fashion-design background seeped into their creations. Aside from drawing inspiration from the runway—the celebrated Baby’s Breath cloud was inspired by flower crowns that models wore for a recent Rodarte fashion show—they heavily focus on color and texture in their arrangements. “We love adding pop colors that are trending or in season. We love using greenery, like Eucalyptus. Sweet peas come in amazing colors and create amazing lines in designs,” says Cannon.

While current trends seem be moving away from muted, earthy hues, Cannon is sure that blush-and-ivory palettes are never going out of style. A neutral arrangement can benefit from a pop of color. “I know ultraviolet is the color of the year,” she says. “I am not completely sold on that, to be honest. I think that, right now, Connie and I are into Cayenne red.”

Cannon and Tolan pay close attention to what is trending on user-generated content platforms, and rightfully so. “Sixty-five percent of our new clients come from Instagram referrals,” she explained. “It’s location-based too. People see us, say at the Green Building. We are geotagged there, so they come and find us.” They also credit their success to the “brand” Brooklyn has become. “We had a bride based in Manhattan who said, ‘I want to do all Brooklyn-based vendors.’ It’s a less-tight aesthetic,” she observes.

In the four years since they’ve been in business, their aesthetic has naturally evolved. When they started out, it was all about Mason jars and rustic decor. They’ve grown into being a bit more high-end, more refined. “I think we’re moving into being more eclectic. Ceramics are trending a lot now. It’s more of an art form versus a DIY,” Cannon explained. Even so, “We still love mason jars. They’re really cute. I hope they’ll never go away.”

Angelica Frey is a writer interested in all kinds of cultural expression, including occult practitioners, pop-surrealist painters, classical music, and food. Her work has appeared in special issues from Condé Nast, New York magazine’s Bedford + Bowery, Classical Musicians Everywhere and Hyperallergic. She has a master’s degree in classics from Catholic University of Milan and a master’s in journalism from New York University. You can find her on Instagram at @angiehanami.