If you’ve ever tried to pull together a bunch of flowers for a loved one or a friend – you’ll appreciate how tricky it can be to make it look effortless. Then imagine the skill required to create beautiful handtied bouquets for a wide selection of clients all across London on a weekly or daily basis.
Meet Alice Strange - the founder of the aptly named Alice Strange Flowers, a flower subscription service that creates bouquets designed to enrich your home and surroundings. We recently spent the morning with Alice to hear more about what life entails as a florist.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, WAS IT ALWAYS YOUR AMBITION TO BECOME A FLORIST?
“I’ve always been into the arts and knew for a long time that I wanted to work in the creative industry. When I first moved to London I got a job as PA at a Venture Capital firm but soon realised city life wasn’t for me. My dream was to be an Interior Designer and after a number of internships was lucky enough to land a role as an interior designer with Martin Brudinksi, one of the most famous interior architecture and design studios.
“It was there that Alice Strange Flowers was born. I saw all this creative energy going into creating beautiful spaces and I wanted people to have a way of simply enhancing a space through flowers. I wanted to create flowers that would compliment the interiors of client’s homes, combining the role of an interior stylist and a florist.”
SO WHERE DID THE JOURNEY FIRST BEGIN IN BECOMING A FLORIST?
“Working as an interior stylist in a big interior design studio, I felt frustrated with the level of creative input I had in my role and wanted to do something new. I had a brainwave, printed off my CV and called my favourite florists in London with the dream of getting a job.
“After four weeks of hearing nothing, I got a call from one of London's most prestigious florists and they invited me in for an interview. It was absolutely terrifying but they offered me my first job in the industry and the rest is history.”
WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
“My days can be completely varied but they usually begin with a very early start, around 4:00am! I’ll be at the flower market by 4:45am – it’s best to collect the flowers on the day of a client delivery to ensure they’re as fresh as they can be.
“I then take the flowers back to my studio and work with my team to make up the handtied bouquets ready for delivery. I’m actually usually done by lunchtime and then in my afternoons I go out to meet new clients.”
CREATING BESPOKE FLOWERS FOR A WIDE RANGE OF CLIENTS MUST BE TOUGH. HOW DO YOU GET TO KNOW YOUR CLIENTS?
“Flowers are actually an expression of your personal identity and sometimes it can be hard to replicate what a client wants on a first install. I’ll meet with a client, go to their house and take the time to get to know them, their style and what they would like from my service.
“At this meeting, I’ll also familiarise myself with their interior space and style as ultimately the flowers must complement and enhance the existing interior design. I make a unique profile for each client to ensure I’m only picking flowers I know they will like and not include colours that they hate!
“There’s actually a big element of trust – unless the client is really specific on what they want then the creative part is down to me. More often than not a client doesn’t know what they want and so are open to my recommendations.”
DO YOU FEEL YOUR HANDTIED BOUQUETS GET BETTER AS YOU GET TO KNOW THE CLIENT BETTER?
“Completely! I’ve luckily never had a client turn away the first handtied but the process gets much easier over time as I can really get to know the client. I market myself as a flower PA – if a client is unhappy then they can call me with feedback on colours or something they love and the process evolves from there.”
AS WITH INTERIOR DESIGN, FLOWERS GO THROUGH TRENDS. WHAT’S HOT IN FLORISTRY AT THE MOMENT?
“I’d say wild, looser arrangements are currently on trend. Actually, floristry as a general industry has become incredibly fashionable and people are taking much more of an interest in flowers.
“We’ve seen the rise of subscription flowers over the last couple of years and where the traditional bouquet would have been much more compact, almost quite stuffy, I’m now seeing clients wanting more variety – different textures, foliage and interest additions like Crab Apple or Rosehip.
“People are loving the change in season at the moment and I try my best to mirror the great colours of Autumn in my arrangements.”
AS A COMPLETE NOVICE WHEN IT COMES TO FLOWERS, WHAT ARE THE BASIC RULES TO MAKING THE PERFECT HANDTIED?
“I personally think foliage is key, a lot of people look at it as a filler or a secondary thought but it’s actually equally important and beautiful. It’s important to have texture and depth in an arrangement.
“That’s where some of the older florists haven’t kept up to speed of what’s currently in vogue. Flowers should never be viewed in isolation, they’re a living, natural product and often nature provides the best suggestions of what looks great. You only have to go outside to get inspired – nature has an amazing way of arranging itself and it actually has a great eye for design.
“Don’t use too many different flowers, often simpler is better. A handful of Peonies that looks like it’s just been gathered from the garden can be ten times more beautiful than a ‘perfect’ bunch that has been meticulously put together.”
WE’RE FEELING INSPIRED, WHERE IN LONDON IS BEST TO GET FLOWERS?
“There are so many great markets in London – Broadway Market, Columbia Road & New Covent Garden. Whilst it means an early start you’ll see the most amazing colours.”
WHAT WOULD WE FIND YOU DOING WHEN YOU’RE NOT WORKING?
“As it’s still early days for the business, I don’t have a huge amount of time off! I try to catch up with friends if I’m not too exhausted. I love art so you’ll often find me either at a gallery or the theatre – I absolutely love opera and ballet as well. I’m also a sucker for eating out…”
TALKING OF FOOD, WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE SPOT TO EAT AT IN LONDON?
“One of my school friends runs a restaurant in London called Kricket – I’d say that’s my favourite place to eat. If you haven’t been yet then I’d highly recommend it.”
AS A FLORIST AND FORMER INTERIOR DESIGNER, STYLE IS AN INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR LIFE. WHAT DOES STYLE MEAN TO YOU IN TERMS OF CLOTHING?
“I prefer a more natural style, I don’t like my clothes to be fussy. I like simple but good quality clothes – I wear a lot of neutral colours and you’ll never catch me wearing something bright… unless it’s for a fancy dress party!”