Independents: Flower Power

Using foliage to lure customers and express brands
Posted August 12, 2016

I thought I’d communicated the simplest task to my husband a few Valentine’s Days ago: “Just get me roses, the largest bouquet you can find ... and not from the grocery store.”

That evening, I came home to a massive spray of funeral flowers on my dining room table. Really, it was my own fault. After seeing such an unexpected creation, two options ran through my mind: One, consider our love dead, or two, buy my own flowers from that day forward.

Since that epic V-Day, I’ve filled my home with countless bouquets that have come a long way from “a dozen red roses plus baby’s breath for $19.95.” Like perfume or music, they mark new memories, depict seasonal changes, add to an environment and provide fresh-pruned inspiration to the everyday.

New trends in floral arrangements are making a statement and showing up in retail creations. Seemingly charged by a discovery of independent perspectives, retailers and artists are starting to transform how we view the use of flowers in our world. For example, New York-based artist Taryn Simon photographed the bouquets that sat at the tables of influential historical meetings. The exhibition called “Paperwork and the Will of Capital” characterized flowers as “silent witnesses.” And Lisa Waud, a florist in Detroit, bought two abandoned houses for $500 and filled them with 100,000 flowers. Her “Flowerhouse” encourages people to see abandoned structures as platforms for art and business.

Here are a few other examples of independents and how they are using their inventive and creative nature to celebrate flowers and help this industry bloom:

  • They use flowers to “restyle” vintage: Juicy Leaf in Venice, Calif., uses actual vintage tea cups and figurines as containers for plants. They remind me of the tea cups my grandmother used and connect the generations. Plant the Future in Miami, Fla., uses vintage pieces as art. They create “living sculptures” blurring the line between plant and container. Product selection ranges from a ’90s robot figurine arrangement to a ’70s TV with lush plants growing out of it. They are grafting vintage for a new generation.
  • They save struggling businesses and create community: Some independents are finding a low cost space online with BloomNation, a company who helps local flower shops get some “time in the sun.” Each retailer (1600 so far) occupies a small space online and gets to display their unique designs. For quality control, they have website feature called BloomSnap, which provides the sender a picture of the final product to approve before it’s delivered to the recipient. Imagine how this could help when sending flowers anonymously!
  • They see beauty in flowers no matter what state they’re in; perfection is not the point: The retailer &Other Stories features a small floral arrangement area within the store, letting the process of selecting and arranging become a signature store experience. Opening Ceremony has done collaborations with Belgian fashion florist Thierry Boutemy. Images of his destroyed floral designs appeared on ready-to-wear pieces, as well as on Manolo Blahnik shoes and New Era hats.
  • They are branding bouquets at a whole new level: Flowers for Dreams in Chicago is a Florist who donates to local charities for each bouquet purchased. They team up with local businesses to create pop-up collaborations. From coffee shops to taco shops, you can buy flowers virtually anywhere, as long as they’re participants. They also create elaborate floral installations for Macy’s annual Flower Show and even make floral delivery a unique event, inviting customers to go with them in trolleys and boast as having Chicago’s first flower truck. They host a series of events, including Free Flower Friday, where fans and brand ambassadors can come to their headquarters for treats and a mini-bouquet. But most inspiring is that one of their farms is the Cook County Jail, where they purchase zinnias and  dahlias, among others, to support the rehabilitation program at the jail.

So what about Valentine’s Day 2017? I’ll know just how to order!

Faith Bartrug of FBD Studios (Columbus, Ohio) has more than a decade of experience in transforming national brands. Her background includes brand strategy, environmental design and visual merchandising, and she has been able to practice what she preaches with leading design firms and clients such as Starwood Retail Partners, Neiman Marcus, and JCPenney.