Back To Nature
Five designers showcase botanical couture in a collection celebrating the sixth annual American Flowers Week.
Farmer-florist Sarah Pabody of Triple Wren Farm/Triple Wren Weddings was inspired to create DAHLIA apparel after noticing how many customers wanted to have their portraits taken in the Ferndale, Washington farm’s fields of the popular summer cut flower. This feminine frock is the first of many Sarah has created. She now teaches DAHLIA Dress Master Classes for florists and flower lovers. PHOTO © Katherine Buttrey
Now, more than ever, florists have an important story to share with their communities and customers. It’s all about connecting more deeply with mindful floral consumers, ones asking how their purchases support sustainable values.
Adaptable and resilient floral entrepreneurs are returning to basics, especially during the uncertain time caused by stay-at-home and no-contact policies. They are pivoting to what’s “essential” and engaging with their customers more transparently than ever before.
It matters that we connect consumers with their flowers in new and thought-provoking ways. It matters a lot. How we communicate makes a difference between whether flowers are viewed as relevant and essential or whether they are dispensable and unnecessary.
In its sixth year, a social media campaign like American Flowers Week (June 28-July 4) is one important tool that returns the floral marketplace to its roots. At its heart, American Flowers Week focuses on the origin of each beautiful stem, where it comes from and who the grower behind that bloom is. The campaign also shines a light on floral design, promoting domestic flowers and foliage as a desired product category, inspiring professionals and consumers alike with a new aesthetic connected to locality, seasonality and sustainability.
Created by members of the Slow Flowers Society, the 2020 botanical couture collection for American Flowers Week presents cut flowers re-imagined as a wearable art. These designs combine fantasy with reality, imagination with technique, inventiveness with grit. Flowers are fleeting yet sensory and evocative, inviting us to view the natural world as a true art form. American Flowers Week captures imaginations and sparks curiosity. It is a true celebration of the artists who grow flowers and the artists who design with them.
Founded in 2012, Triple Wren Farms is a 22-acre farm in Ferndale, Washington. It is the second growing site for the Pabodys, who, in 2016, acquired a distressed berry farm with great soil and water rights after previously leasing land. Triple Wren Farms currently grows on about nine acres. The farm supplies cut flowers to wholesale customers and has developed an agritourism focus that includes you-pick blueberry fields, a fall pumpkin patch, flower workshops and open farm events, including a Dahlia Festival and a Blueberry Party. The farm also sells Dahlia tubers, growing close to 200 varieties selected for superior cut flower performance. Triple Wren Farms’ tuber store has the tagline: ‘Dahlias for cuts in a modern palette.’
“Dahlia grow great here,” Sarah points out. “They’re a wildflower from central American mountains, so this region replicates the conditions that Dahlia love: cooler nights and warm days. We grow our plants with a plastic mulch over their roots in order to get that heat during the day. And it cools off really quick here on summer nights.”
Sarah has created a number of Dahlia garments, collaborating with local models and photographers. We couldn’t limit ourselves to showcase just one, so you will see a number of her designer Dahlia garments, including the first frock she created – a blush-apricot-peach halter dress photographed at Triple Wren Farms on a dewy Pacific Northwest morning, both in the heart of Dahlia fields and inside a greenhouse.
Last season, she designed and produced a trio of floor-length Dahlia gowns, fabricated with the help of teams. Sarah also customizes mother-daughter Dahlia outfits for clients who want to wear flowers for portrait photography. Due to the farm’s end-of-season Dahlia bounty, Sarah feels there is no limit to what she can design with Dahlia, and she’s planning future collections to showcase other blooms, such as peonies and garden roses. “I think my techniques work with any flower that can hold up well out of water or flowers you’d use in a foam-free arbor design.”
Ingredients: Dahlia selected in a gradient color range or ombré palette, optional greenery and late-summer accent flowers.
Mechanics: When planning for a photoshoot, Sarah asks her model to select a garment that won’t be worn again, such as a bridesmaid dress, or to find something at a thrift store that fits well. She fits the garment on a dress form that is protected by plastic wrap. The “base garment” hangs from the dress form, allowing for flowers to be applied as the fabric falls against its curves. Sometimes there is too much fabric, and excess ruffles or overskirts are cut away, or the lining is used by itself. “If the dress has a very full skirt, I know it will take hundreds more flowers to cover,” Sarah explains. “Each of these garments weighs about 20 pounds when finished.”
The day prior to production, Sarah harvests Dahlia by palette, placing them in buckets of water to be stored overnight in her cooler. “In these conditions, the stems take up water, and the flowers are more turgid, which means they’ll last longer once we start working,” she says.
She estimates that full-length gowns require about 600 Dahlia, depending on the size of the flower head. When she uses design assistants, each team has a work station with tools, supplies, flowers and the dress form. While conventional wisdom might suggest that hot glue is damaging to Dahlia heads, Sarah has found it to be the perfect medium for working quickly. “If you use cold glue, you would have to hold each flower in place for 45 seconds, which means you could produce only one dress in an eight-to-10-hour period,” she estimates. “We try to use the smallest amount of hot glue possible, but I’ve found it works really well and doesn’t damage the Dahlia.”
Floral Source: Triple Wren Farms