Unprecedented times calls for a little
creativity—and a lot of community.
Kory Garvis and Angelica Laws
Photo by Vistoria Heer Photography
I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “community over competition” at one time or another. But perhaps nowhere has it resonated more than with the floral and event industries since COVID-19 struck. With millions of florists and wedding vendors facing debilitating business losses, the creatives you’re about to meet opted to band together, rather than struggle alone, and forge their own unique collaborations—in an effort to not only boost business but also lift spirits and strengthen their communities.
The tight restriction on events due to the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the 2020 wedding season for everyone, according to Jennifer Josserand, owner of Boston Event Divas. She said her event-planning company had just signed a new lease in March. Three weeks later, everything completely shut down.
“We never even got started in our new space,” she recalls. “Even now, regulations are 25 people max for indoor venues and 100 people max for outdoor. No bars and or dance floors either. And this restriction won’t be lifted until there is a vaccine for the virus.”
But as soon groups of 10 were allowed in Boston, Josserand and a few of her “friendors,” like Jim Barbere, from Jim Barbere Photography, and Gena Dunn, from Beauty to You by Gena, decided to get together to do a styled photo- shoot and let their respective creative juices flow. “We’re all wedding/event addicts,” Josserand reports. “We have done other styled shoots together before, so we are like a well-oiled machine.”
Barbere says that while this group would normally be busy with weddings and non- wedding work, “This was a great opportunity to work together and have a unified voice during this challenging time,” he shares.
Dunn, a hair and makeup artist, who was forced to shut the doors of her 20-year-old salon in March, says the event allowed her to get back to doing something she loves. “When Jennifer approached me with the concept for a collaborative shoot, I was on board immediately,” she shares. “She has amazing vision and always gives me a lot of room to work creatively.”
Dunn adds that she has worked with the other vendors who participated quite a bit in the past. “They are a great group of professionals and pour their hearts into everything they do.”
Josserand says the inspiration behind the photoshoot was to give couples a voice. “COVID and social distancing really did a number on couples planning to say their ‘I dos.’ It [COVID] took away one of the most joyous moments for couples and families—the wedding day!”
She adds that the color palette chosen had meaning, as well. “With all the ‘gray’ area of COVID and what you can and cannot do is why gray is the dominant color. I also chose to do an ombre floral coloring ending in deep blue, signifying that after the worst of storms, there are always deep-blue skies to let us know we survived and came out stronger on the other side,” Josserand explains.
Little did the group know this was a theme they would encounter—literally—on the day of the shoot, with heavy rain and thunderstorms forecasted. However, “The decision was made that the shoot must go on,” Josserand says.
“Everything was in place but the weather,” Barbere adds. “It was storming badly all day, on and off, but we found pockets of time that worked, and with a little creativity and hustle, we got what everyone wanted.”
Dunn agrees. “Everyone worked together so well between the lightning bolts and downpours to make sure the models and set were picture-perfect.”
The photoshoot was a lesson in perseverance for all involved. “Sometimes the most beautiful things can happen under the most unpredictable of circumstances,” Dunn remarks.
Because photos of the shoot are being debuted in this issue of Florists’ Review, it remains to be seen if these vendors will benefit business-wise from their participation. But Josserand is confident. “Once we begin to share the photos, it’s going to create a buzz around Boston.”
Much like Dunn, Kelly Mendenhall, owner and lead designer of 3 Leaf Floral in Grand Junction, Colo., was also forced to shutter the doors of her 10-year-old floral business, at least for the spring and summer wedding season. “We’ve had many postponements, to 2021, and a few complete cancellations,” Mendenhall confides. “It’s been a blessing and a curse to have an ‘event-exclusive’ floristry business though this pandemic. I’ve always worked from home, so that wasn’t anything new to me, but my business really took a hit fi nancially.”
But Mendenhall, who’s kept in touch with local wedding planners, growers and farmers, received floral donations from Colorado farmers, including Calli Ferber of Sweet Pea’s Garden in Palisade, Colo., to give to others, as well as bouquet orders from past clients—despite being a wedding-only company—to keep things going.
“Some were kind enough to donate flowers to me for community giveaways and other ‘feel good’ deliveries throughout the valley, to keep the positivity going,” Mendenhall elaborates. “We also reached out to other florists in Colorado to send our own flowers to clients, friends and family that we couldn’t visit or deliver flowers to ourselves. And I couldn’t have kept my sanity through all of the postponements without the amazing planners I work with.”
Mendenhall also reports that she has seen an upswing in elopement requests and hopes to continue these collaborations in the future. “It really brought me back to the heart of that ‘community mindset’ that, honestly, I was starting to lose sight of.”
“This year has been a learning experience with a roller coaster of emotions,” agrees Kory Garvis, owner and lead designer of Springvale Floral in Leesburg, Va. After all of her spring weddings postponed to the fall, Garvis decided to focus her energy on doing a large floral installation where others could see and enjoy it.
“I wanted to do something to show my couples and community that they are all supported and that we are in this together,” Garvis explains, who teamed with Angelica Laws, owner and principal planner of Angelica & Co. Weddings in Silver Spring, Md., to pull off her vision. “When we first met in Charlottesville, Va., we were working under other companies in honing our crafts,” Laws shares. “When it was fi nally our turn to branch out and take control of our own creative journeys, we found that our styles, goals and interests were almost identical. Since our transition into the D.C. market, it was clear that Kory and I would do amazing things together.”
Garvis says that the idea behind her installation was to spread as much love and smiles as possible—hence, the hashtag #spreadlove. “Flowers are my love language,” she informs. “I’m a strong believer in the power of a flower to brighten someone’s day, no matter what’s going on in the world.”
Laws says that she was completely on board. “With us both being in the business of giving couples experiences of a lifetime, it was a natural fit for us to transform that idea in a way that was fi tting for our communities,” she explains. “Now, more than ever, people need to feel love. This was our way of doing just that.”
Both Garvis and Laws say the response was so much
more than either could have imagined. “The reactions from passers-by on the street during our setup, alone,
justifi ed our ‘why,’” Laws notes. “When we shared our project with the rest of the world via social media, people just loved it!”
While initially the installation was supposed to be a one-time thing, Garvis says the interest from others to continue to collaborate was so great that she reached out to Laws again to see if she was interested in making it a series. “Unsurprisingly, she eagerly agreed,” Garvis reports.
“It was clear from day one that our ‘one-time idea’ needed to grow into a series,” Laws adds. “We could not pass up the opportunity to continue to #spreadlove.”
Both Garvis and Laws say the experience has allowed each to share their passion with others, as well as unintentionally align themselves with their dream clients. “Floral installations are my favorite pieces to create because they are so impactful, and that’s what most of my inquiries are for now,” Garvis informs.
“This has really shown us in a whole new light and has attracted our dream clients our way,” Laws agrees.
And the #spreadlove installation series is growing. “I had the idea to ask my couples if they would like to re-purpose their wedding florals to be used for a #spreadlove installation,” Garvis shares. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s such a perfect opportunity to connect my clients with their communities and spread love themselves.”
“Our series currently has no end in sight!” adds Laws. “As long as there are smiles to happen, I can foresee us continuing to bring them out of the world around us.”