The aesthetics of floral couture captivate the creative imagination. Today, more than ever before, floral-couture artists, such as Carol Jillian, owner of Jillian Designs in Austin, Texas, and Françoise Weeks, owner of Françoise Weeks European Floral Design in Portland, Ore., are designing breathtaking pieces that are gracing the covers of magazines and fashion runways. These two designers are open books when it comes to sharing their inspiration and mechanics for their recent photoshoot entitled “Crimson Rhapsody.” They have carved out a business market for this genre that is profitable and salable. Carol and Françoise help unveil the secrets of creating floral couture.

Floral Couture Demystified

Carol: “I have heard many times, ‘It is beautiful, but is it salable?’ and ‘It is great art, but I can’t sell it.’ Constructions for some of these floral couture pieces appear daunting to the public. Everything starts with the foundation, and you work from there. It gives you an idea of where you are going. The model or person wearing it must be able to stand up in it and move around without it falling apart.
“Floral couture breaks down to simple elements: glue, flowers, fabric and a foundation. For my floral bustier, it is quite simple. I started with purchasing a simple bustier from what use to be called a foundation store. Work with the bustier on a mannequin to give you the proper form, and then attach flowers from the bottom to the top – like fish scales. After you learn the basics, you can build your own patterns and templates.”
Françoise: “I use Oasis Aluminum Wire (12 gauge) for my necklaces and Oasis Flat Wire for my cuffs (1 inch) and earrings (3/16 inch). These are the bases to which I glue flowers. For my floral headpieces, I use a wire mesh with small holes to create my desired shape.”

Carving Out a Niche Business for Floral Couture

Carol: “Floral couture is a viable alternative to make money. A florist can do smaller versions of pieces seen in photos to offer something different from a corsage. My favorite things to create at shawls and dresses. The shawls are very popular. Brides now have another alternative, and these pieces can be worn as event wear, also. No two pieces are ever the same. It might seem like an odd way to make a living, but I am. I am creating my own niche. I sell mostly my photoshoots, and 10 percent of my business is selling pieces. It might seem like it is art for the sake of art, but I have made a business out of it.”
Françoise: “I am earning a living teaching floral couture now. I do it because I really like it. I no longer do weddings or events, but when I did, I promoted floral jewelry as an alternative to corsages. I build my business by blogging, posting on social media and showing a lot of pictures, and that has attracted progressive clients. People see what I am doing and hire me, and I am traveling to them.”

Collaboration: An Unspoken Chemistry

Carol: “Françoise and I work very well together. We throw ideas back and forth. She will send me pictures of things for inspiration. I see what she is doing and vice versa, and everything just melds together. We do not talk when we work. We watch over our shoulders to see what the other is doing. If Françoise is doing something with a lot of detail, I will step back and complement her piece by doing a smoother-surface effect. We both are very detail oriented. Because we are two different designers working on the same project, it must be cohesive and have everything meld together. It must appear as if one person has done everything. There is an unspoken chemistry between us.”
Françoise: “Carol said it correctly. I have never collaborated with anyone else like this. We have the same sense of aesthetics and are on the same wavelength. The results are always cool.”

Enhance Your Brand with a Photoshoot

Carol: “Photoshoots really enhance a business. They are like calling cards. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say. I use a professional who does fashion shoots. Anyone can use a good camera or even an iPhone. It is a way to market to your clients. You can have a book or a digital file where your clients can see the pieces in a ‘real’ setting. People do not have imagination. This takes all the guesswork out of it. Same with proms. Showing a floral shawl to a girl who is already spending a lot of money on her prom dress gives her a chance to do what no one else is doing.”

Simple Inspiration Creates Passionate Floral Fashion

Carol: “My inspiration has always been the motion of the human body and how I can capture it. What is the flow, and how can I capture it? In this photoshoot, we used a plus-size model to show that everyone can be beautiful. Size doesn’t matter. Everything can be beautiful and have a natural flow to it. Larger headpieces work well on this type of model, and you can see the motion and the beauty. Nature is nature, and you have to work with it, with botanicals or the human body.”

Model: Maggie Judge
Art Direction, Photography and Styling:
Obsidian + Blush
Bustier and Scarf: Carol Jillian
Floral Accessories and Headpiece:
Françoise Weeks
Red Skirt: Mysterious by NPN
Hair and Makeup: Teresa Romero
Smithers-Oasis Company / Oasis Floral Products
Greenleaf Wholesale Florist