It’s a sunny autumn afternoon and I’ve got a date with Romy St Clair and Iona Mathieson: the brains behind Peckham-based florist Sage Flowers, whose colourful contemporary styles have wooed the creative teams behind Glossier, Fenty, Gucci and Stormzy, as well as bloom-obsessed Londoners aplenty.
It’s pre-Lockdown 2.0 and we’re catching up while Mathieson is sitting in their south London shop, dipping in and out of conversation, chatting to customers as they pop in for a browse, and St Clair is on her sofa at home, catching a break from non-stop admin.
I try to grill the duo on their high-profile collaborations, though — much like the bouquets they produce — they are entirely laid-back about working with big names such as Rihanna and Grace Ladoja, Skepta’s manager, especially because they tend to give them creative free reign to do their thing. Ladoja in particular, who owns Metallic Inc and regularly collaborates with Nike, has been very supportive. ‘The Fenty [Rihanna’s beauty brand] project was fun and it was Grace who introduced us to that,’ says St Clair.
While the pair had countless weddings and events planned at the beginning of the year, Covid-19 has forced them to pivot to home deliveries — something that they’ve seen many of their peers refuse to do. ‘There were a lot of florists that didn’t adapt,’ says St Clair. ‘I think they thought Covid would last three months and then they could go back to doing massive weddings or huge corporate events. The reality is they had a nice summer holiday and now they haven’t got any work or any plan, whereas we just cracked on and took the really backbreaking work of making tons of bouquets every day for home delivery, and it’s paid off because we have a viable business.’
Neither of the Sage girls received any formal training in floristry or business management. Before they started selling their blooms at a pop-up in a car park in Peckham in 2018, Mathieson briefly interned in a flower shop between working in hospitality and St Clair was in healthcare and consultancy. This, they believe, is why their arrangements stand out from the classic British wild garden style that dominates the current market. ‘I think not having any of the classic rules of floristry taught to us meant that we didn’t abide by them, and it means that our stuff is a bit different,’ says Mathieson. Instead, their style is influenced by a ‘big frame of reference’ that includes everything from clubbing flyers to architecture and mid-century modern furniture. Though the pair seem confident they’re going places, Mathieson and St Clair have not always had it easy. During their rise to success, they have become painfully aware of bumps in the industry’s glossy façade. For example: when I ask them about New Covent Garden Flower Market, the picture they paint is not, as you might perhaps expect, one of blooming dahlias and charming East End geezers […]