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Tracking Floral Futures

Tracking Floral Futures
 

“2019 SLOW FLOWERS FLORAL INSIGHTS AND INDUSTRY FORECAST” 

The floral professional’s role is to connect consumers with the natural world through artistry and design. So it’s no surprise that the emerging themes of this year’s Slow Flowers Floral Insights and Industry Forecast include ideas that strengthen community ties with value-driven consumers and nurture entrepreneurial innovation in horticulture and floriculture.

Here is the annual Slow Flowers report on leading topics influencing the domestic floral marketplace, including cultural shifts and a convergence of collective ideas and attitudes. In recent months, I’ve shared many of these ideas at Hitomi Gilliam’s Trend Summit 2019, the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers’ annual conference and the Southern Flower Symposium. If you’re an “early adopter,” these concepts may resonate or reinforce your current approach to sustainable design.

Methodology

For each of the past five years, I have drawn from a number of sources to develop this annual forecast. Sources include hundreds of first-person interviews for print and digital stories, input from the Slow Flowers Community, past guests of the Slow Flowers Podcast and the attitudes of progressive leaders in the floral marketplace – farmers, florists and design creatives – who, together, inspire this “floral futures” report. I hope you find these forward-thinking resources important and valuable. I’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions. You can find an expanded version of this report, including a free PDF, at slow owersjournal.com.

#1 Experiences, Not Conveniences

In a retail climate where Amazon is king, those who engage floral consumers in authentic, tactile, visceral experiences will break through the click-and-buy mind-set. Customers who connect with you, your story, your flowers and the origin of those flowers are the foundation of a loyal tribe.

And while efforts and actions that strengthen our ties with customers aren’t entirely new concepts, they are ones you must habitually practice, especially in today’s cluttered and distract-ing marketplace. Events, tours, workshops and other experiential programming are critical – and much more powerful than touching customers through social media channels alone.

Teresa Engbretson and Katie Elliot,
My Garden Over Floweth
Photo © Courtney Coriell Photography

#2 Artisan, Not Mass Produced

When you embrace the artisan ethos, the conversation moves away from flowers as a price-sensitive commodity to flowers with high, value-added perception. As botanical ingredients migrate further into the worlds of fashion and couture (yes, Beyoncé and her floral headpiece appearing on the cover of last September’s Vogue comes to mind), they are quickly becoming objects of desire in a new way. The explosion of floral wearables, floral couture and jewelry alike, ignites the imaginations of your clients. Handcrafted products, as well as botanical collections, will differentiate you and your brand.

#3 Floral Expressions, Not Floral Arrangements

Credit for this phrase goes to Tomas De Bruyne, who uttered it during his presentation at the 2018 American Institute of Floral Designers’ (AIFD) Symposium. It truly resonates as a design philosophy of infusing relevance into what is so often the day-to-day production-based floral marketplace. Enticing the senses, setting a mood, emphasizing place and season – these themes enhance what sometimes feels prosaic.

Uncommon ingredients, geographic uniqueness and botanical curiosities lend that unexpected garnish to arrangements, allowing a centerpiece or hand-tied bouquet to represent so much more than stem count or price. Perhaps, by tapping deep into the inner artist, an “expression in flowers” will communicate more meaningful sentiments.

#4 Environmental, Not Synthetic

Natural, tactile and organic are terms that emerge in this concept, one that returns us quite literally to the roots of this profession. Expressing our earthy ties requires pulling back the veil and revealing how plants grow, an unfiltered “behind the scenes” approach to our work. Tap into that curiosity and give your customers access to the process. Revealing root balls, seedlings, bulbs and tubers as part of the finished design is one easy way to underscore the ties to farmland and agriculture. Wild or cultivated, nature at all stages fascinates – and providing access to unique sources.

sabella Thorndike Church, Jacklily Seasonal Floral Design
Photos © Juliet Ashley Photography

#5 Vertical, Not Compartmentalized

More florists are becoming their own source for everything from cut flowers to value-added products (vases, accessories, linens, tools) as a way to capture more profits and reclaim revenue. The opportunity to “sell to yourself” has fueled the farmer-florist model, and increasingly, studio and retail florists are planting seeds to attain affordable luxury – flowers to grow and harvest for their own channels.

There are innovative crossover and collaborative opportunities, as well, such as April Lemly’s Kamama Flowers (kamama owers.com), which has co-located with Peninsula Taproom, in Sequim, Wash., two businesses with a shared marketplace. Using #flowersandbeer to reach a crossover demographic base makes this strategy a natural while also reducing overhead for two retail storefronts.

#6 Relational, Not Transactional

I keep returning to the oft-quoted Seth Godin saying, “People do not buy goods and services. ey buy relations, stories and magic.” In today’s transactional climate, florists who can find authentic and relevant ways to engage with customers while also doing business are well positioned to ride out downturns or more competition in their marketplace.

Meaningful connections (back to experiences over conveniences) have inspired a number of florists to bring their clients closer. Mary Kate Kinnane of e Local Bouquet, a wedding and event designer based in Little Compton, R.I., hosts DIY floral design workshops that go well beyond a hands-on session. Her “Meet the Farmer” series provides opportunities for customers to tour and learn from The Local Bouquet’s regular vendors while deepening anappreciation for the studio’s values and brand.

#7 Planted, Not Faux

In prior years, our Slow Flowers Floral Insights report has identified Cultivated Wildflowers, Flowering Native Plants, Modern Everlastings, Luxe Tropicals and the Woodland as new or revived floral styles worth noting. For 2019, there’s no denying that it’s the “Year of the Houseplant.”

The Slow Flowers Journal recently documented the creative ways retail florists are leveraging the current plant craze for their brands. For those who yearn to keep it local, sourcing plants is a mostly domestic practice, reinforcing the brand message they’re already communicating with local and seasonal cut flowers.

The power of plants extends further, with corporate greening services, planting workshops and education, as well as a broader design palette for traditionally flower-centric weddings and events. When you emphasize horticulture-based goods and services, you tap into the yearnings of a new customer base, be it houseplant aficionados or those wanting to deepen their relationship with the Earth.

#8 Transparent, Not Obscured

There are two different but equally relevant themes reflected by the idea of transparent versus obscured. The first relates to many of the items in this report, the idea of being authentic, aka transparent, in how one’s brand is presented to the marketplace. Transparency in our business and sourcing practices is more important than ever. This means aligning images, content, partnerships and practices with the brand values we want to represent.

There is another idea of transparency that has emerged and captured my attention, and that is an aesthetic one. The open, airy look continues, and many progressive and experimental designers are playing with negative space in their arrangements. This approach isn’t a replacement for the popular concept of seasonal abundance, but it is an approach that heightens the viewer’s attention on each flower, be it a focal or an accent bloom, and one that allows stems to emerge above and beyond the dense center of gravity of a bouquet or centerpiece. Transparent design seems to defy gravity, in fact. I’ve been drawn to this approach by witnessing the alluring approach of a number of designers recently.

#9 Multiseasonal, Not Single Use

Extending the season is a popular concept in flower farming, and now savvy florists are reimagining fresh annuals as dried everlastings or flowers that have an afterlife as seed heads once petals have dropped. Further, when ingredients can serve multiple uses – equally valued for the bloom, foliage, bark and pod – they become valuable design elements.

The inspiration here is having an appreciation for all phases of a perennial, shrub or tree. Celebrating the seasonal cycles is yet another way to connect customers with nature while also shifting the idea of beauty away from a flawless hothouse flower and toward nature’s imperfection.

#10 Community, Not Solitary

We’ve seen the phrase “community over competition,” and I, for one, believe that is the only way to differentiate ourselves in the noisy global marketplace where authentic connections are rare. We’re seeing Maker Collectives where florists and growers merchandise flowers and arrangements alongside specialty food or art venues. We’re amazed at the proliferation of wholesale hubs where flower farmers connect directly with floral designers.

Co-working spaces, the sharing of infrastructure and equipment between flower farmers, collaborative floral installations for public good – these actions are taking place more often than ever before as intentional and meaningful ways to create community and foster a sense that we are part of something bigger than commerce. Rather, a mission to change our own marketplace for better results.

The Flower Calendar

“Floral designer Kelly Shore challenged herself to use only local, seasonal and domestic blooms for a 12-month series of bridal looks. She collaborated with photographer Sarah Collier to capture a stunning Slow Flowers Year.”

Kelly Shore, of Petals by the Shore, based in Damascus, Md., has set big goals to stretch herself creatively before. In fact, two years ago, her collaboration with Plant Masters, a Maryland flower farm, led to our editorial feature called “Four Seasons of Floral Design.”

That idea of producing four styled photo shoots during winter, spring, summer and fall – each specific to one farm’s seasonal harvest – was artistically inspiring. The gorgeous results demonstrated to Kelly, and to her bridal clients, that it’s possible to find local beauty if you look for it, regardless of the time of year.

Since then, supporting and sourcing from America’s flower farmers has become an ever-expanding part of Kelly’s brand and mission. She has served as one of the lead designers for two First Lady’s Luncheons; the guest designer at a Field to Vase Dinner held at Scenic Place Peonies in Homer, Alaska; and co-presented at the Slow Flowers Summit with Mary Kate Kinnane of e Local Bouquet in Little Compton, R.I.

 

“It’s not intimidating to make changes when you’ve done the research and made solid, trusted connections with wholesalers and flower farmers.”

One year ago, Kelly made a 2018 New Year’s Resolution for Petals by the Shore. She imagined a visually stunning photographic series of bridal bouquets that embraced the Slow Flowers philosophy. The idea: To design 12 consecutive months of bouquets and use the project as a seasonal flower sourcing exercise while discovering who, where and what the
domestic marketplace could offer her.

Kelly partnered with Sarah Collier of Taken by Sarah, a Charlotte, N.C.-based fine art and film photographer, and the two agreed to meet monthly for an entire year. Their photo shoots centered around Kelly’s all-American bridal bouquets, with stems procured from a wide range of domestic farms. The women self-funded the project, with each contributing styling and design talents to produce a diverse calendar of looks – from the palette to the model to the dress to the various studio and outdoor locations.

“Part of the unique experience working with Sarah is that she focuses so heavily on how to photograph flowers – and that is rare,” Shore says.This project appealed to Sarah’s botanical passions, which is no surprise, since she also manages Florists’ Review’s Instagram content (@florists_review). “I love flowers as much as I love photography,” Collier explains. “I call myself a flower photographer, and I especially enjoy working with florists like Kelly who are as excited about that as I am.”

Making 12 unique bridal bouquets led Kelly to boutique micro-farms as well as to large commercial farms. Some farms allowed her to set up direct-shipping accounts while others channeled her through wholesalers, including DVFlora, Mayesh Wholesale Florist and Florabundance.

“Through this project, I challenged myself to think out-side the box each month, to source from multiple farms, whether they’re Certified American Grown or whether I found them through Slow Flowers or by searching social media,” she says. “There were some times when I needed a one-stop shop, and that’s when I gave my palette to my wholesale rep and asked, ‘What can you pull for me that’s 100-percent American grown?’”

Kelly and Sarah’s year of American flowers shows the incredible depth and selection within domestic floral agriculture. Kelly hopes this collection of bouquets inspires others who desire to align flower sourcing with their brand, values or mission.

“My business is better for having gone through this experience,” Shore maintains. “It’s not intimidating to make changes when you’ve done the research and made solid, trusted connections with wholesalers and flower farmers. Those relationships will give you the confidence to make the best shift possible in how you procure flowers, how you communicate to your clients and the quality you deliver to those clients – because you’ve made a conscious decision about where you source.”

See expanded galleries of each month’s flowers at takenbysarah.com
View Kelly Shore’s design recipes and flower sources for each bouquet at petalsbytheshore.com

Dresses: Kelly Faetanini and Meagan Kelly Designs
HMUA: Lori Nansi, Kevan Lawrence and Anna Fazio
Models: Davia Low, Clare Grazal, Saskia Moore and Jasmine Ellesse
DETAILS

Petals by the Shore petalsbytheshore.com @petalsbytheshore
Taken by Sarah takenbysarah.com @takenbysarah 

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