What florist doesn’t look forward to The Chelsea Flower Show? This spectacular show of all things floral is the highlight of the year for most people, florists and non-florists alike.
We were lucky enough to be involved this year thanks to the fantastic Liz Anderson and Hillier Nurseries.
You might recognise Liz as being the brains behind British Flowers Week - the week long celebration of English grown foliages and flowers within the floristry industry. We were chosen as one of the top 5 florists to represent British Flowers Week last year and chose to make a show stopper of a head piece to really showcase our unique style as well as the beauty of British grown flowers.
So when Liz wanted something really spectacular to draw the paps to Hillier’s stand on Press Day at Chelsea she approached us. Hillier wanted a model, dressed in either a head dress or dress made of fresh flowers and foliage, to really give their (already amazing) stand that added wow factor. The theme was 'Crossing Continents' and Liz gave us a list of foliages that were readily available at Hillier. So with this information in mind we had free reign on the project from there.
From the list that was sent to us we picked out Rhododendrons, Acer and Azalea.
We then set to work on sketching out ideas.
Here’s what we knew…
- We knew we wanted to create both a dress and a head piece.
- We knew if we made a dress made of flowers that we didn’t want it to be cumbersome and heavy. We knew we wanted the finished look to be refined and stylish and that can often get lost in layers of flowers and foliage.
- We knew we wanted the foliage to be the main feature.
- We knew we wanted a red headed model - we thought the red hair would really emphasis the rich greens of the foliages.
- We knew we wanted a dramatic head piece.
- We knew we wanted striking make up
- We knew we didn’t want the finished look to be too far removed from something that a client of ours might enquire about.
Here’s what we didn’t know…
- We didn’t know how we were going to construct a dress - like not even the basics - we had plenty of ideas but no clue how to actually fashion a dress out of foliage or flowers
- We didn’t know how we could make a really dramatic head piece that the model would still be able to walk up and down and pose wearing. (Usually the really big head pieces we create are for shoots where not much movement is involved)
- We didn’t know where to start…
At this point it was the actual daunting task of constructing an entire dress out of foliage that had us stumped. We had a brainwave and decided that we would attach foliage to an existing dress. We wanted to create a floral underskirt that could be worn over an already elegant and stylish dress. We researched lots of different ideas and called on fashionista friends who advised us about how to create the look and how to sew the foliage on to a petticoat that could be worn underneath a dress or skirt.
A lot of what we do cannot be planned down to the finer details until we begin work on it - and as we work entirely with fresh produce, work can’t often start until a day or two before the actual event.
Cue a team of volunteers who helped our dreams become a reality. With a really good team of people with ideas and skills, and the right materials, you can create pretty much anything you set your mind to in a very short period of time.
We created (with, I must say, HUGE amounts of help from the fabulous Clarinda from Sweden who was after some work experience in London) a solid base for the head piece. Based around St. Lucia crowns which they often make in Sweden for St. Lucy’s Day on December 13th, we created a solid and secure structure that we could then build on top of without fear of it falling off the model’s head or falling to pieces.
We also began work on cutting hundreds of pieces of Acer and sewing them on to a two layered petticoat that was to be worn underneath a gorgeous silky overskirt that we had found.
The rest of the finer details came from experimenting and bouncing ideas once we had the basics of the dress made. The bodice part was created from a chair sash with tiny Acer buds glued to it. The big bow and bustle on the back of the skirt came from experimentation the day before Chelsea when we were fitting the model and decided we needed something fancy at the back. We had also never intended for the dress to be long, or have a train, however when we cut down a huge branch of Acer and saw it’s elegant shape spilling all over the floor of our studio we decided it would be a crying shame to cut it up and not utilise it’s natural shape and curves.
We had pieced together all the ideas, the dress, and most of the head piece and spent a restless night before Press Day spraying the Acer branches and praying that by the time we go to the studio in the morning it would all still be alive! It was!
We added the Rhododendrons, Acers and Viburnum the morning of Press Day into both the head piece and the dress. We also had the fantastic Harriet Simmonds to do make up on the model in lots of pale greens and striking, almost nymph like, colours that really brought everything together.
Arriving at Chelsea was slightly difficult - bundling the huge underskirt and train into the car and gripping the head piece tightly the entire journey, but we made it and were thrilled with the overall look once we got the model dressed.
We have to give a shout out to Katherine the model too because it was, in typical Chelsea style, a complete washout so was freezing inside the tent but she remained professional despite freezing from the outside in!!
All in all it was a massive learning curve and so much fun to be able to continue experimenting with the extremes of floral head dress and fashion.
It was all such a fantastic experience, and with I think we managed to fulfil the brief, because it truly did 'Cross Continents', as our work appeared on news sites all over the world, as well as blogs. Some include Dubai, China, US (Wall Street Journal), Austrailia, France, Malaysia, Germany, Austria and Indonesia, as well our of course, our very own UK, Times, Telegraph, Daily Mail and the Independent)
We haven't quite been able to keep up with all the features, so if you find anymore, we would love to know!
You can see images of the dress, and some interviews and features in the following links: