This year to celebrate Pride month we commissioned Sue of Floral stylist to create a rainbow dried floral installation for our Ponsonby and Newmarket boutiques. When it comes to lively and colourful florals, Sue's floristry has become synonymous with joyful and vibrant arrangements. We sat down with floral genius Sue to find out more about how she keeps her creative juices flowing, her career highlights so far and what it means to her being a part of the LGBTQIA community.
Sue wears our limited edition Rainbow Feature Strap. 100% of the profits from each strap are donated to LGBTQI+ charity InsideOut.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and what led you to become a floral masterpiece creator…
I have been in the floral industry all my life. From very little I use to help tend my grandfather’s beautiful garden (a very privileged job in our family!) This is where my love for flowers grew. I always wanted to do creative work of some sort but didn't quite know where to place myself after school finished. I pondered large scale sculpture (and would still love to do this one day) but my friend got me a job in a tiny florist in Sandringham and from that point on I was addicted to flowers. I have had the pleasure of working in Sydney for 8 years in the industry. The markets there are incredible. The variety, the busy insanity, and the joy of buying armfuls of rare and extremely high standard florals straight off the market floor is really quite an overwhelming experience. You need eyes in the back of your head for the forklifts whizzing by in every direction! Sydney deepened my passion much further.
We strongly believe in trusting your intuition and creating the life you dream of. Can you tell us about taking that leap of faith and starting your own business?
It was a huge leap of faith; I have made many mistakes on the way to following my passion and building my business dreams. I have taken lots of risks... some clever some just straight out blind. But I would not change much... only that I now have the resources and the confidence to reach out for help when I need it .If there is one thing, I have learnt it is that it takes a village, and you cannot do it alone. My instincts for design have always been strong and I have been able to trust them over the years, but you need good business acumen as well, this is something hard earned for me .In any case, after working my butt off for many years and putting in all my heart and soul, I am extremely happy and proud of the multi-faceted, unique and stand out business I have created.
Looking back, and what you know now, what advice would you give yourself?
Get guidance and ask for help... accountant, business mentor, someone in the industry to guide you. Also, do not be so hard on yourself. People in the floristry industry are some of the hardest working people I have ever met, there is so much burn out and fatigue in the industry. Be prepared for long long hours , working weekends all through summer and years of building your business solo and doing every facet of the business yourself.
We love your playful and confident use of colour. Has colour always been an important aspect to your work, or has you style (and love for colour) evolved over time?
My style has 100% evolved over time with my strengthened confidence in who I am and what appeals to me. . I have always loved colour and luxe, bold design both in flowers and in all other aspects of my life e.g fashion, homewares, styling. The market is ready for fashion forward and ever evolving looks and I am here for it !!
Best part of working with flowers? / Best part of the job?
Best part of the job for me is being in a place where clients trust your vision and you can just go for it in terms of design. The flowers themselves are my true loves and always will be . I still squeal with delight when I see new season product come in and always stop to suck down the exquisite, heady, perfume of the sweet peas or garden roses whenever possible. Sharing my love for the blooms is always a joy and having amazing staff and flower friends to go nuts over the flowers with and share the journey with is a real gift.
The floral masterpieces you create are such works of art – do you describe yourself as a florist or more of an artist who works with the medium of flowers?
Of late, I have described myself as the latter and infact with our new rebrand we have changed our ethos description to "Artful Elevation". We have found our place in the market and that is a more artful vibe .Clients come to us now specifically for the more fashion minded, sculptural work and we could not be happier about this, it is exactly where we want to be and I thrive off the challenge to come up with exciting, new looks not just for weddings but events of every kind.
Can you share a little bit about a stand-out project (a fave, or maybe the one you learned most from?)
There are a few but recently we did a moveable 10 part cloud installation for Together Journal for their Floral Fashion feature. It was huge! A sea of block pastel and eclectic meadow like florals. We moved each section to create a different set design for each new fashion look. The first of it's kind in New Zealand and a real work of art. We were very proud of this and felt it really encompassed our look as a brand. The other event that really stuck with me was creating the fashion runway for Juliette Hogan for 2020 NZFW . The models floated around a maze of satellite island installations that we had created . The islands were made of moss and foliage and inspiration was taken from the New Zealand natural landscape, it was such a memorable thing to see both our brands work so beautifully together in the final product.
Doing flowers for Elton John's private rooms at his concert was also a major highlight !
You have worked with some AMAZING companies; what do you look for in these partnerships and have you got a favourite to date? (OR: who would your dream company to work with be?
I am lucky enough to have built strong alliances with some fabulous brands and some new ones on the horizon with exciting projects coming up. I don’t have a favourite as each brand allows me to express myself differently and keeps me thinking about more and more creative concepts.
I look for genuinely lovely people, a keen eye and a passion for design and future fashion and masters in their field.
Three stand out brands that we work with a lot are Together Journal( leader in the wedding industry for design led ideas run by the multi-talented and quite frankly incredible, Greta Kenyon).Flock Events ( absolutely owning the furniture hire and prop world for events at present with Alice a true beacon of inspiration for in the industry and business in general), and Bayly and Moore Photography...( long time industry friends with pure magic in their bones, cannot speak more highly of them or their craft.They have set the benchmark in photography for sure).
Where do you find your creative inspiration and how do you maintain it?
I pull it from everywhere: fashion new and old, interior design, music, nature itself, the client and their brand and of course from the flowers themselves! Once I am inspired by a medium my imagination and instincts kick in and I go from there.
As a business owner, creative, artist, among other things; how do you manage your time?
Very badly.... much to the chagrin of my partner. I have never been any good at personal time management(business management is sorted) but I am learning ... allowing myself to take breaks and enjoy holidays when I can. Learning to have a proper work/life balance is something I am trying hard to work on.
2021 was a whirlwind of a year, what lessons are you taking away from it?
The uncertainty of the latter half of 2021 certainly put into perspective that you cannot be prepared for everything and you can only do your best with what is thrown at you.
Make the most of everyday and not everything has to be focused on business.
Listen to your inner voice more and it’s ok to check out of business and check into life when you need to.
What conversations do you wish we were having more of?
I would like to talk to a lot more small business owners about how they are coping with the "new world order". About finding equal rights for all genders in the workplace. I would like to be a part of helping LGBTQIA+ youth in some way through the medium of flowers and my personal experience. Having discussions about how fast the world is changing and adaptability around this would be an interesting discussion to have.
What’s next for you, and/or for your business?
We are full steam ahead for a packed wedding season (bugger off Omicron!!!) with some epic events thrown in for good measure. Bring it on! Lots of innovative designs and ideas up the sleeve for growth but will keep that on the hush hush for now.
How would you describe your personal style?
I love being eclectic, bold, unique, alternative, comfortable and fashion aware. My style really depends on what day it is and what tasks are at hand. What I wear to meetings vs what I wear when doing ceiling installations certainly doesn’t look the same but I always try and incorporate colour no matter what.
And your Saben style – What do you look for in a handbag; Do you swap out your bag or need ONE that does work-weekend, day-to-night?
Because my handbag can hold anything from my favourite scent to florist scissors, durability ie quality craftmanship is a must.
I need to have something a bit unexpected or a talking point... a unique but in season colour or feature. I absolutely change from day to night as I need floristry tools and general life needs (enough to build a house) in my day bag but a sleeker more paired down phone, lipstick bag at night.
What drew you to Saben, and how does wearing/carrying it make you feel?
I love Saben for their playfulness, originality and function. I am particularly fond of the LIVhandbag for its architectural shape and alabaster ,snake skin texture. I vibe with Saben through the women focused and lead brand . The thoughtful, artful designs and the consistently fresh looks they produce excite me and I’m always looking out for their new lines with eager anticipation.
Sue wears the Pride Rainbow Feature Strap and Frilly Tilly in Alabaster. 100% of the profits from each strap are donated to LGBTQI+ charity InsideOut.