“It’s so important to recognise that your time is not free; something that I found quite tricky to navigate at the start.” Lucy Vail Floristry
From Italian-inspired tablescapes drenched in lush foliage and frothy blooms to staircases dripping in botanicals (and seemingly plunged into something out of a fairy tale) Lucy Vail Floristry is a London-based florist that brings more than a little dash of floral magic to the table when it comes to her craft. Catering for everything from the smallest of bouquets to hefty installations infused with imagination and skill, everything Lucy Vail Floristry creates is approached with the florist’s unique blend of sustainable techniques, British blooms and unquestionable talent. It was a real pleasure to dive headfirst into the world of flowers with Lucy’s interview, to talk about her business journey so far and her version of Taking The Plunge, including the highs, the lows, the first jobs, the worst jobs and the tech she can’t live without…
#1 In a nutshell, describe your business/brand – what do you offer?
“We create floral wonderlands with seasonal blooms for weddings, events and installations. We use as many British flowers as possible and lots of colour.”
#2 What’s your career background? Has it always been in the wedding industry?
“No, I always dreamed of a career in print design and it wasn’t until my last year of university that I thought of switching into floristry. I took a wreath making course at 16 years old and absolutely loved it, from there I sold wreaths to fund my degree and one of my clients called me out of the blue to ask if I’d do their daughter’s wedding flowers and the rest is history. I spent six months using YouTube tutorials to learn how to put together floral installations and practicing in my parents’ garage, even testing out the strength of swinging off the garage ceiling to make sure my hanging installations were sturdy enough! For this first wedding I transformed the marquee with lots of suspended arrangements, floral poles and archways in addition to the table flowers – all with 20 minutes sleep. Purely by accident I had found my passion! The adrenaline and the goal of pushing the boundaries of design was a big driving force but seeing the bride’s reaction was like nothing I had experienced and it’s still what I love the most about my job today. After this first job I reached out to a top party planner at the time and asked who the best florist in the world was at the time and they mentioned a company in Florence who had done the weddings of Kim Kardashian, George Clooney, and much more. I begged this company for a job for three months before they eventually gave in. I worked and trained with them for a year, before heading to Venice to work with another company for a further six months. During my time in Italy I learned how to use colour, texture and fruits to create the extraordinary through florals. I have now been running my business for seven years and still loving every single day in this mad industry!”
#3 What planted the seed of your business idea? Did it strike you suddenly?
“As I mentioned above, if it wasn’t for the trust of my first ever wreath client asking me to do her daughter’s wedding I don’t know whether I’d be here today. Her faith in me opened my eyes to a whole world I never knew existed and ultimately brought me to the place I am today.”
#4 Describe the moment you decided to TAKE THE PLUNGE (what did this involve? Handing in your notice?)
“When I returned to the UK I freelanced for the top UK florists and it took a good while before I plucked up the courage to go solo. As a florist, your life is always a little bit of a rollercoaster as the work is so seasonal but particularly as a freelancer – I had to work 18 hour days in the lead up to Christmas to cover my costs without work from January to March. When more clients started approaching me to decorate their weddings, I decided to take the plunge and thank goodness I did. Going solo was definitely lonely at first, but far more rewarding because I was able to design what I wanted to make and meet amazing people (creatives, clients and suppliers alike). I knew that each long day was worth it because I was building something far bigger that would eventually pay off.”
#5 Describe how the first day of building your own business felt:
“Very daunting and exhilarating in equal measure! I really enjoyed freelancing because it constantly challenged me to adapt my style to suit the company I was working for and I learnt so much. But taking the plunge to start my own business also gave me freedom to design arrangements in my own style and that feeling was wonderful. There is still never a day that goes by that I am not challenged – whether through trialling new designs or working with new suppliers and clients – and I love it. I’ve come to learn that being challenged is what drives me and I know that the minute I start to feel comfortable I need to change things up.”
#6 The highs – what have they been so far?
No.1 “Being chosen to dress the Bull Ring Gate entrance of RHS Chelsea 2022 earlier this year was a dream come true. I’m incredible proud of our involvement, because we built the largest installation to date with over 2,500 British grown plants and I didn’t realise at the time but I am the youngest florist to have dressed that entrance to date.”
No.2 “My own wedding earlier this year (June 2022) was incredibly special. My entire team (17 people in total) brought my dream wedding florals to life and it was just magical. I was so proud of my team and what we had achieved.”
No.3 “Discovering British blooms and collaborating on Floriston Flower Farm in Suffolk with my mum. In the first lockdown we decided to start our own flower farm and made it our mission to champion British blooms through all of the work LVF does. Our aim is to use 100% British blooms eventually and I’m so proud to say that we have used predominantly British blooms for our projects between March-November, using a min. of 1,000 stems a week from Floriston in peak season. The farm continues to grow and I’m so excited to see what 2023 brings.”
#7 The lows – how did you move past them? What did you learn?
“I’m sure lots of people have answered the same but the biggest low for me absolutely has to be the Covid pandemic. Everyone says that it takes 3/4 years to start making a profitable business and for it to take off and 2019 was that year for me. I had a fully booked summer, won one of the main installations at RHS Chelsea and so much more. It really felt like 2019 was my year and all of that got stripped away from me in less than a couple of weeks. It was really really hard. Now that some time has passed though, I do think that in some ways it might be the best thing that’s ever happened to me because I learnt so much! I refused to give up, delivering food and flowers to people’s doorsteps to get the brand out there and it reached so many new people. With the flower market closed and no access to deliveries from Holland, I worked with a small flower farm in Shropshire to source my flowers which opened my eyes to UK grown blooms and ultimately completely transformed my approach to floristry. If this hadn’t have happened, mum and I wouldn’t have built Floriston Flower. This period taught me to keep pivoting, always looking ahead to the future and it also taught me how to really manage my pennies.”
#8 If you could tell yourself three things when you first started the business – what would they be?
“Get ready for an adventure, seek challenges and embrace the freedom to design whatever you like!”
#9 Your tips for those dreaded lying-awake-at-3am times? (Counting sheep? Glass of water? Get up? Meditate? Read?)
“Keep a notebook by your bed and get all of those worries/ideas onto paper. I find that writing everything down brings some clarity and forces you to think literally/factually about what’s making your brain buzz.”
#10 Your top organisational tip?
“I am naturally the most disorganised person and I heavily rely on my team for logistics. However, I’m very visual so use mind maps when approaching any planning. I use them for everything from breaking down what my business stands for, my main ethos and the goals I want to achieve for the year. I keep these by my desk so that whenever a new job comes in I can align it with my goals.
It’s also really important to make sure you’re on top of your profit. Someone once told me ‘revenue is vanity, profit is sanity’ and it’s so true. After every sale/project I breakdown exactly what profit I have made so that at the end of the year I can plan much better for the future. It’s so important to recognise that your time is not free; something that I found quite tricky to navigate at the start.”
#11 Who inspired you? Or inspires you in business?
“Creatively, my main inspiration is set designers. I’ve always been mesmerised by the ballet – their ability to change sets so quickly and beautifully is incredible. From a business perspective, I love Anya Hindmarch and Holly Tucker’s ethos. Holly’s Conversations of Inspiration podcast is my favourite thing to listen to.”
#12 An app/piece of tech you now couldn’t live without for your business:
“It’s got to be Shopify and Xero which keep me completely up to date with my accounts. I’m very lucky because my husband is a tech wizard so he keeps me well informed on the new platforms etc that I should be using!”
#13 Your first ever job was…
“I was a waitress for Cote Brasserie.”
#14 Your top social media tip?
“Be true to yourself – don’t over edit. People want to see the real you and truth of the brand – don’t be afraid to show them behind the scenes.”
#15 The brand you’d love to collaborate with and why…
“I would love to do Dior’s fashion show set design and completely transform the catwalk so that the models walk through a wonderland. To work with the production team too and design something beautiful on another level would be amazing!”
#16 Name a business/social media account(s) – that have helped/inspired you with your business?
“@hollytucker” – listen to her Conversations of Inspiration podcast!”
#17 Your fav social media tool: (Pinterest? Instagram? LinkTree? Etc.)
#18 Your advice to those looking to TAKE THE PLUNGE:
“DO IT! You will never look back. It is the best rollercoaster – there are highs and low and rarely the in-between but for me it is this that creates the most exciting, rewarding and best life! It is definitely not for the faint-hearted, you have to work your socks off and have a lot of stamina but it definitely pays off. And let’s face it, we spend 85% of our time working so why not enjoy it as much as possible!”
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS | LUCY VAIL FLORISTRY
#1 Most inspirational book you’ve read:
“If In Doubt, Wash Your Hair by Anya Hindmarch.”
#2 You’re in Starbucks, what do you order?
“Black Americano and a cinnamon swirl.”
#3 Instagram feed crush:
#4 Your worst job was…
“I actually haven’t had a rubbish job.”
#5 If you didn’t do what you do…what would you do?
“A print designer working for Vivienne Westwood or maybe doing the embroidery and designs for the ballet’s costumes.”
#6 Work day pick-me-up: “Chocolate brownie from Joe and the Juice.”
Discover more beautiful wedding flowers inspiration from Lucy Vail Floristry and don’t forget to check out the florist’s Instagram @lucyvailfloristry