Fresh from FLORIST
In fact, FLORIST proved itself an instant classic. What was once a brand as underground as your favorite Chinatown knock-off stop is now a booming business. office spoke with the up-and-coming designer about fake flowers, spaghetti westerns, and what’s next for FLORIST.
How did you get into making embroidered bags?
I always like to add little expressions to my clothes, through either painting or embroidery. Hand embroidery was far too time consuming, so I taught myself to chain stitch. Initially I was making bags as a little side project after hours at my old work. I loved working on large motifs and loved the idea that someone would be walking around the streets with my work on display, in the form of a bag.
What kind of technical training do you have?
I'm not technically trained, I’ve just taught myself everything through trial and error. I really enjoy the process of trying to figure out how to make something or how to use a particular machine.
I also think that the fact that I'm not technically trained has added to my aesthetic. The audaciousness of trying to make something without the technical know-how––I think this kind of resonates with people.
Your pieces seem very sentimental, but refined, too. They’re also sort of Western. What are you influenced by?
I'm really inspired by the use of color and shape throughout the 70s and 80s. I love the way people designed things in that period––beautiful, sleek, but also aggressive.
I enjoy working with simple silhouettes but adding flavor and vibrancy to them. I’ve always found it really interesting how people can take a particular theme or narrative and then re-interpret it in their own way—like how Italians loved American Western movies, so they developed their own spaghetti Western genre that is totally unique and cool in its own right, but is based off an existing theme.
I often associate leather goods with cowboys and bikers, people who love hearty products that they can thrash for decades. I guess when it comes to bags I'm reinterpreting that, but making them cute! The idea of Florist is that the pieces elevate you, you feel brighter and bubblier, in the same way that giving or receiving flowers makes you feel.
How long does it take to make a bag?
The bags take anywhere between three and six hours to make depending on the style. It's quite a hands-on process when you consider that every piece of the bag has to be cut and then all the edges finished and then embroidered and assembled.
Does that make you feel protective over them?
I don't feel protective at all over my bags. I enjoy making them, but I enjoy even more what they mean to their owners. If I'm working on something custom for a customer I'm constantly questioning whether or not they’ll like what I'm doing, as I'm doing it.
How much of your personal style is reflected into the bags?
I think a lot of my personal style is reflected in the bags and products I make. It's hard for your own style to not bleed into your work when the process is so involved and hands-on.
What flower shops do you frequent?
There are a couple fake flower shops near my studio on Myrtle ave. I often find myself in there looking at all the different imitation flowers, they are really amazing. I also really like lots of the flower shops in Chinatown such as Confucius Florist Inc and Lucky Florist and Goods.
I’m surprised you like fake flower shops!
I think imitation flowers are amazing, as with anything imitation really. I guess that goes back to what I was saying about people interpreting and reinterpreting themes.
It is an amazing feat of expression if you’re trying to replicate something. You’re never going to get it exact, and often you include details that weren’t on the original which adds something more.
I guess I’m thinking in relation to bootleggers, which are super cool. Part of how I ended up making bags is because I couldn’t afford nice bags, and I kind of apply that same approach to my clothing, too.
Can you tell me about the process of buying a bag? I’ve heard you sometimes hand-deliver them.
Initially to buy a bag people would send me a DM on Instagram. I now have a website that people can buy from too. It's a little tricky to get every single bag I make up onto the website as everything needs to be photographed, so often if people don't see the one they want online, they purchase it through Instagram. I always try and meet up to deliver the bag if the customer lives in New York City. It's super fun to meet my customers and I have made lots of friends through that process.
If you stitched any other word or phrase into the side of the bag, what would it be?
I haven't really put all that much thought into that. One of my favorite dishes is Mapo Tofu, I was making it a lot last winter and at one point I almost embroidered it onto a bag for myself... Unfortunately I never did, maybe this winter.
You’re starting to make chains now too! What’s next for FLORIST?
I'm currently working on a knitwear collection. I have always wanted to make clothing, and I love how there are countless techniques you can apply to achieve amazing results with regards to knitwear. I’ll have scarves and sweaters available before the year is out!