Ellen Shows Us How Dried Flowers Can Be 'Pretty Wild'
Pretty Wild founder Ellen shares the story of how she turned from floristry to reviving the art of dried flower arranging with a modern twist. We love Pretty Wild for its colourful approach to sustainable floristry!
Ellen, tell us how it all began. Waste is a pretty vulgar part of floristry. It's the part I did not consider in the twenty seconds it took for me to decide to become a florist. When I first opened my shop, on a freezing winter's day, I (naively) assumed there would be flocks of people. So...I had flocks of fresh flowers. Needless to say, I found out quickly that the area I was in was more commuter belt/red light district than filled with passersby with money to spend. That meant dying flowers, full green bins, sore pockets and a sad, sinking soul. Until one day…I decided to dry out what didn't sell, buy stock in bulk already dried (to keep the aesthetic of a full and welcoming store while lowering my carbon footprint) and this proved to be a game changer.
A lightbulb moment! What next? After discovering the durability, sustainability, flexibility and transportability of dried flowers, I know there was something to it. That was back in September 2019. I ran a kickstarter, raised money with pre-orders and got to work. However, something felt clunky and as a new business, I didn’t have the time or capital to just focus solely on something that showed promise but no immediate income, particularly on the run up to Christmas. So I let it fall quiet until… Lockdown. When lockdown came into effect, 40% of the floristry work I had lined up for weddings was postponed. The time I had wanted a few months prior was suddenly put in front of me. It was definitely a moment where packing it all in was an option. But, I didn’t and within a week the answers to the initial clunky issues appeared and I went for it.
What are you working on right now? Stabilizing and scaling the DIY offering while looking to introduce a selection of curated, independent goods that I find inspiring and share the same ethos of Pretty Wild.
And where do you want your brand to be in 5 years’ time? I want to grow to become a platform that is a whole lot more than dried flowers. It will evolve and be shaped by the community it serves. I have ideas but I’m not holding myself to them… yet.
From product sourcing and quality control to mentors we all have access to, we’re hanging off Ellen’s every word.
Tell us about sourcing fresh flowers. We wouldn’t know where to start! The secret is research and lots of it. I’m always looking and always learning about what I can get my hands on, both fresh and dried. I look for flow, texture, scent - it all comes into play. Whatever causes the senses perk up or confuses them into curiosity.
Any tips on how to keep quality consistent? If I receive something that is not up to standard, I simply don’t use it and ensure that I’m reimbursed. I’m only as good as my last job. There’s no room for substandard items.
Now tell us a bit about your sources of advice and inspiration. First off, it’s family and friends. It is always family and friends. My Dad has his own business (Ceadogan Rugs) and I’ve learned through him to never lose your sense of local and community, and also to put your best foot forward. But I’d also add The Tallulah Rose Flower School and Ruby Mary Lennox - a Berlin floristry studio that pushes floristry to a level that astounds me. Creative and cool with a little bit of mystery. Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine puts my thoughts into words so accurately, I’m always left feeling like she’s filed my mind - and so much better than I could.
Ellen’s business, Pretty Wild, spearheads the sustainability movement, giving a fresh twist to the art of dried flower arranging. We ask her what’s next for flowers and how the trend has evolved.
We hadn’t thought about sustainability in the context of fresh flowers before, tell us about it. The amount of flower waste smacked me in the face when I first became a florist. I had no idea. It has been a driving force in shaping the future of Pretty Wild. There is so much being done to reduce and combat the waste and environmentally unfriendly floristry practices. From the suppliers we use through to our packaging, the repurposing of flowers and using sustainable and reusable mechanics. There is however, still more to be done.
At The Soko Edit, we see a close link between sustainability and community. How important is your local community to you? Local community is built into the Pretty Wild framework. I wouldn’t feel strong or stable without that aspect - from other independent traders to repeat, trusted clients and the sense of absolute camaraderie that ripples through. I’m currently working on a sideline project ‘The Community Chain’ with another independent advocate to help bolster this further.