By Caroline Tell
Photography by Eric Ryan Anderson | March 30, 2015 | People
It girls move on from magazines, PR, and the DJ booth to get down and dirty with Mother Nature.
Event veteran Kathleen Hyppolite has produced galas and fundraisers for Alvin Ailey and Jazz at Lincoln Center for over 10 years, but her favorite part of event planning has always been flower design. When the recession hit in 2008 and companies were forced to cut budgets, Hyppolite took a moment to think about what she most enjoyed in her work. Kat Flower was born the following fall.
Why flowers? I’ve always been around events and spent many years hiring florists. I ruled out culinary school in my 20s. I didn’t want to be in chef’s clothes all the time.
Was it difficult transitioning from event planner to floral designer? I was familiar with the market. I started learning about flowers and their names by taking classes. I sought every opportunity to expose myself to the product.
Favorite flower? In the spring, all of the flowering branches, like cherry blossoms, magnolias, lilacs. In the summer and fall, I like dahlias and wildflowers. Late spring is peonies, and I love roses all year round.
Toughest flower to work with? Hellebores can be challenging if you don’t know what you’re doing; also poppies and magnolias. They bruise easily and fall apart at the last minute.
Trends you anticipate for spring? Some you’d like to go away? I wouldn’t cry if the “mason jar” look and the entire rustic trend went away. I think people associate that with the idea of Brooklyn— very small blooms, farm-to-table. As someone from Brooklyn, I happen to love lush, full flowers and big blooms.
The chic tables you’ve set recently? I did an intimate dinner during Fashion Week for the brand Honor. I used a long glass table, borrowed vintage Murano glass objécts, and filled them with classic flowers like roses and dahlias in a rose, gold, amber, and pink palette.
Differences between Uptown and Downtown clients? There really isn’t a marked difference. Whether it’s for weddings, events, or a one-off occasion, most of my clients want lush, seasonal, textural arrangements, featuring all the favorites, like peonies, garden roses, dahlias, ranunculus, anemones, and some unexpected elements.
Vonda dress, Rag & Bone ($395). Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 FiFth ave., 212-753-4000. Hair and makeup by Bryan Bantry using Make Up Forever.
Native New Yorker Denise Porcaro always wanted to work in a creative field. Having studied film in college, she thought she’d end up in the industry, but a waitress job at The Park restaurant turned into a career when hip hotelier Sean MacPherson asked her to design the flowers for his iconic West Chelsea spot. Fast-forward 10 years or so, Porcaro is the florist of record for luxury brands like Chanel and Estée Lauder; properties like The Bowery Hotel and The Plaza; and for style icons like Lauren Santo Domingo, Drew Barrymore, and Kelly Ripa. Her personal style is as avidly documented on fashion blogs as her beautiful blooms.
How did you get started in flowers? In my early 20s I dabbled in everything, but once I started doing the flowers for Sean and Eric [Goode, MacPherson’s business partner], I fell in love with it.
What’s your first memory as a florist? Getting home from The Park, where I worked as a waitress, at 4 am and getting up at 7 to go to the flower market. I’d be there shoving a bunch of branches in the back of my red Volkswagen Passat.
When was your “big break?” In 2007, when [now-defunct jeans label] Earnest Sewn asked me to set up a shop-in-shop in its Lower East Side store. It was my “training-wheels store.” In 2012 I opened on Eldridge Street on my own and last fall in the Gansevoort Market.
Where do you source your flowers? I’ve worked with the Chelsea Flower Market for a long time, but recently I’ve begun dealing directly with Holland.
Favorite flower? I love lily of the valley. It’s special; it’s not seen around that often.
Hardest flowers to work with? The ones I have to source at crazy times of the year—for example, if a bride wants peonies in the fall, or sunflowers in December.
Trends for spring? Shades of the same color in an ombré design. Flesh and peach tones make for a beautiful ombré in peonies, garden roses, tea roses, ranunculus, calla lilies, and orchids; so do cooler tones from lavender to the deepest aubergine.
Uptown versus Downtown flower style? My uptown clients are asking for a more modern look. You can find a superfunky Uptown chick who wants something wilder with garden roses or succulents, like my Brooklyn clients. 245 Eldridge St., 212-777-0050
While her Brooklyn studio is a far cry from the Delaware family farm, Taylor Patterson injects country style into an inspired assortment of floral work. A Flower Girl NYC alum, Patterson went out on her own in 2011 and has since arranged blooms for designers Pamela Love and Patrik Ervell as well as for top fashion magazines.
How did you start with flowers? I’ve worked for a costume designer, a jewelry designer, and then a landscape artist. I loved gardening but it’s so seasonal, so when winter came, I found myself in flowers.
What is your day like? I’m up at 6 am and go right to the flower market in Chelsea. From there, I head back to the studio to prep flowers we need for a job. We try to finish as early as possible. I don’t want anyone staying later than 5 pm.
Favorite flower? It varies from season to season and depends on my mood. Right now it’s tulips, even though normally it’s a spring flower. I love garden roses and daffodils.
Hardest flower to work with? I’d say hellebores—you have to treat them in such a speciifc way or else they’ll wilt. Everyone has his or her own method. Some people put them in hot water, but I find completely submerging them in cold water is the best bet.
Trends for spring? I would love to step away from this super-romantic, slightly wild look. I’d love to see a paring down, with clean and simple arrangements, maybe one kind of flower done in an artful way.
What do your different clients want? The Downtown set loves that super romantic, wildflower look. The Uptown crowd wants something sophisticated. My clients in the fashion industry gravitate toward a cleaner look that’s more mindful of design and a bit simpler.
Flower that says New York? Tulips. They are versatile, classic, and elegant yet playful. You can manipulate them by bending their stems or peeling back their petals. So it’s like New York, because it can be so many things depending on what you want. 67 West St., Ste. 601, Brooklyn, 774-678-1112
Sandals, Rebecca Minkoff ($325). 96 Greene St., 212-677-7883
Two years ago, Christy Meisner, a Louisiana transplant, was sitting around her Sagaponack summer rental when she decided to make a flower crown from the garden for fun. Fast-forward to 2015: Her line, Crowns by Christy, has become a springtime must for designers like Shoshanna Gruss, brands like Dream Dry and Annick Goutal, and the beauty editors she works with as a publicist at Allison Brod Communications.
What prompted you to make that first floral crown? The owner of this house had a crazy gardener plant all these flowers, so I decided to make a flower crown to wear to the beach. The only string I had was dental floss, so I used that when I made the crown with garden roses. I didn’t know what I was doing.
As a publicist, you have a wide network of contacts. How has that helped your business? Last April a client was launching a fragrance, and we wanted to give floral crowns to editors as gifts. We started doing research on where to find them. The prices were high, $100 each. One of the girls at Allison Brod said, “Don’t you know how to make them?” So they hired me. From then on, I was deluged with requests for bachelorette parties, showers, and even bat mitzvahs!
How do you manage with two jobs? I wake up at 5 am every day. I go to the flower district or just work on my crowns until 9 am, when I go to the office. Then I go home and make crowns until bedtime. Right now the challenge is keeping up with the projects I have. As niche as the business is, I’m busy!
Best flowers for crowns? The hardest? The best flowers are smaller malleable types, like solidagos, baby’s breath, and even herbs. Everyone loves peonies and wants to make them into crowns, but they’re too heavy and don’t stay together. As soon as you touch them, they fall apart.
Different client requests? Brides choose neutral hues for romantic blooms like baby’s breath and tiny roses. For a bachelorette party, they might go with hot-pink roses or ranunculus for a crown that stands out. They want to embrace the bright and the fun. It’s chicer than wearing those sashes.
In 2012 Rawan Rihani (pictured, far left) joined Molly Guy, founder of the alternative bridal retailer Stone Fox Bride, to assist with gown alterations and embellishments. “I asked her to adorn some veils with fresh flower crowns, and I realized she had a major talent,” says Guy. “Clients started to request her flowers, and that’s how the business started. It’s a testament to her talent as a designer.” Now members of the fashion set like Lily Aldridge, Aimee Osbourne, and Meredith Melling can visit this shop in Soho for a bohemian-inspired gown and decorative flowers. The pair also created floral crowns for photo shoots featuring Jemima Kirke, Shiva Rose, and Zosia Mamet.
Where did you learn floral design?
RR: I worked at a flower shop in Ditmas Park called Sycamore, but my background is in painting and fne art.
Your floral style? RR: Relaxed, straight-from-the-garden, but also very lush and dreamy. I love a good mix of textures, like combining peonies, Juliet roses, and ranunculus with such herbs as tuberose, rosemary, and eucalyptus. MG: Nothing smells better than a bouquet with rosemary and eucalyptus.
Where do you source your flowers? RR: It depends on the season. Brooklyn Grange has a rooftop garden in the summer with amazing sunflowers and zinnias. I tend to go to the flower market in Chelsea a lot and the Union Square Farmers Market. I get as much as I can locally.
Toughest flowers to work with? RR: Garden roses are so thorny. I like to get in quick when I’m making an arrangement, but with these I have to be patient and take the thorns off, otherwise my hands get really wretched. MG: Flowers that wilt easily, like tulips and peonies, because when you’re presenting your work to clients, you need everything looking as fresh as possible!
What’s new for spring? RR: I’m obsessed with floral garlands. Basically they’re floral arrangements that are draped along a table and hang over the edge.
Uptown versus Downtown clientele? MG: Bouquets for our Downtown clients are looser, more bohemian and wild, with wildflowers and garden roses. Our Uptown clients want classic flowers like tulips and peonies in more formal structures and forms.
Most memorable moments from life in the flower world? RR: The first wedding I did was on a farm in Rhinebeck, New York, on the hottest day of the year. We were in the middle of a feld with no water. I had to keep running back and forth to a gas station to get gallons of Poland Spring. Now I know the types of questions I should ask before taking something on. 611 Broadway, Ste. 613B, 212-260-8600