February 6, 2015

Florist Friday : Interview with Neil Birks of NB Flowers

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Today, as part of my Florist Friday blog post series, I’m delighted to feature an interview with London based florist Neil Birks of NB Flowers. Neil recently won the New Covent Garden Flower Market ‘Florist of the Year 2014? Award!

Could you tell us what prompted you to become a florist?

I didn’t know I wanted to be a florist! I graduated with a business degree and started a ‘dream’ job in the City, but soon realised that I was a round peg in a square hole. After a period of time, I could stand it no more and left with no job to go to. I went through a difficult time trying one job after another, always wanting to be creative. Then one day, I helped a friend who was a florist, setting up a wedding. I remember being in a marquee, dressing the tables with flowers, and scattering artichokes and fruits around the decorations. And it hit me! It was natural.  It was creative. I loved it!! The sweeping, the conditioning, the carrying of buckets, everything about it. I was hooked.

Could you tell us how your floristry career has progressed?

I continued helping my florist friend as an unskilled pair of hands, until he mentioned that a top London florist was looking for a PA and General Manager at his shop in Mayfair. I got the job and worked there for three years – and wanted to develop my knowledge of flowers. I left and became a freelance florist for other London florists. It was a huge shock! I was actually very inexperienced in hands-on work, especially in comparison to the other freelancers, and lacked confidence. But gradually by working in different places, I got more experienced. ‘Fake it until you make it’ are words that one florist quietly advised me! After freelancing for two years with the best London florists, I gained enough confidence to consider doing small jobs of my own, starting with friends’ weddings. Stressful!! But definitely what I wanted to do.

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When did you start your business and where are you based?

I started NB Flowers in 2003 and I was based out of the back of a Ford Fiesta! Our first premises were in a railway arch beside New Covent Garden Flower Market. Now we have a large unit within the Market, which is ideal.

What kind of floristry services do you offer?

We provide flowers for events and weekly contracts. For regular customers, we also provide a bouquet service.

Where do you get inspiration for your floral designs?

The seasons in England are ever-changing and so are the flowers, with the palette evolving constantly. So nature primarily, and I also get inspiration from the setting, and vases. We go to trade fairs a lot and see emerging trends. I also find inspiration from the client, and what they like, and their vision. I love a theme. And to get creative with that. We did a ‘Walk with the Dinosaurs’ party at the Natural History Museum, using primitive and carnivorous plants. Very natural. And another, Neon Christmas – which was completely bonkers – all the decorations started to fizz with neon colour under UV lights switched on half way through the evening. Going to the ballet or to see a show also inspires me massively, when you see others go the extra mile to make something look fabulous. It refuels my drive and keeps me motivated.

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How would you describe your style?

Eclectic, but always aim to be smart and elegant. We steer from gimmick or contortion. I let the flowers speak for themselves. My style in two words is New Classic!

What are your plans for 2015?

To bang the drum that we won Florist of the Year 2014. And get some fabulous events under our belt…starting with a fabulous party at Tate Britain, in Gallery 9 surrounded by Pre-Raphaelite art, taking inspiration from Ophelia. A dream brief!

What is your favourite flower?

Peony. Pillow Talk. Just the most beautiful flower in the world.

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Thank you so much to Neil for all his help in compiling today’s blog post. If you’d like to see more of his amazing designs, do pop over to the NB Flowers website! Social media wise, you can find him on Facebook and Twitter.

(Images : Neil Birks | NB Flowers)

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