Today, as part of my Florist Friday series, I’m thrilled to feature London-based florist Jamie Aston.
Could you tell us what prompted you to become a florist?
I knew from a young age that it was an industry I adored and I felt that it was an industry that could use a little bit of a modern update, which I knew was something I had the ability to do. The challenge to do this enthralled me and I couldn’t wait to get started! My mission was to update and modernise the industry with a distinctively young style. And by doing this, it would change the floristry industry, especially in London, into something that florists in other countries would take notice of.
Could you tell us how your floristry career has progressed?
I started my training at a local florist when I was 16, which was a great place to get a grasp on the staple basics, learning names of the flowers, their seasonality and getting involved in such varied work, from the normal bouquets to weddings and even to funeral work. This spurred me on to invest in a 4 week floristry course in London, which led on to a full-time job at that London florist.
I worked there for 3 years. The work took me on many travels including New York and Japan, which was an amazing experience. While managing the London store, I realised I could do this for myself and took the plunge to open my own florist shop. Since then, the business has grown and grown into something I’m eternally proud of.
When did you start your business and where are you based?
I opened my shop on Great Portland Street in 2005 at the age of 24. We were so lucky to find the perfect shop in the perfect location for my first venture on my own. The shop is a stunning 18th Century building and after a total refurbishment, it was returned to its former glory. I feel the shop really sets us apart from other florists, as it’s a classic mix of old with modern.
Our Great Portland Street location works perfectly for us. As we’re so central, a lot of London businesses solely use us for their flower needs. We’re also incredibly close to the Hotel Cafe Royal, where we do fresh flowers throughout the hotel every day. We’re also lucky being next door to the wonderful Portland Women’s and Children’s Hospital. So we celebrate lots of new arrivals with our beautiful bouquets. It’s a lovely experience to be a part of.
What kind of floristry services do you offer?
Where do we start! We offer the flower school, which is held in our shop. This is one of the main ports of business for us. Our wedding services keep us busy, especially during the summer months. We’ve done some really beautiful weddings recently.
We offer contract flowers to lots of offices and restaurants around central London. We deliver our fresh flowers weekly and do regular checks on the flowers throughout the week. Also, our hotel flowers at Hotel Cafe Royal are delivered daily throughout the hotel. Plus we do a lot of events in the hotel and around London for various companies and private parties.
Our retail side of the floristry services is continually growing, especially since our release of the online shop. We hand-make bespoke bouquets for each customer, from walk-ins to phone orders, and also have accounts with large companies who order bouquets daily.
Some of the other more sporadic services we offer include funeral work, house flowers and small terrace designs. We work with a lot of private clients on their house flowers and again deliver them weekly, routinely checking the flowers.
Could you tell us about your Flower Schools?
We launched our flower school in 2005, almost straight after we opened the store. At first, this was launched quietly. But after the release of my book ‘Flower Arranging Made Simple’, it started to become a lot busier.
When we started doing our school in Korea and Japan, we gained more popularity overseas which has encouraged more people from around the world to travel over to London for our school. In the last 4 years, the school has grown and grown and is now regularly sold out before the flower school month begins.
Our flower schools run throughout the months of March, June and October with one day seasonal classes spread amongst the year. Our vast range of different classes means there’s something for everyone, ranging from a great day out with our seasonal or one day classes to kick-starting a career, like myself, with a 4 week floristry class.
All of our lessons are step-by-step and cover the basics before moving on to more difficult tasks, so students are always supported along the way. Students are always so impressed at what they manage to make. And it’s wonderful seeing each student leaving the store with arms full of gorgeous creations!
Where do you get inspiration for your floral designs?
We’re constantly looking for inspiration in magazines, design books and especially Pinterest, which has some really great ideas! Also, I find myself inspired by everything I see on my travels. I love the Moroccan style with the brightest colours done in such a tasteful way.
Trade shows are another great source of inspiration, with Maison & Objet among one of our favourites. I really enjoy looking at ways different people design events or even shop windows. There are so many creative ways to display. I think if you’re a creative person, you can find inspiration from anywhere.
How would you describe your style?
I think the Jamie Aston style is bold and striking, with a distinctive edge. We strive to create stunning flowers which aren’t pretty or delicate on purpose, but with our style it still feels this way quite naturally. I definitely think we do take a lot of risks and are brave with a lot of our designs, especially with colour and really blowsy blooms. We always prefer the natural look to the overly girly.
What are your plans for the remainder of 2014 & 2015?
I really want to write another book after the success of my last book. I think with the popularity of our flower school, students and many who pop in store still want something to help them along whilst arranging at home, whatever the occasion!
We recently launched the online shop so customers can now buy bouquets online. We’re going to start adding more seasonal products onto the website especially for Christmas. Also with Christmas coming, we can’t wait for the Christmas installations at all of our restaurants, house clients and Hotel Cafe Royal. We’ve got such a lovely range of ideas.
We’ll also be adding more dates to our flower school course next year and more seasonal classes, which are such a lovely day out with a friend or loved one. And we’re looking into online floristry lessons, so we can open up our teaching to so many more. With the update of apps and delivery services, I really want to make floristry more accessible to anyone in the UK.
What is your favourite flower?
It has to be hydrangea. There are so many reasons to love it, from both a personal side and from the florist in me. It’s so pretty and delicate, but really strong. And I love all the different colour varieties they come in. As a florist, it’s so versatile. You can do so much with it, from a simple bouquet to filling arrangements to even floating the heads in deep vases. It fills so easily and makes an incredible impact with so few heads. There really is no substitute for the bloom either. It’s gained such popularity for a reason and I’m very happy about it.
Thank you so much to Jamie for all his help in compiling today’s blog post. If you’d like to seem more of his stunning floral designs, do visit his new website which features the handsome men above!
To keep up-to-date with Jamie’s news, here’s where you can find him on social media:
(Images : Jamie Aston/Matt Russell)