Iona Mathieson and Romy St Clair are owners and founders of SAGE Flowers, a floral shop and studio based in Peckham, South London. This year, they set up FutureFlowers, the country’s first free training course for for non-white ethnicity people to learn the basics of floristry.
And for their final class this week, the first course’s students have built a large floral installation in the Garden Museum, which visitors can see all weekend. Ahead of the install, we spoke with Iona and Romy to find out more:
Can you tell us a bit about FutureFlowers and why you started this initiative?
It had always been glaringly obvious to us how white our industry is. We’d always wanted to recruit and work with non white florists but had a hard time finding them. We didn’t think we had the power, voice or resources to do anything about it on a large scale, but after the summer of civil rights protests, we knew we had to do better.
We now provide a totally free, three month training course for 15 attendees, all of non white ethnicities, to learn both the practical and business theory of floristry, taught by us and industry leaders. The courses are fully booked until December 2021. The Garden Museum are hosting our first group of FutureFlorists!
How has the response been from participants?
So positive! The fact that the courses are booked until the end of next year (90 students plus a growing wait list) has shown us there really is a desire from POC to get into floristry. Many people had told us ‘there are no black/ brown florists because they just don’t want to do it’, which obviously isn’t true.
What do you hope the future holds for FutureFlowers?
We hope to continue working with amazing venues, like the Garden Museum, to host us in. We’re trying to create relationships with other florists to offer internships for the attendees when they finish the course, to gain some hands on industry experience – we’d love to employ them all but unfortunately we can’t!
What were your own beginnings in the floristry industry like? How did SAGE get started and what have you learnt along the way?
I: I did an unpaid internship (another problematic aspect of the industry) at a flower shop, learnt how to make a bouquet, quit, met Romy and we started SAGE. We’ve learnt a LOT along the way, we’re still learning every day! I think and hope that we always will be too.
R: I started working with the florist Flora Starkey, in a sort of project management role. I learned the basics of running a floral business, as well as the challenges of growing and transporting flowers. Then Iona and I started chatting and the rest is history.
What’s the project you’re most proud of working on?
I: I loved creating a marine dream blue flower wall for a Fenty fashion week party. We had been up all night doing two Christmas installs in restaurants, so were completely running on empty, but we smashed it. We then hosted a florist Christmas party after! That was a hell of a 24 hours.
R: I loved the work we’ve done for Glossier, Converse and Fenty! It’s great when you’re trusted to express your own style!
Any other florists/plant businesses you’d like to give a shout-out to?
We’ve met some incredible people since we started campaigning, big ups to:
Such talented and inspiring women!