The Art of Starting with Sage Flowers
The Art of Starting with Sage Flowers
Written by By Hannah Makonnen
Iona Mathieson and Romy St Clair, the dynamic duo behind Sage Flowers, have captivated the hearts of flower enthusiasts and community advocates alike with their journey as founders. Nestled in the backstreets of Peckham, they deliver floristry for those seeking unique and avant-garde arrangements that emanate both art and architecture.
Fuelled by an unwavering love for flowers, Iona and Romy embarked on their entrepreneurial adventure with the simple yet profound goal of “advocat[ing] for young female entrepreneurship, diversity… [while] decolonising floristry and sustainability”. Their talent for crafting arrangements has caught the attention of high-profile clients, from Converse to Gucci to Fenty, gracing both events and homes with a touch of Sage Flowers’ enchantment.
Now, Iona and Romy have extended their influence beyond the floral realm and into the literary world with their recent publication, ‘The Art of Starting.’ This book stands not only as a guide for aspiring entrepreneurs but also as a testament to the transformative power of community-led businesses. Within its pages, the duo shares their experiences and invaluable insights, offering a roadmap for those who wish to embark on a journey of business growth while remaining true to their values and giving back to their communities.
In this exclusive interview, we have the privilege of delving deeper into the captivating tale of these two visionary women. Through their unwavering dedication to their craft and their indomitable spirit, they have proven that the path to success lies not only in entrepreneurial acumen but also in the deep-rooted connection one forms with their community.
How did SAGE Flowers come to be?
We met through our partners, would see each other at raves waving hi across a crowd! Romy’s partner bumped into Iona on a train years later and they realised we were both trying to get into floristry from totally different industries. We met for a coffee and the rest is history.
What were your careers before SAGE flowers?
Romy worked in a healthcare management consultancy and Iona managed restaurants in London and Hong Kong!
You have a very distinct style, sculptural, often a contrasting mix of soft and vibrant colours, how did you both come to curate this unique aesthetic?
We try to find flowers which are more unusual, and failing that combine flowers in strange ways – it might be the textures, heights or colours that form a contrast! We look for inspiration far and wide, from club flyers to architecture and try to avoid referencing other florists!
You have worked with such a range of notable brands, how did you begin to get these collaborations?
To start, mostly through friends and wider community, our IG then started to grow and people would get in touch with us via that channel. Once you get a couple, it really snowballs from there!
How do you go about curating and arranging the flowers according to the briefs you’re given?
Briefs from brands are usually pretty prescriptive – these colours, these size vases, on these surfaces, for this budget. That said, people come to us for our style, so they’re usually happy for a SAGE twist or a little steering if we think that what they’ve suggested is going to look trash! You also need to consider what’s available for that season and the lead times and prices of stems!
What inspires you and how do you translate that into your work? Do you ever use image reference points and research when arranging?
Exhibitions can be great sources of colour inspiration, or architecture sources of shape and build ideas.
Were you both ever trained as florists or arrangement?
Iona had a short stint as an intern making bouquets in a florist, and Romy picked up bits from Iona. The rest has been self taught as we go! This has led to some expensive mistakes, but also some more interesting approaches!
What inspired you to start the FutureFlowers workshops for POC?
It was the middle of lockdown, the BLM protests were taking place across the world, we had time to reflect on how we could make an impact. We’d always been uncomfortable with how white the industry is and just felt really motivated to make a difference. We put a lot of time and money into it, and have seen such a change in the people we’re now working with – so it really did make a difference in changing the accessibility and wanting to get involved in floristry.
I noticed that you did SAGE Radio for Foundation FM, and recently hosted a party for Valentines day. Are you guys interested in exploring things musically?
Hahaha – we always joke that we’re actually just trying to facilitate starting a club night doing this floristry thing. On a serious level, most of our friends we’ve met in the club scene, we both love music so much, so it just feels right to us to use our space when we can to shake a leg and celebrate.
Congratulations on your new book The Art of Starting! You said on your instagram that a lot of it is centred about starting a business from the ground up. What was that experience like for you?
In a word – hard! We’re 5 years deep, and still very much grafting, but it’s so rewarding and we’re both so passionate about seeing it through to its full potential. We’ve built a workplace we love coming to, a family we share a work ethic and values with – we can’t think of anywhere else we’d have so much fun and collectively feel so supported! We’re immensely grateful and proud of that!
What’s notable about your business is there is an apparent sense of community, what advice would you give to new businesses looking to create communities?
Community is so central to what we do. Being authentic, representing your ethics in the choices you make, communicating that to your audience is all key! Community is not something you can force or buy – you gotta do the leg work, and ideally you’ve started that as an individual before your brand is even formed!
What can readers expect from the book?
All the things we wish we knew from the start, hard mistakes we made, tips range from branding to copyright and building a team. It’s written in a way that would make sense for any creative industry, be that carpentry, nails, or a restaurant!