I met Rachel for the first time at Citarella's grocery store in Greenwich, Connecticut; I was shopping for floral arrangements for Lysande's (liss-ONDH) first ever video shoot! I was staring at the flowers, completely perplexed when she asked if I needed help. Um, yes please! I told her about the shoot, the size of the vases I have, and some flowers I liked.
Twenty minutes later she filled my arms with three floral arrangements that made me feel like the belle of the ball. Y’all, the flowers she put together were out of this world.
When my models showed up for our shoot, they were spellbound by what Rachel created. I continued to see her on my trips to Citarella and finally got up the nerve to ask if she’d be interested in an interview and photoshoot. She was just as excited as me so we made it happen!
Rachel exudes creativity, light, and happiness! We talked floral design, life, and style.
Rachel graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Speech Language Pathology, and quickly changed course, joining her friend's floral design company. She was eager to learn and immediately took to the art. After 4 years, she is currently working as the Floral Designer, Merchandiser, and Director of Retail Operations at Hunter Green.
Michelle: What was it like making the transition from Speech Language Pathology to floral design?
Rachel: Making the transition was hard at first. When I graduated college I imagined all I could really do was go back to graduate school to advance my career, but it didn't feel like the best decision for me at the time. I met Hunter Smith as he was starting as a wholesale flower business. I wasn't sure if I would be good at floral design or could make a career of it. I did not have to go to school for floral design because I worked very closely with the owner of the company, I volunteered a lot and put in extra hours with his company. The opportunity to learn a new field of work and getting paid to do that through his guidance and training was life-changing. It was almost like investing in myself in another way, and I took it more seriously than just a "side-job." I never viewed it that way. Once I knew I loved it, I always said to myself this was a career not just some part-time job, it was my livelihood! So the transition was easy because it was something that I loved and I wanted to advance in life, I did not want to be stagnant if I could not get back to graduate school. Maybe one day I can go back to graduate school, it seems more possible now than a few years ago, all thanks to the Hunter Green and flowers! Additionally, I was always a very creative and artsy type of person. I always knew I wanted a place in the arts and creative world to express myself. I started out playing classical piano and did that for ten years, and that set in stone my passion for music. From there I was interested in music and video production. I enjoyed fine art and visited art galleries and felt so much joy anytime my artistic senses were awakened. So, this creative side of me made the transition more manageable among the hard work.
How long did it take you to pick up the art?
Rachel: It took me a few months to pick up the art of floral design. The first few weeks were profoundly tough, especially on a beginner level. I am a very determined person and although I wanted to quit so many times, I stuck it out and in the end it was worth it because it is now a career for me. I learned that I have a natural eye for shapes and colors so putting things together became pretty easy. Eventually I was given full creative control, which was the pinnacle of my floral career. Now, I design all the flowers at the store and train others as well how to potentially do the same one day.
Did you have a background in botany or floral design?
Rachel: When I was in college and home on summer/holiday vacation from school I would deliver flowers, go to the airport to pick up flowers shipped from different countries, and help designers set up their events. At the time I was just per diem, temporary help so I did not really know what was going on, I just did what I was told. I was exposed to it initially in that way.
What is your favorite part of the job? And what has been one highlight?
Rachel: My favorite part of the job is helping people bring my clients' visions to life. Working with a wide range of different people for various events has been amazing! I also enjoy being very busy all throughout the day, I literally stand the entire time I am working and moving around every minute. There is never a dull moment and the fast paced nature is what I thrive in! I work mostly by myself at his retail locations and have learned some innovative and efficient techniques to operate the store on my own. Never in my wildest dreams could I have ever imagined my two hands and my one mind could create and design things that fill up an entire department for an entire town.
One highlight was working with an interior designer from Greenwich for a photo shoot. It was my first experience working with an interior designer and I saw her work as a related field to floral design. It was very interesting to see inside another world and how to incorporate it into mine, as well as be helpful to the needs. It was hard work and a huge house with many different rooms, and it was just myself, no help or team. I had to transport everything from the store, then move it into the house, think of designs for each room, bring the designers vision to life, design the flowers, clean up, work with the photographer and his directions, and much more. I never knew how much work these things took and it was eye opening, and at the end seeing that I had completed it by myself was empowering. The result was that photos of my designs were published in the magazine with my name and contact information! I was extremely grateful and happy to work with her because there were many other candidates she could have chosen.
What does it take to make it as a floral designer?
Rachel: To be a floral designer it takes extremely high standards, immaculate work ethic, detail orientation, endurance, patience, determination and a good eye for colors, shapes, sizes, styles, and trends. Many people come up to me and say, "You have the best job in the world, to work with all these flowers!" I totally agree, however, it is the hardest job I have ever had in my life. On the exterior, people see beautiful flowers and designs. What they don't see is all of the hundreds of boxes I have to go through to get these things out for them. As well as figuring out very quickly what to do with it all. Each week I spend about 45-55 hours on that and every single minute counts. Since flowers are a perishable item, I am on a time limit to make sure they are taken care of properly and used within an appropriate time frame, as well as sell them to keep the business going. The business model for what I am doing requires much more than the typical flower shop experience. It is not as slow paced or years of building up accounts, events, and clients; as is in independent floral shops. This retail space (Citarella's) deals with a high volume of people so I must also work with many types of people, events, and circumstances at any time, all through out the day. I work alone, so I must be efficient and have good skill and technique to satisfy the needs. The work must also be of good quality, composition, and value. My mind is constantly thinking of many different things as I am working because there is so much to know in order to do it properly. Besides the flowers, other aspects such as logistics, pricing, merchandising, wrapping, boxing, plants, and more are other things I had to become an expert at. I constantly am learning new things and ways, even up until this day. I never stop learning and am always open to evolving. I have done this for so long, it is almost second nature and I have heard that I make it look easier than it is. It is not a job for everyone, it is a job for a certain some one I would say. There are no cutting corners with flowers or half stepping: you are either all in or you're not.
What would you recommend to someone interested in creating a career in the floral design space?
Rachel: I would recommend researching to find a company that has successful designers and a good reputation in town. A company that will have very high standards for you to do your very best. Find a place that is innovative and modern, moving along nicely with the evolution of floral design and that is constantly changing for the better. I would suggest going somewhere that is fast paced because that gives a lot of experience to go on to do many other things, like weddings.
Michelle: Lastly, who/what inspires your style?
Rachel: My style is inspired by my admiration for fashion. I'm interested in how pieces are paired together. I like to watch men's runway fashion and get inspiration and motivation to dress my best from that. I feel like it is a good template for everyday wear. The way pants and shirts are paired, the different colors, shapes, and patterns, are different than women's fashion. I love all the glitz and glam of women's fashion, but at times it is too flashy for me. I like to layer clothes, be comfortable yet stylish, and be conservative yet trendy. I really enjoy Balenciaga runway fashion, because of the constant trendiness, design, and innovative styling. I thought that both the men and women's lines for Fall/Winter 2018/2019 were breathtakingly inspiring.
How can people work with you?
Rachel: People can visit us at Citarella's on Putnam Ave in Greenwich, Connecticut and contact me for special events and needs via
- Phone: two zero three - nine one four - four eight zero zero
- Email: rachelandflowers at gmail dot com.
- Instagram: @FollowtheFlower.
Rachel is wearing Lysande's Limited Edition "Moving Mountains" wire-framed maxi headband.