London’s Famed McQueens Flower School to Open New York Branch
McQueens creative director Emily Mathison details what to know for finding the perfect Valentine’s Day blooms
Whether it’s a massive archway of holiday blooms encircling the entrance of the Carlyle in New York or the vibrant purple sculpture of bee-friendly plants installed at last summer’s RHS Chelsea flower show in London, McQueens‘s exuberant floral designs are always strikingly beautiful. “I love doing massive installations that completely transform spaces,” the company’s creative director, Emily Mathison, tells Galerie. “We’re really about telling stories with flowers.”
Remarkable for its artfully unstructured arrangements, McQueens crafts sprays for some of the world’s most distinguished hotels—among them Claridge’s, Shangri La, and the Peninsula, as well as for showstopping events like the annual Vanity Fair Oscars party.
Founded in London some 30 years ago, McQueens operates a branch in South Korea and come March will open an outpost of its celebrated flower-arranging school in New York, where it will also participate in the inaugural L.E.A.F. flower show in June.
Here, Mathison tells Galerie about how to find the best Valentine’s Day blooms.
Picking the best: “When I buy flowers, I always look to see if the leaves and stems look healthy. Is the water in the bucket clean? How open are the flowers? Are there any brown marks on the petals? The freshest flowers aren’t always the most obviously beautiful—for instance, a daffodil or an anemone when first cut looks like a green onion, but after two days in a vase of water, it starts to show the flower. Similarly, a fresh rose might look small and tight with green guard petals around the edge of the flower, but over time it will unruffle and open beautifully.”
Cutting edge: “We love choosing flowers seasonally and playing with texture. We will love roses forever, but we’re really enjoying playing with slightly more niche and bold flowers like wiggly stemmed Icelandic poppies and delicately fragranced cut cyclamen. Our favorite spring flowers are mimosa, ranunculus, and daffodils. A joyous yellow fluffy ball-shaped flower, mimosa smells delicious, but availability is very exclusive—you can only get it from February until April, so it’s nice to indulge while it’s in season.”
Changing trends: “When I started 15 years ago, there were certain materials you would never ever use—carnations, asparagus ferns, baby’s breath—they were just seen as really dated. The carnations I love now aren’t the same carnations I hated 15 years ago. If you told me I would love dyed orchids I would say you were crazy, but I love all the dyed stuff. Fifteen years is a good amount of time to see something go from desperately unfashionable to reinvented.”
Social influence: “I noticed about five years ago, people started to say that they wanted it to be Instagrammable. I think because of Instagram and other visual sharing social media platforms, clients’ briefs are completely different now, which is fun. I really enjoy that.”
Don’t forget the vase: “I always think it should either look completely in harmony, like it was made for that hotel, restaurant, or space. Or the other way to go, similar to what we did for a Moda Operandi event, is to do something really wacky and a bit crazy and weird.”