Day Three | Matthew Richardson, Urban Flower Co

In Crouch End, away from the hubbub of Central London, is Urban Flower Co, a botanical florist and plant studio making its mark with minimal, edgy and full-on foliage designs. Little did its founder, Matthew Richardson, know when his dad got him a Saturday job all those years back, that he would now be part of the growing botanical movement.

Matt says: “I started working in a small flower shop in North London when I was fifteen. I thought I was going to be working in a greengrocer, but it turned out to be a florist.”

“I knew very little about the industry but what I did notice was that there appeared to be a set of rules attached to floristry about the placement of flowers. It seemed very stiff and if I’m honest, I was a bit bored by it. But what made me stick with flowers was that I felt that there was a purpose for the product. Everything that we were making had a story to it and that for me was really important.”

“Being quite young, the expectation of me being able to actually create something for someone was always questioned. So I always felt that I had to prove myself and I had to learn fast. We worked in a very tight, small space, almost on top of each other. It was as if you were on stage. You couldn’t not interact with your customers face-to-face and speed was important.”

Matthew Richardson, Urban Flower Co for British Flowers Week 2017 by New Covent Garden Flower Market

“The flower shop was a great learning experience because I was literally thrown into a room full of flowers and allowed to just get on with it. So I experimented and pushed boundaries, not only with the flowers but also with our customers. If someone had been coming in every week buying the same flowers, I’d suggest that they bought something different. That’s why I started to become interested in running my own business. I wanted to encourage a younger clientele and also change mindsets.”

“One thing I was very aware of was how people who’d not bought flowers before felt when they came into the shop, their first experience. If you’re enthusiastic and you educate people about the product and show them that it’s really exciting, then that’s what will stick with them. And that’s what I liked. I wanted people to come back and say ‘Have you got something else? What can you make me this week?’ I wanted to keep it exciting.”

“I started to create arrangements for people’s homes in North London and got more and more private work. My clients liked what I did and gave me free rein. It was people believing in what I was doing that encouraged me to experiment further. And I still have those clients now.”

“I set up Urban Flower Co in 2010 in Crouch End, North London. When we opened the doors I was the only member of staff and didn’t know whether it was going to work – but I had to make it work. I believed in it and was passionate about it.”

“We started off just selling stems and hand-tieds. And even though we have branched out into plants and greenery, I never want to lose that. Because I love having a selection of flowers and foliage in the shop and I actually use it as a way to get ideas for new designs. I think it’s important to have a variety of what’s in season accessible to you so that you can manipulate and play with it.”

“Our style is industrial, very botanical with a Japanese aesthetic. We do weddings and events and are becoming increasingly involved in plant styling projects for homes and workspaces. Our business is also taking on more and more set design and art installations. At this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, we created this suspended, tropical foliage design for the Rake’s Progress shed.”

“I’m inspired by lifestyle and culture. Growing up in London is inspiring in itself. All our arrangements are foliage orientated as the main focus. I love the combination of an urban setting with greenery as the oxygen of the city. Greens can calm the chaos of urban living.”

“We’re open seven days a week and I have a team of four full-time staff, who are really dedicated and get what Urban Flower Co is about. I work every day, pretty much. But I never class what I do as a job. It’s a passion and there’s still lots of room to grow and create new things. I think when I don’t enjoy it any more, that’s when it’s time to move on.”

Matthew Richardson, Urban Flower Co for British Flowers Week 2017 by New Covent Garden Flower Market
 

Matthew Richardson & the Flower Market

“Anyone’s initial experience of the Flower Market can be a daunting one when you’re first starting out, but all the guys that work there are unique. All markets have a culture of their own, and once you’re within a market’s culture, it’s a really special thing.”

“When I first went around, Dave from GB Foliage gave me so much help. I’ve always remembered that and it’s why my showstopper design is a tribute to him and his business. I feel that he’s a great role model for British product and one of the most consistent suppliers of British in the market. He’s a real credit. I’ve seen with other people who are just starting out, especially the younger generation coming through, that he’s always really supportive.”

“I remember my first job with him. It was at Wilton’s Music Hall in Hackney. We had to drape the whole hall in ivy and I completely overestimated the amount I’d need. Dave said to me: ‘You’ve bought too much’. I didn’t want to go with too little, but he said: ‘You won’t. Don’t worry. Take that. I’ll buy more and if you need it, have it.’ He was right. I did overestimate but that’s always stuck with me. It built a relationship and now I regularly buy from Dave. I’m always excited by what he gets in and the quality is phenomenal.”

“With regards to flowers, I use different traders for different things. I currently work consistently with Bloomfield. Leigh in particular is ‘my man’ there. He understands my business and aesthetic. He knows what will appeal to me and he’ll pull out things which will excite me.”

“I enjoy going to the Flower Market and usually go four or five times a week at around 5am. It’s tough being up early but once I’m there the adrenaline kicks in and it sets the pace for my day.”

“It’s good to see a younger generation coming through on the stands at the market now, who have a lot of passion for what they do. Mix that with the experience of some of the old school market legends and it makes for really exciting times for the Flower Market. There’s a great buzz there.”

Matthew Richardson, Urban Flower Co for British Flowers Week 2017 by New Covent Garden Flower Market
 

British Flowers

“When British flowers and foliage are in season, quality is like no other. Their variety and textures allow me to work in our unstructured style. We can really show off each stem.”

“With seasonal availability changing, sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to get. And I like that because it challenges me to be more creative. It also keeps our customers excited. In fact, I didn’t know what I would be using for my three designs until a couple of days ago.”

 

Matthew Richardson, Urban Flower Co | www.urbanflowercompany.co.uk

Instagram: @urbanflowerco