We were honoured to be part of Vicki's initial conversations with growers when she was setting up her British grown flower club during lockdown and are full of admiration for what she has achieved making locally grown flowers more easily accessible to more people. We have a pretty sure feeling this is only going to grow and grow as her model of fortnightly subscriptions of un-arranged flowers and with an illustrated letter full of information on each stem so that you can learn as you arrange, is so well thought out. We are so pleased to champion Vicki and her team who are doing such important work raising awareness about the impacts of our choices when it comes to buying flowers. Like many industries at the moment, there is a lot of greenwashing in floristry which makes it very confusing for people who genuinely want to buy responsibly farmed and locally sourced flowers. (On which note there is a great new Instagram account you can follow @greenwashtheflowers for more in depth information.)
Photo credit: Safia Shakarchi
TELL US ABOUT HOW IT ALL STARTED
Uncut Stems is a flower club that was born out of lockdown. I was a creative producer and stylist before, working predominantly with food and drinks brands on live events and shoots. With both hospitality and events being on their knees during the COVID crisis, I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands.
I’ve always loved flowers and have wanted to learn more about them for a long time. I enjoyed the flowers I received from friends or subscriptions but didn’t feel like I ever learnt anything from them. I wanted to understand about seasonality and started asking questions about where the flowers came from. I also wondered if there was such a thing as a wonky flower, one that was too short or bendy to sell (there isn’t!).
In a bid to learn more I started buying flowers from local growers and delivering them to friends, unarranged, in buckets around London and with a letter describing what each flower is, where it came from and how to care for it. We’d all share how we’d styled them under the hashtag #showusyourStems and Uncut Stems was born!
WHAT IS YOUR OWN HISTORY WITH/RELATIONSHIP TO FLOWERS, FLORISTRY AND FLOWER FARMING?
My family are landscape gardeners, and I thoroughly rejected the idea of horticulture instead wanting to tread my own path. Inevitably the bug caught up with me! After years of working with flowers at events and shoots, it was a part of my life pre-Covid life that I didn’t want to give up.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN WORKING WITH BRITISH FLOWERS?
I was curious about supply chain and flower farming - where my flowers actually came from and how they were grown. Buying British was almost accidental, it was because British growers were accessible to me, I could just jump in the car and visit them, that I started buying from them and learning about how special their stems are.
WHO OR WHAT DO YOU TAKE INSPIRATION FROM, DID YOU LEARN FROM ANYBODY AT ALL?
I learnt everything from the patient growers I was buying from! I was a complete novice and so would ask a lot of questions. I still do. And then of course there’s a whole community of people on Instagram (SSAW to name one!) who I find a total inspiration.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO MAKE SUSTAINABILITY FRONT AND CENTRE OF YOUR BUSINESS MODEL
In my old line of work I always felt uncomfortable with the volumes of waste. I had a blank slate with Uncut Stems and it only felt right that if we were going to put a product out in to the world then it should be transparent, educational and as sustainable as possible.
HOW HAVE YOUR SUSTAINABLE PRINCIPLES IMPACTED YOUR WAYS OF WORKING?
We’re at the very beginning of our journey, we’re asking questions and figuring things out. Every time we talk about business growth we ask more questions, that’s the privilege we have with starting a business from scratch. Our key principle is transparency, which means being very honest with our customers about where their flowers come from. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to make sure we fully align our principles with our working practices and holding ourselves accountable is, and will be central to that.
WHAT MORE DO YOU THINK NEEDS TO BE DONE TO ENSURE TRANSPARENCY IN SUPPLY CHAINS AND PRACTICES SO CUSTOMERS CAN BE SURE OF ETHICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CREDENTIALS?
For me it’s the language. The demand for for flowers is vast and the industry is always going to do what it can to meet it. But if we educate people to make more informed choices and if we, as businesses, are held to account for the language we use to sell our flowers ie. ‘fresh from the field’ and the overuse of the word ’seasonal’ then I think that is a huge step in the right direction. I believe in speaking to consumers like grown ups rather than using unclear language to trick them out of their money. Give them the full picture and let them make the decision with their eyes wide open.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING?
That we want to educate, that being sustainable is about being open and that we all have something to learn here and there will always be ways we could be doing things better. It’s a journey and it feels like every customer is on this journey with us as we figure it out together.