Harriet Parry interview: the florist all Londoners should know about
Culture Whisper meets the woman combining fashion, art and floristry
The Worcestershire farm where Harriet grew up must feel like a long way away now she’s arranged flowers for a Vogue Paris shoot, curated her own exhibition in east London and even prepared a posy for the Queen – and those are just her 2018 achievements.
'I spent a lot of time in my Granny’s garden surrounded by flowers when I was growing up,' Harriet reminisces. 'Living in the countryside where there wasn’t a lot going on meant we’d always make flowers for the village fête.' Harriet studied Fine Art at Leeds University. After graduating in 2007, she worked as an interior stylist in Birmingham, where she found she was always incorporating fake flowers into her designs. 'That’s when I realised I wanted to get into floristry,' she says. Harriet’s since moved to London where she creates flower arrangements for events, installations and fashion shoots, and runs classes and workshops in floristry. 'It’s nice combining what I loved about where I grew up and the creativity of London.'
Most of Harriet’s work comes from floral installations, events and workshops, rather than the likes of weddings. She collaborates regularly with the RA, last year creating a time-themed piece for the institution’s annual Summer Party, and runs regular workshops with Lush cosmetics. 'I kind of steer clear of the more typical weddings,' she laughs. 'The couples that do approach me, though, want something different. Last year I did the flowers for a Salvador Dalí-inspired wedding; I bought some really unusual flowers and looked back at Dalí’s surreal flower paintings for inspiration.' Harriet also recalls a wedding where she worked to a concept of ‘Victorian Music Hall meets east London working men’s club’.
Harriet has always found business through word of mouth, and thanks to her unique style and expertise, she’s rarely had to search for it. Earlier this year she was taken to Paris by L'Oréal to work on an advert for their Botanicals hair range. The brand had been following her work on Instagram. While on the job, Harriet had a second exciting offer: to arrange flowers for the March 2018 edition of Vogue Paris. One of Harriet’s bouquets was also recently pictured in the hands of none other than the Queen, at the 500th anniversary of The Royal College of Physicians. 'I went for a posy of nice smelling flowers, it was very dainty – nothing too brash,' she says.
A typical day for Harriet starts with a trip to the flower market at Covent Garden. She usually arrives for 6am and spends around three hours browsing, buying and chatting with the close-knit community there. Once home, she conditions and arranges her flowers, before taking them to be installed at the venue in question. Any meetings, she tries to organise for later in the day once this is done. 'I then unwind by creating mini arrangements of flowers (Harriet has an entirely separate Instagram to show off these mini arrangements), it’s actually my favourite thing to do because it’s so therapeutic' she says. 'I breakdown the flower and use tiny pieces to make them. It’s actually really helpful for the rest of my work, because it allows me to see every part of the flower I’m working with.'
Despite having worked with big names across the spectrum, for Harriet, the highlight of her career has been the first exhibition she curated herself, which ran this spring by Old Street station. 'The concept of the exhibition was taking a piece of art and interpreting it in flower form. It allowed me to be creative and explore things on my own terms,' she says. 'People messaged me to say the space I created was a calm oasis in the chaotic world. It was really lovely.'
Floral trends for summer 2018…
'I’ve seen quite a big shift over the last year and this summer it’s all about being playful, experimental and bright. For example, having tropical flowers mixed in with local wild ones.”
Harriet predicts the floral trends for Autumn 2018…
For Autumn, Harriet expects to see eclectic bouquets, featuring fabrics and other objects as well as flowers and foliage. 'Personally I’ve started using a lot of metals and wires in my work, but I’ve seen others spray paint elements onto their arrangements. Last year there was a trend for Dutch Still Life, but this Autumn we’ll be seeing more Japanese Ikebana influences.'
Where do you like to go for coffee?
'I love old-fashioned artiness. A café called Maison Bertaux in Soho is a favourite of mine. It’s one of the oldest French cafés in London and a remaining pillar of original Soho. Noel Fielding has lots of his artwork displayed there actually.'
To eat out?
'I’m a big fan of Brasserie Zedel. On a Saturday, they have a live band playing jazz. It’s so unpretentious and sees a really mixed crowd; you’ve got tourists, fashion people and artists all in one room.'
'I love places steeped in history, like the French House in Soho. You can imagine the playwrights and artists gathering there back in the day – we need to keep these places in business.'
'I’m a big fan of Bloom Perfumery in Covent Garden. I’m interested in the scent of perfumes and what they’re comprised of. Bloom Perfumery is modern but has a wealth of perfumes, including some old fashioned favourites.'
'I never go to a gyms. As a florist you’re on your feet and often heavy lifting. I love walking around London; you never know what you’re going to experience or who you’re going to meet.'
Finally, to relax?
'Two of my favourite places to unwind are Greenwich Park and Greenwich Market, where I shop for antiques.'