Like every little girl, I spent my childhood planning my happily ever after; dressing Barbie in her wedding dress ready to marry Ken and picking daisies in the garden to make a bouquet. As you get older, you start to realise that holding a parasol of real roses or wearing a dress made from flowers is just a childhood dream, until now. Cue the sharp intake of breath as Zita Elze showcased her Living Embroidery Bridal Collection at the Designer Wedding Show; gowns adorned with fresh flowers and berries, live hair pieces, parasols and bags all carefully handmade. Going on to win the Best Wedding Florist at the 2012 Perfect Wedding Awards, Elze’s floral fantasies have brought the wedding scene to life in a way it hasn’t been before.
The little girl in me only had one person in mind when it came to finding a floristry expert for the site and I was thrilled when Elze agreed to chat to us. An award winning floral artist, designer and teacher, Elze is far more than just centrepieces and bouquets. Brazilian by birth, Zita has lived in Italy, France and Germany before moving to London. I caught up with her from the picturesque street corner flower shop in Richmond, minutes away from the Botanical Gardens. Asking her all about her route into floristry and the ideas behind the living embroidery collection she is famous for, it quickly becomes clear that this is more than a job, but a calling.
First things first, how did you get into floristry?
Initially I studied artistic bookbinding in Paris, followed by Interior Design at London’s KLC School of Design and then Garden Design at the Inchbald School of Design. I also did a one month career floristry course in Paris to learn the basics of the trade one I had the shop, but this is the only formal floristry training I had.
How did you come to work in the competitive floristry industry?
It was not planned at all! I had just graduated from the Inchbald School of Design when I happened to come across an empty flower shop in Kew and decided to take it. I planned to have this shop for a garden design practisce with a little floral window, but the little flower window took over.
Where do you get your inspiration and ideas from?
My inspiration comes from a number of different avenues. Mostly I find inspiration in emotions –it’s amazing what our subconscious can do for us, if we just let it happen. This is what I try to teach at the Design Academy and often get amazing results from my students, especially in those with no formal training. I also take inspiration from nature, travels, visiting museums and looking at beauty.
I’ve got to ask about your famous Living Embroidery Collection (Zita embroiders live flowers onto dresses for clients), how did you come up with this?
I had an aunt who did very beautiful embroidery and I always remember her making these beautiful children’s dresses with constructed ribbon flowers. One day in one of my Concept and Design classes the idea crossed my mind and the concept was born!
I first started applying the technique on vases and then moved to fabric. My first dress for the Chelsea flower show was a huge success and since then I have designed and made many dresses, for brides and also their bridesmaids!
They really are amazing! How long on average does it take you to create a ‘living gown’ for a client?
It takes me a week to complete all the floral work on the dress.
What would you say is the best part of your job?
I love teaching my art and creating beautiful designs, but I’m also very hands on. In every project, I am involved in the whole process, from the concept through to the production and completion.
And what is the hardest part?
For me the hardest part of my job is doing so much paperwork and having to work long hours.
How do you ensure you work stands out in such a competitive industry?
Always giving my best, whatever budget I have to work with.
You were awarded Wedding Florist of the Year in 2012, wedding flowers can be quite personal to a lot of people – how do you ensure your clients love what you create?
I try to work out when taking the brief what the couple in front of me are all about. I make sure I ask lots of questions until I have a deeper understanding of their dreams, their needs and budget. When I grasp a feeling, then I’m ready to design something unique just for them. I never repeat a design and I never will!
What advice would you give someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps and get into the floristry industry?
Be prepared as it’s going to be a lot of hard work! You need to be really passionate about what you are doing. Also, if you’re planning to open a shop make sure you find a good location!
Finally, if you had to pick, what would your favourite flower be?
I love any seasonal flowers when beautifully styled, but I particularly love working with garden roses, dahlias and grasses.
Creating wedding blooms that make every little girls’ dreams come true, there is no doubt Zita’s designs will go on to inspire students all over the world. If you fancy joining in and having a go for yourself, take a look at the floristry courses listed on our site and get creative!
Photo credit: Zita Elze flowers