INTERVIEW: WHITNEY BROMBERG HAWKINGS, FOUNDER FLOWERBX
words by LUCY BULLING • Fashion
WHITNEY BROMBERG HAWKINGS IS THE GENIUS BEHIND FLOWERBOX, THE SPECIALTY FLORIST DELIVERING SINGLE STEM BUNCHES TO THE BIGGEST NAMES IN FASHION.
Julia von Boehm: Explain how you came up with your idea - how did you come up with your wonderful invention!?
Whitney Bromberg Hawkings: I was working with Tom Ford [for 19 years] - where I met the beautiful you - and I was buying all my clothes on Net-A-Porter, all my groceries on Ocado, and when I would have a dinner party at my house, I just wanted beautiful, single stem bunches of flowers. Effortless and beautiful.
I didn’t want to pay florist prices for single stems or bad arrangements, so I would go to the flower market before work and end up bringing home a boot full! Then I started thinking, how come no one has made a real online solution for simple flowers?
And then working in the fashion industry, whenever Anna Wintour or Karl Lagerfeld, or Calvin or Riccardo would send thank-yous, they would all send single stem flowers - never an arrangement. Tom and I were always taking apart the arrangements people would send us!
And I thought: if all the fashionable people in the world are sending them like this, and this is all I wanted to buy, why can’t I find anywhere to buy them?
JVB: So you started an online platform selling the freshest, most gorgeous flowers?
WBH: Correct! So the way our business model works, I buy them on your behalf directly from the growers. I never keep stock. That way, you’re getting the freshest flowers possible; they will last twice as long and crucially, they have not been marked up twice!
Flowers from florists are often sitting around for a week or more and they are marked up like crazy, so there is real value in what we are doing and what we are able to deliver to our customers.
JVB: You are already in the UK, France, Belgium, Ireland, and Germany, and you’re launching in New York in May - why did you decide to come to NY first, before cities like LA?
WBH: First of all closeness; second of all, the brands we already have on board have all got offices in New York. Plus there are geographical challenges with cities like LA - the traffic for one. New York was the most obvious next-choice and the closest. So we will start there first.
JVB: From fashion to flowers, what was the transition like?
WBH: It’s so funny, I was so nervous about leaving fashion - it was my life, and my first job was working for Tom. But I am so relieved to find they are so, so similar. It is a different language, but we are all creating beauty. We are working with something that isn’t a necessity - but then it kind of is! The beauty of flowers and fashion enhance the quality of your life!
Luckily, because of my fashion background, I had great friends in the industry who caught on fast. We now work with Dior, Tom Ford, Bottega…and they love that we are in France, Germany, Ireland, and Belgium; it means they can have consistent activations across territories.
JVB: Do you have an event service as well?
WBH: We never meant to launch an event business, but it just kind of happened and it made sense. We had contracted work with Jimmy Choo, then the rest just came naturally. We now have an events department with a team of florists and staff who can put together everything. We also have a VIP service with clients who not only want flowers delivered but also want them arranged in their house.
JVB: How do you determine what flowers are right for an event?
WBH: It’s exactly like how you figure out what someone needs to wear to an event. A lot of it comes down to mood - you need to have a sensitivity, to understand what the person or brand are trying to convey. Flowers can be happy, somber, chic, sexy, feminine, or even aggressive! Absolutely anything! You can do it with the number of flowers, or the vases, or structure - but there is always a need to be sensitive to what is right for the client.
JVB: Do you have a favorite flower?
WBH: It changes seasonally. When Peonies are in season, they are definitely my favorite. In the Spring I love tulips - they are beautiful. But it all changes with the season, which is so nice! I love the change.
JVB: Has your personal style changed since you moved away from fashion?
WBH: It’s so funny, I had this fantasy I would be wearing jeans and big warm jumpers in the warehouse every day - but the reality is, I still have meetings! I still need to get dressed up!
I wear more Gucci loafers than stiletto heels now, but I still do have to look good. I try to convey to my team: we are working in beauty, we have to give a shit!
JVB: Do your staff have a uniform?
WBH: Our drivers and florists have a uniform of course!
JVB: Like Net-A-Porter are all in black and they look really smart!
WBH: That’s it! And if you are asking for people to invest in you, they are investing in the whole thing. Everyone on the team must represent you (and therefore, has to look great).
JVB: Is it easier to juggle the kids now that you’re your own boss?
WBH: That was another fantasy - that I would be at all the soccer games and pick-ups. I do always put them to bed, and I have more flexibility, but it is definitely not the fantasy I had.
JVB: You’re your own slave!
WBH: Exactly! But I can now do it around the kids - I never miss the important things, so I can be there for them whenever I need to. It is such a nice evolution, to now be the one that calls the shots.
JVB: And what is the story behind ‘Flowerbmb’?
WBH: Flowerbmb has become a content creator for us. People are always looking at fashion on others and how they wear things, so we wanted to show a similar thing with people and flowers; how they use flowers in their homes. Showing your floral identity is very personal. You can learn a lot about people from their floral choices.
There are so many fabulous, cool, chic people out there - what do they have on their bedside table? What do they send to their clients and friends? What do they do to decorate when hosting events? We are all naturally curious about other peoples taste and personal choices; flowers are no exception.