At New York’s most fashionable events, the question asked of hosts is oftentimes not, “Who did your hair?” but, “Who did your flowers?” And, if you’re asking the folks at Stella McCartney, Marchesa, or Vanity Fair, the answer is likely to be: “Denise Porcaro of Flower Girl, of course.”
As the owner of the ultra-hip boutique Flower Girl, Denise has arranged bouquets for everyone from Chanel to the New York Department of Commerce, having made a name for herself with her delightfully offbeat arrangements. “I like to use quirky and fun things, [like] pods and quills, or really simple, gorgeous garden roses in a unique tin I sourced at a flea market,” says the 32-year-old New Yorker, who started arranging flowers at her restaurant job as a creative outlet, before word-of-mouth praise and a growing client list led her to begin her own business.
We stopped by her shop at 90 Orchard St. (Yes, she knows how perfect that address is) to ask Denise just how she got her awesome job.
Tell us the story behind Flower Girl!
So, I went to school for film and production design. I did bartending, waitressing, that kind of stuff, and did flowers on the side for one of the restaurants I worked for. I learned the basics from a woman who was one of the flower people for one of the restaurants, but I kind of just went to the market and figured out, as far as concept and design, what worked well.
I just did private events for the restaurant, and then, the next thing you know, I cultivated this small group of people I did flowers for. One thing led to another, and all of a sudden I was met with this moment where I was like, ‘Do I pursue product design? Or, do I pursue flowers?’ Obviously, I went with flowers! It was a hard thing to do, to say, ‘No, I’m not going to do what I went to school for,’ [but] it felt right. But, if you think about it, a lot of people, especially in creative fields, don’t do what they went to school for.
What year did you set up Flower Girl? You also share this space with a denim shop (Earnest Sewn). How did that come about?
The business started in 2004, but then it was just service – events, all that kind of stuff. At the time, I was still toying around with the idea of production design, doing flowers just for side money, but it wasn’t necessarily a business yet. In 2007, this location opened. Earnest Sewn was a client of mine. I was doing flowers for them, just their weekly flowers, and our aesthetics are very similar, as you can see. I befriended a bunch of people in the company who just really liked what I did, and then, when they were opening this location, they asked me if I wanted to do a shop with them! So, that’s where we are!
How would you describe Flower Girl’s aesthetic?
Seasonally-based, lush, and gorgeous, with a little bit of an edge. I have a couple of uptown clients who we don’t do eclectic kind of stuff with, but we find means to throw in an edge. There’s always got to be a little something funky and different.
We’re a fashion company, so we have to ask about your fashion clients. Your client list includes Zac Posen, Ralph Lauren, Narciso Rodriguez, Elle, Glamour, Lucky…
Sure. I’ve done fashion shows, product launches, dinners, FNO [Fashion's Night Out]… it’s a variety of things. I did Stella McCartney’s boutique on 14th Street for a long time. Chanel was a dinner. Kate Spade launched her fragrance line, so we did something for that. It’s been fun!
How do you approach styling for a fashion brand? Is it like, ‘Hey, this is what this season looks like, can you match that?’
Yeah, pretty much! It’s usually based on [the designer's] aesthetic, like, you know, Chanel’s a certain way across the board. But, I like to pull from as much as I can from the line of that specific time. If they’re doing something more edgy, if there’s a lot of metallics, then I’ll use metal vases. Or, if it has a modern, chic feel, I’ll do a black vase versus an eclectic combo of different vases filled with different things. It really depends!
We know about trends in fashion, but not much about trends in flowers. Are there trends in flower styling?
Absolutely! Right now, everyone’s going back to classics. There’s less of an over-the-top feel. I don’t know if that has to do with the economy changing, and people not [wanting to be] too showy. Less modern, more eclectic, is what’s going on; people like mixed bouquets a little more lately.
What are some of toughest parts, and the best parts, of owning your own business?
The toughest part is having to organize everything. There are always a lot of things to wrap your head around. Delegating is hard for me, because I’m a perfectionist. You can’t do everything! The best part about owning your own business? I’m doing what I love! I’ve made a little following. This kind of stuff makes me feel like people like what I do, which is awesome and rewarding.
Are there any things about the flower industry that people would be surprised to know?
People think flowers are all just roses and peachy and lovely, and it’s not! With my ads, I get responses that are like, ‘I love flowers! I don’t know anything about them, but I’ve thrown a bouquet together!’ I’ve had to get really specific. There is grunt work. There’s stinky water involved, because you have to clean all your flowers! We lug a lot of stuff around, hauling big bundles from the market, and all that stuff. It’s hard!
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to start their own business?
Make sure that you’re extra, especially passionate about it. Similar to life, there’s gonna be so much stuff you can’t plan for, and there are going to be so many things you don’t want to deal with, or things that come along with the business that you can become annoyed or frustrated with. I think, if you always have in the back of your mind that you’re doing this because you really love it, whether it’s flowers or fashion or film. You really need to find what you love, so that you can always revisit the thought that you’re doing what you love.