How did you guys meet?
Through our partners at the time. They both knew we were interested in moving into floristry and connected us.
Where does your love of flowers come from?
Iona: Both my grandmothers loved flowers, so I think my love came from them. Before becoming a florist, I bought flowers and rearranged supermarket blooms. Back then, I probably had flowers in my house more often than I do now.
Romy: My family moved to the countryside from London when I was a kid. I spent my childhood pressing flowers, decorating bamboo structures, and making lotions and potions. I became very interested in botany and the use of plant extracts for skincare. Later I chose to study biology at university. I wanted to use my interests and knowledge in a creative way, which led me to floristry.
How did you get started?
From the kitchen table, working on events. When we started looking for a studio, we came across a retail unit that had wonderful light and a great vibe. We weren’t planning to open a shop so soon, and the space was bigger than we needed, but we went for it anyway. We haven’t looked back since.
What makes Sage unique?
I: I think we fit into a younger generation of business owners who aren’t faceless. Our flowers are a way for us to have a voice, and to be politically active and aware. Our brand means a lot to us. Flowers are transient, but the feelings they evoke remain. We create art and sculptures that have meaning – if only present for a brief time.
R: We’re known for our unusual combinations of flowers, textures and colours. Our arrangements continuously evolve as our tastes and influences change.
How did you come up with the name?
A friend was talking about Jung’s twelve archetypes. One is the ‘sage’ – a person of wisdom, self-understanding and analysis. It felt fitting for what we wanted to bring to the world of flowers.
What makes a good partnership?
R: We watch out for each other’s mental health. We run through everything together, and we value each other’s point of view. We also have complementary skill sets. I have a science background, so I like data, numbers and precision. Iona’s background is in hospitality, which is really useful for everything client-facing.
It’s a free training programme aimed at diversifying the floral industry. We were aware of the lack of diversity when we started, and always tried to hire and work with non-white people. We were new to the industry and didn’t think we could do anything to change it. Fast-forward a couple of years – mid-pandemic and the civil rights movement – and we wanted to do our bit. It’s proved so popular we’re now fully booked until December 2021.
Who are your customers?
A mixture of locals who come to the shop and businesses. We’ve worked on events with some great brands – Converse, Fenty and Gucci, for example. We’ve worked with great restaurants such as Lyle’s and Rita’s Dining. Also with the Whitechapel Gallery and Nowness. The list goes on.
Floristry. That means early mornings and long days, right? Where do you get the energy from?
We’re both grafters. We like to get a job done; and done well. We take so much pride in our brand, so we push ourselves to deliver. It is exhausting, so we schedule in regular holidays to recover. We cover for each other, too. If one of us needs a break, then the other one steps in.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the business?
Try to get as much work experience as possible. Offer to clean buckets, cut paper and make cups of tea. Formal training isn’t essential and is very expensive, so we always recommend learning on the job, just like we did.
Coronavirus has been a bit of a spanner in the works, but we’re adjusting to it. We’ll be offering a national delivery service soon, and we are looking at ways to offer floral education further afield.