Pro­file A Kiwi ac­tor turned florist

This Kiwi cre­ative is bring­ing a fresh flavour to the Los An­ge­les flo­ral scene by sell­ing rus­tic bou­quets from a con­verted van and de­liv­er­ing pic­ture-per­fect ar­range­ments to peo­ple’s doors

Your Home and Garden - - Contents - Text by Fiona Ralph. Pho­tog­ra­phy by John El­lis.

Kiwi ac­tor-turned-florist Spencer Falls may have been based in Los An­ge­les for 10 years now, but his New Zealand iden­tity still shines through – he runs his busi­ness The Un­likely Florist from a con­verted Volk­swa­gen van.

The van, nick­named Un­tho, can be found out­side LA hotspots on week­ends, kitted out by Spencer with racks to hold bou­quets and buck­ets of flow­ers. Steer­ing away from tra­di­tion­ally ‘pretty’ flow­ers, Spencer favours protea, banksia and eu­ca­lyp­tus – flow­ers that will be ro­bust enough to sur­vive life in the van. With his In­sta­gram-friendly shopfront, rus­tic, un­con­ven­tional bou­quets and laid­back charm, Spencer has quickly gained a cult fol­low­ing both in his adopted city and on­line.

No kid­ding

The idea for The Un­likely Florist started as a joke – a back-up plan in case act­ing didn’t work out. When Spencer was back in LA after a year spent act­ing on Short­land

Street (in 2014), un­em­ployed and un­ful­filled, he de­cided to take the plunge. “As ac­tors we jump be­tween this restau­rant job and that restau­rant job and even­tu­ally I got tired of it, so I de­cided to start sell­ing flow­ers out of my van as I was wait­ing for my next act­ing job,” he ex­plains. “One thing led to an­other and flow­ers kind of took prece­dence over act­ing.”

Spencer took the phrase ‘learn­ing on the job’ lit­er­ally. He had no ex­pe­ri­ence with floristry but grew up on an or­chard, so knew his way around a pair of se­ca­teurs. “Cut­ting, prun­ing and thin­ning was part of my child­hood,” he says. Spencer sees floristry as just an­other ex­ten­sion of his cre­ativ­ity, a view­point in part in­spired by his mother. “She was cre­ative in so many medi­ums in my life, so I learned that cre­ativ­ity, be­ing an artist or ex­press­ing your­self through a cre­ative medium, doesn’t have to be lin­ear.”

Made in Venice

Spencer cred­its liv­ing in LA, par­tic­u­larly in the cre­ative hub of Venice, as in­te­gral to his suc­cess. “I live in a pretty unique part of Los An­ge­les,” he says. “LA it­self is just an un­real place where you can do ab­so­lutely any­thing you can con­ceive of.”

Only two years on from launch­ing his busi­ness, the florist is work­ing with com­pa­nies such as shoe brand Toms and ac­com­mo­da­tion mar­ket­place Airbnb. He even cre­ated flo­rals for the cover of Vogue In­dia, and had to en­sure cover star Kim Kar­dashian didn’t fall through his flo­ral wall on the pho­to­shoot. Op­por­tu­ni­ties like this just present them­selves in the City of An­gels, Spencer says. His 186-square-me­tre ware­house-style stu­dio in Venice has proved a handy place to meet in­flu­en­tial creatives. He also holds events, such as jazz nights in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Airbnb, at the stu­dio. “We’ve spent a lot of time and money in­vest­ing in the stu­dio to make it a beau­ti­ful space that we can share with the com­mu­nity,” Spencer says.

It’s that com­mu­nity which drew him to the beach­side area – it’s the clos­est he can find to home in LA. “I want to live in New Zealand but I can’t right now, so I want to feel that sense of com­mu­nity that’s so im­por­tant to me here.” While he ap­pre­ci­ates the cre­ative op­por­tu­ni­ties that LA of­fers, Spencer misses home. He hopes to ex­pand the busi­ness back to New Zealand one day, but for now is happy to be re­turn­ing here in the sum­mer, where he will be avail­able for wed­dings in Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary 2019.

“I choose par­tic­u­larly

beau­ti­ful flow­ers and then

I just put them to­gether”

Door-to-door ser­vice

As well as sell­ing flow­ers from the van, Spencer does a lot of ar­range­ments for wed­dings and events, from din­ner par­ties to red-car­pet af­fairs. “I’ve never been a tra­di­tional florist,” he says. “Sell­ing from the van is just one part of the busi­ness.” Cur­rently he is “most pas­sion­ate” about his new de­liv­ery ser­vice. Not only do cus­tomers re­ceive weekly, bi-weekly or monthly ar­range­ments, but their old flow­ers can be taken away and re­pur­posed into a dried, framed art­work.

“We’re try­ing to cre­ate a sys­tem where we’re reusing flow­ers as much as we can,” Spencer says. He also gives a per­cent­age of the sales of both the ar­range­ments and art­works to the grower. Hav­ing grown up on an or­chard in Hawke’s Bay, he is aware of the strug­gles that come with be­ing a farmer. “We’re con­scious that if it weren’t for the grower we wouldn’t have this busi­ness and the cus­tomer wouldn’t be en­joy­ing such great flow­ers.” And it’s the flow­ers that make him a good florist, he says. “I choose par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful flow­ers and then I just put them to­gether and the combos work. But I can’t be naïve and think that I don’t have some kind of tal­ent!” •

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Spencer favours flow­ers and fo­liage that don’t mind a bit of a bumpy ride in his van, and he also cre­ates dried ar­range­ments. The re­sult­ing desert-style aes­thetic suits his LA life­style per­fectly and has proven pop­u­lar with his cus­tomers and 20,000...

Spencer’s large ware­house stu­dio not only pro­vides a base for his floristry busi­ness but dou­bles as an event space.

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