Kensal flower studio’s the new kid on the Kingsland block and unlike any florist’s space I’ve ever visited. At once, you immediately feel a sense of home. A place which feels much more like a modern studio than a traditional one, lending itself to the art of craft, as it should. We chat with founder, Liv Wakem.
Photographed & Interviewed by Adam Bryce
Tell us what you do and why you do it.
I’m a florist, but I hate that word, it seems so old school. I’ve always loved flowers but had never thought of it as a career, until a move to London gave me the chance to do it. It’s a real joy working with something seasonal; each day is inspiring and different. Flowers make people happy in good times and bad; it’s a beautiful way to communicate. I love being part of that story for people.
Tell us about the creation of Kensal and the concept behind your brand.
I was so fortunate to work in a very busy flower shop in London, Scarlet & Violet. We lived in a little one-bed flat in Kensal Rise, a four-minute walk from there. It was our special place, we knew it like the back of our hands. But after five amazing, full-on years, it was time to come home. Starting a flower studio was the next step for me — I couldn’t see myself fitting into another shop and undoing all I’d learnt. I wanted to bring a bit of London back with me — cue Kensal. It’s lovely when people pop into the shop and say they used to live there too — it’s like a secret club. The concept of Kensal is relaxed, seasonal, natural arrangements full of texture and interest, just like it’s been picked straight from the wild. I want flowers to be accessible for everyone whether it’s a $20 bunch or a $200.
Tell us about your inspiration for creation. Are you influenced by cultural references?
I’m lucky to work with a medium that changes with the season, so no two weeks are ever the same. The seasons can be unpredictable; you never really know when something is going to pop up. This week, the first of the swoon-worthy anemones came through. I guess I’m more influenced by colours, fabrics, nature and art. Often, I just fall in love with a specific colour and run with it for a bit.
What are your thoughts on sustainability in the flower industry?
Sadly the flower industry is a shocker when it comes to sustainability. Chemicals, transport, plastic, wastage — it’s a giant that we are trying to battle. We can try to reduce our footprint as much as possible but it needs to start further down the chain. To counter the imbalance we compost all our green waste, send flowers out in vases as much as possible to reduce plastic, recycle all flower boxes and drop the soft plastics off at the local supermarkets. If Auckland wasn’t so spread out, I’d love our flowers to be delivered by bike.
Tell us about the main issues currently affecting the industry.
Right now, post-Covid, there’s a supply and demand imbalance. Winter is a tricky time of year for flowers anyway and usually the flower market supplement this with imported product. We don’t tend to buy this product but as imports aren’t coming in, prices for local product has gone up. Great news for the growers, and we are very happy for them to recoup funds after so much stock going to waste over lockdown, but unfortunately this is reflected in the price at flower shops.
How has the pandemic affected your business and have you implemented any changes that you will keep post-lockdown?
To be honest, I was quite happy for the break over lockdown after a busy summer. Is it bad to say that? We were closed during Level 4, flowers are not essential — as much as we think they are. There were no flower auctions and the local growers we champion had come to the end of their season. I delivered jars of flowers safely in Level 3 and the support was unbelievable, as we were allowed to doorstep flowers to loved ones and spread the love when no-one else was able to move about. I came back to the shop in Level 2 and decided to open the doors six days a week. Prior to lockdown, Kensal was more of a studio focusing on deliveries and events and open to the public only on Fridays and Saturdays. As most of the event and PR work has disappeared for the time being, I thought we should take this time to grow our little Kingsland shop.
In what ways has the lockdown forced you to adjust future plans for your business?
Lockdown gave me so much time to think and re-adjust, take stock of what’s working in the business and what isn’t. I’m not massively business-minded so it was a good moment to read and learn. I’m really enjoying being in the shop and meeting the Kingsland locals, I think six days a week are here to stay now.