As part of our Women That Inspire Us series, we spoke to the abundantly talented Millie Richardson, founder of Millie Richardson Flowers. Creating the most beautiful designs from seasonal, English blooms, Millie has become the go-to florist for brides looking for romantic, untamed floral installations that include everything from swooping archways bursting with powder-pink roses and green foliage to hanging baskets punctuated with purple alliums and trailing branches. Run from her kitchen table at home in the Cotswolds with jobs undertaken all over the country, no two days are ever the same. We loved hearing about her signature style, how she is inspired by the seasons and why she loves being her own boss.
How did you become a floral designer?
I think I was definitely searching for a sense of identity before I started my own business. I was working in a completely different industry, within which ultimately I always felt like a small cog in a very big corporate wheel and I craved an environment where I could use my hands and could finish the end of a working day tired, having “worked “ physically and not just having stared at a computer screen all day. I have always loved flowers. Once I dipped my toes into floral design, I got completely swept up in the creativity of it and it started to take over! My flower business feels like a big part of my identity now and I am really proud of it. I am also a strong believer that doing something that is really enjoyable day-to-day is incredibly important for your self-esteem and general well-being.
How would you describe your style?
My aim through floristry is to always create loose, wild and untamed floral designs which celebrate the very best that our country and seasons have to offer. I believe that I have developed a signature style which incorporates colour, movement and texture through garden-inspired design. I like to experiment with different ingredients, so that much like a painting or a drawing, there are areas of light and dark, shading and form in my work.
What inspires you?
So many things! To name but a few; my brilliant Mum, her beautiful English country garden and the Cotswold village we are lucky enough to live in. My little boy Kit who is now 9 months old and has been sitting in the wings patiently watching me flower weddings and parties since he was 10 weeks old. British-grown flowers and whatever the seasons allow. The incredible English growers who work tirelessly, come rain or shine, to grow beautiful stems for us and the raft of ace freelance florists who support me and turn out on a weekly basis to help bring my designs to life. My husband Ed, who is the wind to my sails and the logistical brain (and muscle!) to what we build and create for all of the wonderful couples and clients we flower for.
What do you love about your job?
Being your own boss is really brilliant! I am able to take on work that I know I will love, but also have the freedom to turn work down when life is too busy and I know I (we) need to take a breath. It took me a really long time to realise that this was okay and that it wouldn’t be the end of things and now I find it strangely liberating! But more importantly, when you see a brief or a project that you conjure up actually come together and deliver – it is the most wonderful feeling and creates an enormous sense of pride.
What’s a typical day like?
I run Millie Richardson Flowers from our kitchen table and my small garden studio at home in Gloucestershire. With Kit now in tow, no two days are the same (!), but typically each week is spent meeting with clients and suppliers and then travelling the length and breadth of the country to flower beautiful weddings and events.
You do a lot of gorgeous weddings and parties. Which stand out and why?
There are definitely jobs and requests I said yes to in the early stages where I felt completely out of my depth! I learnt very quickly that I had to be brave and to just go with it and to trust the brilliant and talented freelance florists who work alongside me. It was a really steep learning curve but I realized the importance of being pushy with our limitations, but always humble and to ultimately have belief in my ideas and skills.
What has been your most ambitious floral arrangement yet and why?
When brides ask for what I call full “up and over” floral archway displays to dress their beautiful village church doorways but for which there are absolutely no connection points or fastenings to attach to, there is usually a sense of initial trepidation! But I think more recently it was the 4 metre hanging display we created in a glass ceiling marquee which was hung to look as though it was suspended without attachment, in what felt like 54 degree heat during set up! The flowers coped surprisingly well and the end result was magical, all things considered.
What floral trends have you noticed this year?
Lots of flower types that were perhaps considered to be old fashioned are having a renaissance and it is really lovely to see. Gypsophila in particular, which when used as an ingredient on its own can be so effective – particularly when it is dried. Carnations also get such a bad reputation but are hardy and reliable flower friends and are being used far more frequently then they used to be!
Any tips on how to create a great floral arrangement at home?
For me there is nothing more lovely than a large jam or glass pickle jar full of seasonal, garden bounty. At this time of year, I would begin with tendrils of jasmine and the last of the Summer honeysuckle, to which I like I add dainty stems of cosmos, gaura, sweet pea and flowering mint. For bigger blooms, early season dahlias – “Labryinth” and “Café au Lait” – if you can get hold of them, mixed with delicate varieties of Hydrangea Paniculata, can make for a beautiful, organic display.
How do you try and offset the ethical challenges when it comes to fresh flowers?
Ethical floristry is very much a hot and important topic of conversation at present. Ultimately we are working in an industry making a living from nature and it is vital that we respect that. Being fully sustainable presents its challenges, but for large installations we mostly use metal and wire frames with buckets as a source of water for the flowers and foliage, and the least amount of floral foam possible. When it comes to sourcing flowers, buying directly and only from British growers is where I feel we can make most impact.
How would you describe your jewellery style?
When it comes to jewellery, I love simple, every-day pieces that I never have to take off. I would say my style is fairly eclectic as I don’t have a metal preference, but love the combination of white and yellow gold, as for most of my most precious pieces.
And which Davina Combe pieces do you have your eye on and how would you wear them?
I adore the Alphabet collection and engraved discs on necklace chains. I think wearing one in silver and one in gold with initials “E” and “K” marked on each respectively would be a lovely way of nodding to my most favourite people!