Beyond the bloom: Meet Robin Rose Hilleary

10x10 (ten by ten) is an editorial interview series. Spring '24 features Robin Rose Hilleary, founder of "Fleurotica".

DL: How did you get your start as a florist? What inspired you?

RRH: I think I always felt like an artist but I didn't really know what I wanted to make or how to. I've always been obsessed with beauty as a medium in itself but I worked in restaurants my whole life and was kind of thinking about doing makeup or styling or something. I would also dabble in photo and fashion and the beauty world but I felt like nothing was sticking. 

And then via restaurants I got style crushes on whoever would come in and do the flowers wherever I was working. About 10-15 years ago, I assisted this woman who was doing flowers at a restaurant I was working at and that's how I started. I just was helping her out lending extra hands on Valentine's Day or something and then it just sort of was like, ‘Oh this feels like it.’ I just felt like I was a duck in water.

DL: How did your work evolve over the years?

RRH: I had been assisting and dabbling for years but had never committed to the bit and then I just had a shop all of a sudden so I taught myself how to do that. I never really worked in retail but I had done some merchandising a hundred years ago so I thought, ‘okay, I'm just gonna use all the little things I know about service and beauty’ so I had a little shop and that wasn't quite the move for me. I was kind of not into being in one place standing around on Bleecker Street very centrally. At that time, it just didn't suit me to have a shop there but I loved doing flowers full-time so that was super helpful. I sort of got my bearings and then I moved into a studio in this beautiful space in Chinatown and I was there for a number of years. Now I have my own studio also in Chinatown but once I got enough clients, regular weddings, weekly restaurants, hair salons, and things like that I was able to not have any retail component.

DL: Describe your process and thinking behind sourcing florals?

RRH: I really like to always have a high-low or a mix of local and exotic, whatever that means. A component where there's some contrast between something kind of spindly and organic-feeling, and then something kind of alien or graphic feeling. I hope that’s one of our characteristic qualities, is having that sub element of surprise. I think it's feeling a bit more exciting to me just to walk around in France where I don't have a relationship with the farm market like I do here, it's not like I have everything at my fingertips from all over the world, so it's very limited. So I've just been walking around which is what I would do when I was little. Just walk around the neighborhood and gather things and then make little scenes so I guess it's really ever-evolving just like everything is but I've been really enjoying exploring the notions of what it means, what flowers are or what materials are that are organic.

DL: What sorts of projects do you like doing the most?

RRH: I think there's been a really big shift. People think that dried stuff is more sustainable because dried stuff doesn't die. So lots of people ask for that, but it really doesn't do it for me aesthetically, I just don't respond to it. It’s dead stuff, yes, but I love the element of death and care of ‘oh I have to change the water and I have to look at it and see if it's doing okay or clip it, or give it a little love.’ I love that part, and I love that it changes every day and that you get to watch something go because it's a reflection of what we're doing but faster. So I sort of forgo the dried and dyed and preserved stuff but I love the ephemeral nature of flowers. It’s kind of like having a pet or a little companion in your space and inviting it in . Or being gifted with it, it's the energy of color and form, and all of a sudden you have this little companion for a week, and then you have to care for it a bit and then when it's dead that's it and I love that part I love making something that isn’t meant to live.

DL:How do you approach color in the creative process?

RRH: I'm totally obsessed with color. It does something crazy like it's almost religious for me but also I I don't know if I have that synesthesia thing, but I know I have something where I'm very sensitive. I think we all are quite sensitive to color. I don't usually wear a lot of color because I'm so sensitive to it aesthetically and because it makes me feel so much that a good one can really turn my day. Also I think when working with the materials, I like to have kind of a neutral backdrop, sort of a proverbial backdrop.

I love to go to the market and just not have a plan and then feel out the clients and try to intuit their desires. And I think that also comes from hospitality and trying to anticipate someone's needs that they don't even know they need and give them what they want because flowers are a language that we don't really need very often, so most people don't really speak flowers and it's so fun to me to say, ‘okay, you're having a baby shower, but you don't know the gender, and you live in this sort of space, and you seem to have a lot of this in your house’ or pick up on little vibes and then try to stir that up. 

I want to make something that's going to seamlessly come into their world and feel really good and really nourishing and kind of turn them on. So they don't have to say ‘I want orange’ but I can then go to the market and tune into whatever flowers are around and just see what they're saying to do and often I'll get super inspired by something, like an outfit. Or for weddings whenever people come to me about flowers, I like to go in a weird door and start somewhere unusual like what their dress looks like and we go from there. Instead of just saying ‘oh you want peonies’ my approach is more ‘let's look at what you really like whether it’s bows or frilly textures, silky, shiny, ribbony things or maybe I'll pick that up in the flowers and go for a ballerina pink or a silky texture, or choose tons of ruffly carnations or something like that. 

But color is for sure the number one thing for me, because it moves me so much, and I think it's so powerful that it moves everyone and it's kind of fun to play with emotion in that way and try to translate whatever is going on into a palate that speaks personally.

DL: What are some of your favorite or most memorable projects?

The things that have moved me the most are rarely a big beautiful wedding even though those are always so decadent. I think the things that really move me are like tiny little projects where a friend just wants to photograph their jewelry line or something and I just get to play.

Anytime that it's working with people I love or for good causes, some sort of donation photo shoot, fundraising for something, feels like more about the act and feels memorable through the experience than the actual aesthetic. The things that I love the most aesthetically are always when I'm just alone in the studio with scraps and leftovers, and I don't have a goal I'm just fucking around and finding out. That's when  I've made the images that I love the most.

DL: This collection is really about evolving our core style codes. Do you have any personal style codes for getting dressed?

RRH: A lot of it I really respond to like the flouncy, oversized things are in general what I like to wear to lounge or sleep. That comfortable feeling really does support a code I think. In the collection, I really responded to the colors like the vermilion is exactly the same red as our signature rose that we use in almost every arrangement. This sort of orangey red rose that has come to represent my brand by accident so that's fun and that pop of red feels really me, which is fun. Also the sort of liquid silk is something that I notice I really seek out in my own wardrobe. I mostly wear a big oversized trouser and a really soft sweater or a silky tee shirt but then if I'm going out I always just wanna wear either a silk dress or silk suit and tailoring. 

In this collection, I really love the sort of masculine elements and I love the mix of silks with tailored denim. I'm very much responding to the collection since it feels extremely wearable, which is a nice juicy surprise. I was kind of thinking ‘I hope nothing feels too chic’ but it's not overly stylized or anything and nothing feels too posh so it remains super easy. I also appreciate the fluidity and how it's all about the line, the soft touch and feel, which is really what it all comes down to. That's all I ever think about is how it feels against my skin, if the weight and the texture are correct. It feels like all of the fabrics are really lovely and lush and it just feels really easy and beautiful.