"It wasn't a true passion of mine," Maurice Harris, 38, admits, referring to his present-day vocation as a floral designer and owner of Bloom & Plume, a celebrated Historic Filipinotown flower studio that added a coffee shop to the mix earlier this year, both of which we've teamed up with American Express to highlight in celebration of Pride. "I wasn't much of an outdoors, garden-y person as much as I liked the arranging of flowers and beautiful things," he says. And that, he says, was mainly because his grandmother was a florist and a milliner. "She made church lady hats and often used flowers to decorate them. I used to sit at her bedside and watch her make things and be creative and I think that really inspired me and translated into my life later in a way that I didn't even expect."
He first got the idea for Bloom & Plume during a conversation with an assistant of his back in 2010 when he was working at a fast fashion label, another (albeit aesthetically different) brand known for its bright color palette. At the time, Harris would style various floral designs for events at work. That would lead to, "Oh my gosh, can you do my baby shower? Oh my gosh, can you do my friend's wedding?" type requests from those in attendance. "One day my assistant was like, 'I think you need to have something else going on so that you don't get so stressed out at work. And you're really good at this flower thing.'"
And so, within a few months, "this flower thing" grew into both a passion and a career. Just take a look at his Instagram and you'll quickly find yourself ensconced in his lush world of floral-inspired beauty. "Instagram felt so vivid to me. It brought my flowers to life. Flowers are very hard to photograph. They're very three dimensional and being able to see all of the different sides and facets to it really is what makes it beautiful and powerful to engage with." It quickly became an easy way for Harris to start an online portfolio, one that's grown into a following of over 125K as of now.
He's also shrewdly used Instagram to create access to his world, the customer base of which buoys in the 1%. "The thing about flowers: what we do is so high end, so formal and so over the top that in many ways it can be quite unapproachable or a little too esoteric, but I think the quirky weird language of Instagram allows me a way to talk about the absurdity of what I do and be in on the joke."
Harris's love of the whimsical intersecting with the elegant and refined is his brand's sweet spot. "We take ourselves seriously but then we'll just throw it in the garbage," he says, describing his ideal customer's ethos. "It's an irreverence and a casualness that hopefully makes the brand a little bit more approachable and actual fun because people get so stressed out about these things. Which I get — I mean they're spending a lot of money on something that's going to die in a short amount of time, so I get it — but it's also like... it's flowers, they're supposed to make you happy. And it's made for a moment. So let's enjoy this moment."
American Express proudly backs the Shop Small® Movement, which is dedicated to supporting small businesses around the world. Wherever your Shop Small journey takes you, we invite you to discover local small businesses that provide a beacon of hope and acceptance in your community. Find more American Express-accepting small businesses in your local area by visiting shopsmall.com. Want more Pride inspo? See more here.
Illustrations: Neasden Control Centre