We met up with the floral designer at her studio in Brooklyn to talk about fashion and her lifestyle.
Text & Photo: Asaka Nakazato, Category: Life
Kristen, tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, my name is Kristen Usui. I’m a floral designer in Brooklyn, New York. I’m originally from Southern California where I was born and raised, and it’s been 6 years since I moved to NY. I’m a 4th generation Japanese American. As you can probably see from my apartment, I love vintage shopping and I have a lot of things that have been passed down to me from my parents and my grandparents, like the kimono hanging on the wall in my bedroom. My favorite color is mustard yellow, because it’s very fun, bright, an uplifting color, and I think it’s maybe similar to my personality :)
Since I was young, I was always surrounded by nature, and my family always had a garden growing up. We grew a lot of our own fruits and vegetables. Also, my grandma actually did “Ikebana” (the Japanese art of flower arrangement), so I have seen and used some of her books and tools and bases and things like that. So, I think my roots have a lot to do with what I do now. However, It actually was pretty random that I fell into floral design. My background is in event planning, concert booking and I was in charge of beer gardens. I actually met this woman on a corporate events job. Her name is Maeve, and she is a food and prop stylist. She started telling me about her life, and I just had no idea that there’s like a whole set of people who work on photo shoots and things that help make images as beautiful as they are. So, the next day, she actually didn’t come back to work because she had accidentally cut off the tip of her finger in a blender on set. And the next time I saw her, she needed an assistant, so she asked me if I would help her. I was a little nervous because I didn’t have a culinary background or anything like that. However, I decided to go with her and it was really fun. Then, I did some research on other pop stylists in New York and found that a lot of them also do florals. I thought that’s something I would be interested in. I reached out to a flower shop and got an internship and learned everything on the job. I had this mentor there who told me something new every day and let me take home flowers to practice. I kept doing things over and over until I got it, and eventually I was hired there and stayed for almost a year. After that I became a freelance designer. Now I work for a number of different florists and large-scale events, anything from weddings to fashion weeks to detailed photo shoots for brands. I would say being a florist is pretty hard work, such as carrying heavy things and constantly looking dirty to clean flowers. However, beyond that, It’s very rewarding and we do get to work with beautiful things. I love working with my hands. It’s a very tactile job and there are always beautiful smells, textures, etc.
My flower style is a bit more organic and natural. I like to showcase certain elements by adding levels and movements instead of like having all roses bunched together in a perfect round bowl. I love asymmetry gestural pieces that stick out, or like vines that come down, and interesting weird elements so that it looks like it came from nature. I guess my flower style is probably similar to my make-up or beauty regimen. I’m trying to keep things as natural as possible. For example, I think imperfections are really fun. I have some freckles and I guess some people would want to hide them, but I love seeing them. I feel like imperfections are part of your character and makes people unique.