Studio Visit

Melanie Stapleton of Cecilia Fox

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
13th of December 2013
Melbourne florist Melanie Stapleton aka Cecilia Fox, at her Brunswick shop.  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
Details from Cecilia Fox - such beautiful blooms!  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
Details from Cecilia Fox - such beautiful blooms!  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
Melbourne florist Melanie Stapleton aka Cecilia Fox, at her Brunswick shop.  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
One of the best things about staging our TDF Open House event every year is having an opportunity to work on something tangible with so many of the talented creatives we meet and profile throughout the year.  This year in Melbourne I had the great privilege of working with a floral designer whose work I have long admired (and who EVERYONE raves about!) - Melanie Stapleton of Cecilia Fox!  After her truly resplendent work at Open House in Hawthorn (DON'T GET ME STARTED on those watermelon pink peonies!) it seemed only fitting to follow up with a little profile on Melanie, whose inspiring little business has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 12 months. You may recall it was almost exactly a year ago we covered the opening of Melanie's sweet flower shop in Brunswick, which miraculously opened its doors just 2 weeks before Melanie became a Mum for the first time!  Her son Dusty arrived in October 2012, and it seems he's been good for business - Melanie's sweet little shop and various other client projects have skyrocketed since we last spoke, she'd been creating the most stunning event and wedding flowers week in, week out, all this year, and she was also pretty chuffed to work with Amanda Henderson and Gloss Creative on the Myer Bird Cage Marquee at the races this year!  Add to all this the challenges of having an energetic and inquisitive little one year old at home, and I think we can safely say 2013 has been one seriously productive year for Melanie! It's refreshing to hear below that despite her growing success and the many high profile events Mel has been involved in over the past few years, the thing she still loves most about her job is, quite simply, the FLOWERS!  Melanie still gets a thrill from the 4.30am trek to the Footscray flower markets (which she does three times a week, waking Dusty at 4am to feed before she leaves! Ahem - AMAZING!).  'I actually really truly just love flowers and nature' she explains below.  Another career highlight for Mel is having the opportunity to engage with her clients and customers on a personal level - being invited into their world to collaborate on a special event or celebration.  'Weddings, funerals, babies, birthdays – these are special times in our lives, and if I can make them a little more special or a little more beautiful then that’s pretty amazing' she says. Huge thanks to Mel for sharing her story with us today - for recent shots of Mel's impressive floral creations do check out her blog.  (This one is my favourite!)  Also a HUGE thanks to our dear Eve Wilson for getting up at 4am to document Mel's early morning trip to the flower markets last month...!  LEGENDS, the both of you.
Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to floristry originally, and to the launch of Cecilia Fox?
I left school at 16 to start a floristry apprenticeship in my hometown - Auckland, New Zealand. I never really fitted in at school and my parents encouraged me to find a trade and start working. I never looked back – finally I had found something that I was good at and loved. I travelled to the States and then ended up in London, working as a freelancer for some amazing London florists. I had the opportunity to work on some huge and incredible events. It was such an education, on a scale that I could have never even dreamed of at home in NZ. When I moved to Melbourne I worked part time at many Melbourne florists trying to find my flow. I tried my hand at textile design at RMIT, and found that I really didn’t want to do textile design, but it informed and influenced my work with flowers hugely – it gave me the chance to look at flowers in a completely different way. I started Cecilia Fox really slowly, doing the odd wedding and the flowers in Cafes and stores. When I started writing my blog and I met Georgie at Georgeous Occasions, Cecilia Fox was catapulted into the world.
When we first covered your shop back in 2012 you had JUST opened, and your gorgeous little bub Dusty had also been born at exactly the same time! Give us an update on the past year since opening your shop – seems like its been a pretty busy year!? What have been some highlights?
This year has been so incredible – I think any parent will say that the first year of your first baby’s life is LIFE CHANGING – no one can really explain it until it happens to you. Pile that on top of the shop being this amazing little window into our world, and sandwich that between the event and wedding part of our business growing at a rate of knots. And there you have it! One heck of a year. Most definitely the most difficult, fulfilling, stressful, flourishing, AMAZING year of my life thus far. The highlight would have to be DUSTY – he’s, well …. Life changing.
Being a florist means notoriously early starts and big bump ins… but amongst all the long hours there must be lots of super fun bits too! What are the projects or clients you love most / what do you love most about your job?
The thing I love most about my job is FLOWERS. I actually really truly just love flowers and nature. Also, meeting people and even in a small way touching their lives. That sounds really cheesy but, weddings, funerals, babies, birthdays – these are special times in our lives, and if I can make them a little more special or a little more beautiful then that’s pretty amazing. As far as specific projects, number one would have to be working with Amanda Henderson and Gloss Creative on the Myer Bird Cage Marquee at the races this year. It was Australian native vibe – Amanda has the uncanny ability to push you creatively in directions you never thought possible. I always love working with the girls at Georgeous Occasions on weddings – they allow me 100% creative freedom. Working with Tamsin at Tamsin’s Table on our rose workshop was a total dream. Myself and 10 ladies picked roses from Tamsin’s field of old fashioned roses and arranged them over a glass of rose petal fizz. I always love working with the Australian Ballet, and any chance I get to collaborate with fashion label Kuwaii I jump at.
How is your business structured? How many people do you employ, and do you outsource any significant tasks?
I’m a complete control freak and I’m slowly learning to relax. Having Dusty forced me to realise I can’t do it all anymore. I have Kristy who works as my PA of sorts. She has a couple of little people, so she sorts all my emails and deals with that side of things from her home. Jamie my partner does all the accounts. We have a core team of 3 floral helpers that fluctuates according to the projects we have on. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays we might have 5 flower lovers at the workbench or on bump ins. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesdays it’s generally just Jamie, Dusty and I cleaning up from the weekends work, ordering and any smaller events that might come up.
Melanie at work in her Brunswick shop.  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced since starting your business?
As the business has grown, becoming a manager has been totally weird for me - I’m a florist, not a businessperson! Managing staff and logistics are by far the most challenging parts of my business. I had some business coaching this year with Kate James from Total Balance that was great. Kate was fantastic; she’s not a ra ra, money, money, business, business kind of business coach so she really ‘got’ me.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
I think part of what keeps me excited about my work is that every day is so different. At least two days a week I’m at the flower market by 4.30am selecting the best and most perfect flowers - So around 4am Dusty has woken and I given him a feed and put him back to bed. Around 7 I’m back to the shed and unloading and sorting which flowers are for which event, and run through the next few days with Serene. Then I re-load the van and head to the shop to meet Liz and set up the shop. Somewhere in there I’ve fed Dusty again – I want to breast feed Dusty for as long as I can and for as long as he wants - it has made this year pretty chaotic but it has been the most grounding thing for me, I actually have to sit down and stop for at least 15 mins at a time! I often have breakfast at my local café, New Day Rising, and a sneaky coffee while I go through emails on my phone and respond to calls. Already its noon and I head back to the shed to start prepping for the events over the coming days. By 3pm my efficiency diminishes dramatically, and I spend the rest of the day at the kitchen table working on quotes and proposals whilst Jamie and I juggle Dusty. Some days I’m in the shop all day, and meeting with brides, and other days I’m out on site installing an event. Some days I’m pulling my hair out trying to figure out who is going in which van and, how many staff it will take to bump in a wedding in Red Hill and who is going to look after Dusty while Jamie and I are suspending trees above a dance floor in the Docklands.  
Footscray flower markets!  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
Footscray flower markets!  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
An early start for Melanie at the Footscray flower markets!  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.
Where do you turn for creative inspiration when taking on a new brief?
I’m constantly inspired by Instagram and Pinterest – so immediate accessible and palpable. There is nothing better than flicking through Tim Walker's book or a Bloom Magazine by Li Edelkoort. I’m pretty excited about The Planthunter and Henry Hudson too.
Which other local event stylists / designers / creative people do you admire?
Kristy at Kuwaii is one of my top creative heros, along with Anna Varendorff and Isadora Vaughan.
What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?
I’m feeling overwhelmed with all the things that I would love to do!!!!! BUT something that combined dance, fashion and flowers - A LOT of flowers would be my kind of heaven.
What are you looking forward to?
I’m really looking forward to a couple of screen free days over Christmas.
Melanie at the Footscray flower markets.  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

Melbourne Questions

Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?
It’s a no brainer really – Brunswick is my hood, I feel like we are really part of the community here. I work, sleep and eat and drink here. If there was a beach close to Brunswick we would probably never leave.
What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
The last great meal I ate was probably something I rustled up from the garden
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Early morning trip to the flower market for those perfect blooms and then back to the shed to put the finishing touches on the days bridal flowers
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
Methven Park in east Brunswick , We call it The Secret Park... Big old trees, BBQ, Playground and grassy loveliness that is not so easy to come by in Brunswick.
Details from Cecilia Fox - such beautiful blooms!  Photo - Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

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