Oh my. How special and supremely photogenic is this brand new floral studio / plant store in Collingwood!? SO beautiful. Loose Leaf opened just last month, a collaboration between partners Wona Bae and Charlie Lawler, whose extensive combined career experience includes floristry, horticulture, permaculture and design.
Each from varied backgrounds but connected by a passion for plants, Wona and Charlie are inspired by the therapeutic benefits of connecting with nature, and their dream for Loose Leaf has been bubbling away for quite some time. When they found this versatile warehouse in Sackville Street, Collingwood, they knew it was the perfect place to realise their vision. 'Loose Leaf exists as a platform to enable ourselves and others to make and experiment creatively with nature' says Wona.
Loose Leaf combines both a carefully considered retail space, along with Wona’s sculpture studio - a dedicated space for her practice and workshops. She and Charlie also have plans to soon tie a publishing element to their business - their first project is well underway, a publication that continues to explore the ethos of Loose Leaf in print!
We were so intrigued by this creative pair , we thought we'd ask them a few further questions about their partnership, and the launch of their inspired retail / workshop space, Loose Leaf! -
Wona Bae: I grew up in South Korea and was always destined to work with flowers and plants. My father's passion is flowers – I grew up on his flower farm and have lived and worked in different areas of the flower industry ever since. I rebelled for a while and studied a BA in Fashion Design, but ultimately my heart was with flowers, and after graduating from fashion I enrolled directly in a horticulture degree, followed by a master of floristry in Germany.
Having learned the art of Kokozi (Korean style Ikebana) in South Korea, I went to Germany and studied under the guidance of master florist Ursula Wegener. It was in Germany that I met Charlie and in 2007 we moved back to Australia together. I guess I bring a unique perspective to Australian floristry, mixing the minimalist harmony of my Korean roots with the natural sculptural techniques I honed in Germany. This combined with the amazing array of local material available in Australia has allowed me to explore my design style in an Australian context.
So far my experimental style has been well received in Australia, I've been blessed to work with some of Australia’s top brands which has led to collaborations with L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, Melbourne Spring Fashion Week and most recently with Akira Isogawa at The Royal Botanic Runway. I was honoured to twice win gold at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, in 2010 and 2011. I have also been lucky enough to pursue my sculpture outside of floristry the highlight of which has to be having my work displayed in the grounds at Heide MoMa.
Loose Leaf was the natural progression and it finally gave Charlie and I an opportunity to pursue something that we are passionate about together.
Charlie Lawler: I grew up in Hobart, Tasmania, and like Wona was lucky enough to be shown the beauty of plants from a young age. My grandparents owned a nursery and I spent a lot of time hanging out there with them, I guess my interest in plants grew under their guidance. I also pursued design before coming back to plants, I studied a Master of Design at RMIT before returning to study permaculture design.
I had worked in various design and communication roles with organisations like The United Nations and Tourism Victoria before forming my own design studio, Open Season, with fellow Tasmanian and old friend Seb Godfrey of Deja-View Cinema. We are primarily a design and branding studio with a focus on experiential brand projects.
I now balance my time between Open Season and Loose Leaf. As Wona said, Loose Leaf is the culmination of a long awaited collaboration between us.
Loose Leaf is literally the dream space for us! We've tried to create a beautiful, leafy haven in the heart of Collingwood. When you come in you can expect to find fresh flowers from Wona's morning market trip, a jungle of plants suspended from the walls and ceiling – mostly tranquil, sometimes a little chaotic but never something not going on.
We have big plans for Loose Leaf! While we hope to continue to grow our collection of plants, flowers and other unique products, Wona has already started teaching regular floral art classes kicking off with her Autumn workshops series.
In the meantime, Charlie and collaborator George Foulds are already working on issue one of Loose Leaf Journal (with a seasonal theme the first issue explores the magic of mushrooms!). Looking forward we're all about collaborations – stay tuned over the coming months!
31 Sackville Street
Open Tuesday to Saturday from 9.00am to 6.00pm.