M E E T K A L L Y E L L I S
Founder of Mcqueens
Discover where she finds her inspiration, her tips for starting out in the flower business and how jewellery fits into her working lifestyle…
Where did your passion for flowers originate from?
It all began with my mother. She was born and brought up in Cyprus, and when she came to the UK, gardening was part of her culture and her way of reconnecting with her family who she’d left thousands of miles away. Her love of flowers was definitely passed on to me.
Where do you seek your inspiration and creativity in the city of London?
We’re so spoilt in London – there are such world-class galleries and museums, shops, parks, gardens. It’s all around us. I love unusual and less discovered places – the Sir John Soane Museum, for example – but I also love visits to the Tate Modern, the Royal Academy and the V&A. I’m really looking forward to the new Frida Kahlo exhibition there. Although I’m a fan of the big London parks, I live in north London and we have a Bedlington terrier called Ted, so we tend to take him up to Hampstead Heath. It’s a huge slice of the countryside right in the city, and it’s a very special place.
Tell us about the most memorable moment in your career to date?
I think the moment Vanity Fair asked us if we would style the flowers for their post-Oscar party. That was more than 20 years ago now, and we’ve been working on that party in Hollywood ever since. It’s still the world’s most glamorous party, and it still makes me feel terribly proud.
What is the latest trend within the flower industry?
I think the lines between art and floral design are becoming much more blurred now; floristry has always been about art, but it is becoming an accepted part of the art establishment nowadays. Many florists are looking to fine art for ideas – the Dutch Old Masters are a huge source of inspiration for us at the moment, both in terms of styling and photography. Also, as we all become more aware of our planet and its limited resources, we strive harder to source locally and cut back on our carbon footprint, so we’re much more about home grown, locally sourced materials these days.
What is in store for McQueens this year?
We’re expanding internationally and currently working on some plans for our flower school in other parts of the world. We get a lot of students from all over the globe coming to the McQueens Flower School in London, so it makes sense to take our teaching style to them. We have already run classes in the US, Far East and Europe and they’ve been a huge success.
What is the best style advice you have ever received?
Keep it simple. Less is definitely more. I don’t like a lot of fuss in clothes or jewellery or flowers – it can look too messy, and that’s just not me.
How does jewellery fit into your working lifestyle?
On a working day, I like to keep things simple and pared back. I have a little pearl on a silver chain that my husband gave me that I love wearing, and I also have an antique brooch that I bought in Paul Smith – it has a single pearl and a bird design and I adore it. Putting on these items makes me feel ‘dressed’ and there’s a huge amount of pleasure to be gained from wearing items of jewellery that you love and make you feel good about yourself. It’s all part of that old confidence trick!
What is your favourite gemstone?
Ruby. My engagement ring is a ruby, and I love the colour red; it works with my colouring – dark hair and olive skin, my Greek heritage! – and it is such a strong, positive, strident colour, full of passion and joie de vivre. It makes me feel incredibly positive.
And last but not least, what advice do you have for someone starting out in the flower business?
Work hard, take risks, think creatively. Really listen to your clients; they are your business life blood. If you can interpret what they want, their loyalty and trust will be the keystones of your business.
Discover more about Mcqueens here.