PHILIPPA CRADDOCK - In Conversation
STIL: The name ‘Philippa Craddock’ is synonymous with the ultimate in British floristry. Your creations grace some of Britain’s finest homes and venues. Can you tell us a little about ‘Philippa Craddock’ in its fledgling days and what inspired you to take up floristry?
PC: Thank you very much! I started the business nine years ago, initially as a very small venture from my kitchen; it kept me busy and helped earn a few pennies just after I had our first child. I really enjoyed getting to know brides and grooms, designing flowers specific to them and in venues close to where I live in East Sussex. I fell into floristry happily by accident, after starting an online plant gifting company, which morphed into a flower business.
STIL: We’d love to know what made your business so successful that you were awarded the greatest floristry scoop of the decade – decorating the chapel for the wedding of Prince Harry and his beautiful bride Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex?
PC: I think a combination of naivety, optimism and determination to simply do the best job I could, for every project I was involved with. And very much having a passionate and strong team around me … they are pretty awesome.
STIL: And how did you feel when you learnt that you had been chosen for this special honour?
PC: It was a wonderful feeling; I was so excited for the team and loved carrying such a gorgeous secret for a few weeks before it was announced.
STIL: Did you have to take Meghan’s dress into account whilst planning the floral creations?
PC: Yes, every element was carefully considered.
STIL: I’ve read that you worked closely with Meghan and Harry in choosing the flowers. Did they have a clear vision of what they wanted? – and, if so, what was most important to them?
PC: We all had exactly the same idea; it was a very organic and collaborative process. The key aspects took the architecture of the Chapel, the surrounding landscape and the nature of the day into consideration and then above all, sustainability and ensuring as many people as possible could enjoy the flowers, hence the flowers being repurposed into hand ties and delivered to hospices and women’s refuges the following day.
STIL: The archway entrance was quite simply the most stunning tumbling cascades of foliage I have ever seen, and with this radiant couple photographed beneath, this will surely have a place in history as one of the most iconic royal images. What was the inspiration for this?
PC: I was very aware that the backdrop would become an iconic part of their day and I wanted it to represent them as a couple, so they themselves were very much the inspiration behind the design. It’s a really important element for me, that we take each of our clients into consideration, regardless of the size and scale of the project.
STIL: Where did you source the flowers for the royal wedding, and how did you ensure that they were in optimal condition for the day?
PC: All the foliage came from Windsor Great Park. We spent the weeks leading up to the day looking at the best varieties and ensuring we chose trees and foliage from the ones that needed to be naturally thinned. And some of the flowers rather brilliantly came from the couple’s own home at Kensington Palace.
STIL: Whether you’re creating floral installations for home or abroad, you like to use flowers in season. When and why did this become important to you? – and how do you keep this up throughout the winter?
PC: This is something that has always been important to me, I suppose as you would wear thick coats in winter and light tea dresses in the summer (albeit there are of course practical reasons behind those choices too!) the same applies to flowers, where you become excited about specific flowers coming back into season. The concept of bringing the outdoors inside is always important, and there are so many gorgeous winter flowers and greenery, so you needn’t look solely to imported flowers!
STIL: You do a lot of work for charities; how do you choose which charities to support?
PC: We are asked several times a week to support various charities. It would be impossible to say yes to everyone, but I always find it difficult saying no. So instead we have partnered with three charities, ones that have particular significance to me, so I can really focus and offer as much support as we can. For one I have just become a Patron, it forms part of the Prince’s Trust, a new initiative set up by Chrissie Rucker (Founder of The White Co.), which looks to support and empower young women, encouraging them back into education and employment. We will be managing a series of events next year to raise awareness and funds, and I would love anyone who might be interested, to please reach out to offer their support.
STIL: Whenever I visit your Flower Shop at Selfridges I am so thrilled by the freshness, variety and beauty of it all that I want to buy the lot! Your business (Flower Shop, 2 Studios and growing) is now so huge, and your clientele so amazing that I wonder whether you still have time to spend on-the-ground, in amongst the flowers?
PC: This is a great question! I am definitely not as hands on as I used to be, but there are the occasional events where I am directly involved. And since we have started producing our online workshops, it has been great to be properly hands on with those. I now also love arranging flowers in my own home again, which for a while I stopped as it became a little too much like work; I now love grabbing the chance, with music in the background, to quietly arrange a bunch of flowers, I find it wholly therapeutic.
STIL: Your husband Anthony runs the business with you, how are the tasks divided? Is he the organizer and you the creative one? And with the business expanding in so many directions (it seems unstoppable!) how do you separate work from home and manage a household and three children?
PC: It is definitely difficult to separate home life from our business, and life is most certainly busy, but it is fun and we seem to make it work with a bunch of extra helpful hands around us! Anthony tends to look after the finance and organisation side, but he is still wholly creative, as his real talent lies behind the camera, taking all our images. I look after the more general creative side, including the strategy and product development.
STIL: Do you have a favourite English Garden?
PC: Sissinghurst, for its perfect informality and surrounding lush woodlands and meadows.
STIL: Living in the Sussex countryside, has the flora of Ashdown Forest influenced your work?
PC: I love the Ashdown Forest, it is one of my favourite landscapes in the UK, but I always take inspiration from the surrounding landscape adjacent to wherever we are designing in the world.
STIL: Could you share with us three of your favourite English flowers? And if you could have just one flower in your home, which would it be?
PC: These are forever changing; as we are currently in mid-winter, just now I love Hellebores. Perhaps though my favourite English flowers are mostly summer blooms, including blousy garden roses, towering cottage Foxgloves and delicate Orlaya. And if I could have only one, rather than a flower, it would be a bounty of foliage.
STIL: What for you is most important: scent, shape or colour?
PC: It very much depends on the brief. They each have different significances, depending on the purpose of the designs. Perhaps if I was to choose just one though, I would go for shape.
STIL: What is the most versatile foliage?
PC: Eucalyptus, for its longevity, the way it works beautifully with pretty much any flower and for its fragrance.
STIL: Do you find that floral fashions are as fickle as clothing fashions – forever changing?
PC: I don’t think I spend much time thinking about the fashion of flowers, for me it is more about a feeling and a specific look for a particular space. We are though very much known for our country, loose and whimsical style.
STIL: You recently bought from STIL a GANNI two-piece blouse in sand-washed vibrant blue silk and also the GANNI solid black Addison skirt and blouse. Two very different outfits but both looked exquisite. Does working with flowers influence your fashion choices?
PC: My clothes have to be practical for when I am working. I happened to buy both pieces for flower demonstrations; the tops are particularly brilliant as they are smart, but the sleeves can still easily be pulled up, so they give me plenty of freedom.
STIL: If you have time to read, can you share with us what you are reading at the moment? And do you have a favourite book of all time?
PC: I am currently dipping in and out of A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I love interior and design books and magazines, and my guilty pleasure is the positive escapism that local writer Karen Swan’s books bring.
STIL: Can you share with us what will be in your Christmas wreath this year? And where can STIL customers purchase a ‘Philippa Craddock’ Christmas wreath?
PC: This year our wreaths have been inspired by the surrounding woodlands - wild and whimsical with plenty of spruce, small branches, moss, pine and ferns. We have sold out of our fresh wreaths this year, but you can learn how to make your very own with our new online workshop; this can be streamed anywhere in the world, on any device, direct from our website –
STIL: A Philippa Craddock Christmas table floral tip for STIL customers?
PC: You will be busy, so keep it easy – simply line the centre of your table with a mass of pillar candles (or group in the centre if you have a circular table) and then simply place a few stems of spruce, or foraged seasonal greenery, in between the candles (and away from the flames).
Thank you so much Philippa for taking the time to talk to us.
Philippa is clearly a ball of energy and inspiration who radiates warmth and happiness. Spending time with her, I can't help but think that she looks, and is quite simply as exquisite as any of her creations.